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Magic City: Recent Spells: A solid urban fantasy anthology

Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran

Things you should know:
1. This is a reprint anthology. If you read a lot of anthologies in the field, you will probably have read some of these before. I had read three, though two of them were among the best ones, and I enjoyed reading them again.
2. It still has some worthwhile stuff in it, especially if you're a fan of the big names in urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs) and haven't read these stories before.
3. It isn't just "urban fantasy" by the usual definition (our contemporary world plus the supernatural). There's a sword-and-sorcery story from Scott Lynch, an... Read More

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: Volume 30

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: Volume 30 edited by Dave Wolverton

The Writers of the Future contest is held in high regard within the SFF field, largely because of the many fine writers who have had a boost to their early careers through it and the prominence of the judges (and despite its association with L. Ron Hubbard, of which more later). This volume contains some excellently-written stories and some which weren't to my taste but were well done anyway.

I'll go through the contents in detail. We start with pages and pages of boosterism from past winners, judges etc., which I skipped. Dave Wolverton's introduction can probably be skipped, too, as it just says how good it is to be a judge and how great the stories are.

Each writer, includ... Read More

Women Destroy Science Fiction! The Stories: Special audiobook edition

Women Destroy Science Fiction! Lightspeed Magazine Special Issue: The Stories edited by Christie Yant, Robyn Lupo, Rachel Swirsky

Last June, Hugo-winning Lightspeed Magazine, which is edited by John Joseph Adams, devoted an entire issue (Women Destroy Science Fiction!, June 2014, issue #49) to female science fiction writers and editors. Under Christie Yant’s and Robyn Lupo’s editorial leadership, they accepted 11 original short science fiction stories and 15 original pieces of SF flash fiction. Rachel Swirsky chose and reprinted 5 stories previously published elsewhere. Last month, Skyboat Media and Blackstone Audio released an audio version of the stories from Women Destroy Science Fiction. They gave these their usual excellent attention, casting each story’s narrator perfectly and creating a high quality... Read More

Fantasy Super Pack #1: Something for everyone

Fantastic Stories Presents: Fantasy Super Pack #1 edited by Warren Lapine

Fantasy Super Pack #1 , which is available for 99c in Kindle format, is an enormous collection of 34 stories presumably showcasing the taste of the editor of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, an online magazine. As I'm interested in submitting to the magazine, I picked it up, and thoroughly enjoyed most of the stories, none of which I remembered reading before though I'd heard of several of them.

I like stories that have a narrative arc, that build tension and then resolve it at the end, more than the currently-fashionable type of story that just stops at a thematic moment (or, I often suspect, when the author runs out of ideas). Based on this collection, Lapine also likes the narrative-arc kind of story. Some of the stories had fairly predi... Read More

Monstrous Affections: Chock full of horror and hormones

Monstrous Affections by Kelly Link & Gavin Grant 

Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales, a new anthology by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, was an interesting and surprising read. Interesting because, duh, anything the duo behind Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet puts together has to be great. And surprising because nothing on the cover prepared me for its YA-focus.

And let’s talk about the cover for a second, because it is incredible. Red thistles explode out of line-drawn stems. Blood drips from the maw of a fully-colored toothy black beast as it crouches over a prone, line-drawn man... his prey, we assume. Out of the beast’s back arise feathered wings, again line-drawn. I love the contrast between beast and angel implicit in the central image, but I also love the contrast betwe... Read More

The New Gothic: A horror anthology

The New Gothic edited by Beth K. Lewis

The New Gothic, an anthology of twelve stories, is edited by Beth K. Lewis and published by Stone Skin Press. It’s a good collection, worth reading.

Gothic horror usually counts on a mounting sense of dread and/or disgust to carry the reader, rather than shock or terror. The fear comes on more slowly, with that faint tickle at the back of your neck, and at its best, a gothic tale creates a sense of otherworldliness, where the characters, and the readers, begin to doubt their own senses. A gothic tale is more likely to rely on a dilapidated house or a dark stretch of forest than gore, dismemberment or mayhem to pack its emotional punch.

The word “New” in the title is a bit of false advertising. None of these stories moves too far from the familiar conventions of the sub-genre. On one hand, it would be difficult to write a... Read More

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014: An enjoyable collection

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 edited by Rich Horton

I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately, including another of the several "Year's Best" collections (the Jonathan Strahan one). I was pleased to find that, unlike some of the others, this one matched my tastes fairly well for the most part.

I enjoy stories in which capable, likeable or sympathetic characters, confronted by challenges, confront them right back and bring the situation to some sort of meaningful conclusion. I was worried when I read the editor's introduction and saw him praising Lightspeed and Clarkesworld magazines, because they can often be the home of another kind of story, in which alienated, passive characters are battered by tragedy until the story stops at a t... Read More

Rogues: A diverse and satisfying collection

Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Rogues, a short-story anthology by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is a marvelously diverse collection of stories and genres, tied together by those scoundrels, those tricksters, those rascals, those rogues that you can't help but love. I listened to it on audiobook and loved the experience, especially because a few of the readers were actors from Game of Thrones.

When I picked this up, I was most excited to hear two stories in particular: "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back," by Neil Gaiman, and "The Lightning Tree," by Patrick Rothfus... Read More

Drawn to Marvel: Excelsior!

Drawn to Marvel edited by Bryan D. Dietrich & Marta Ferguson

Comic book superheroes have become the dominant money-making vehicle in Hollywood the past decade or so, and we’re become accustomed to seeing them in spectacular, big-screen set pieces that boggle our eyes. But sometimes it’s nice to shift perspective a bit, not just to give our senses a break from the noise and sound and spectacle, but also to allow for a more intimate relationship, a more thoughtful one, one that evokes other emotions beyond “wow.” And that’s just what is offered by the anthology Drawn to Marvel, a collection of several hundred poems by over a hundred poets, edited by Bryan D. Dietrich and Marta Ferguson. Amongst the big-name contributors are: Albert Goldbarth, Sherman Alexie, John Ashberry, Lucille Clifton, Hilda Raz, and William Trowbridge, but if some of the other names are not as easily recognized (if one can even say that about poets... Read More

Dark Duets: A horror anthology

Dark Duets edited by Christopher Golden

Christopher Golden explains in his introduction to Dark Duets that writing is a solitary occupation right up until that moment an alchemical reaction takes place and a bolt of inspiration simultaneously strikes two writers who are friends. Golden has found that the results of collaboration are often fascinating and sometimes magical, as when Stephen King and Peter Straub teamed up to write The Talisman. Writing is an intimate, very personal process, Golden says, and finding someone to share it with is difficult but exciting. Golden therefore undertook to create a book full of such difficult, mag... Read More