Friday, July 10, 2009

On "The Year's Best Fantasy Stories 11" edited by Arthur W. Saha ***

I don't read too many online fantasy or science fiction stories. Genre fiction isn't generally a big love of mine, and on the whole, I've not found online genre writing to be that good (as opposed to literary writing, of which there is a fine good lot of good stuff). This may be due to the fact that I'm not a fan of the genre of fantasy to begin with--or so I'm learning. If all stories were as good as the "best," however, I'd probably give them more of my attention. Every story in this collection was competent, and some were excellent.

What makes the stories typically more generic, however, and what in some ways is what I find disappointing about most genre fiction is that each story wrapped up fairly well and succinctly. There were a lot of loose ends. One need only look at one of my favorite stories in the collection, "The Storm," by David Morrell. Ostensibly, a story about a storm that literally follows on man around, this was a piece about as fascinating as T. C. Boyle's story "Blood Rain." Watching the character discover what was happening and and all the trouble that this situation brought to those around him was fascinating. Then the story gave us an explanation--a curse placed on the man. I was with the story until the curse, but the latter seemed such a letdown--an easy out for an intolerable but intriguing situation. (The very end, a bit of a twist, at least makes up for some of my disappointment.)

Other favorites included "Unmistakably the Finest," by Scott Bradfield, the story of a woman who discovers success in the form of a preacher she follows--and the resulting trouble that eventually ensues. If one notices a trend here, with me, it's that, for me, the best fantasy is that which seems to be part of our world and twists it around a bit, rather than something that is set in a world of dragons and knights. Realism--and fantastic realism--has always been more to my taste.

An exception to this would be Jane Yolen's "The Foxwife," the tale of a man who discovers he is married to a literal fox. The way in which this story is told reminded me of many of the strange tales I read on the Japanese reading list that I undertook last year. Bizarre enough that I wasn't sure what I was to make of it.

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