Bantam Spectra cover by Gervase Gallardo
Twenty-five years ago oversized trade paperbacks fantasy anthologies were few and far between. Today they’re the default, but in the early 90s, when original anthologies routinely appeared as mass markets paperbacks, you had to be something special to warrant the deluxe trade paper format. (Nowadays, of course, the mass market anthology is long dead, but that’s a subject for a different post.)
Strange Dreams was something special. In the early 90s Stephen Donaldson was one of top-selling fantasy writers on the planet, with the bestelling Mordant’s Need and Chronicles of Thomas Covenant to his credit. In his introduction he relates how the book came about as a result of a conversation with master anthologist Martin H. Greenberg.
We were discussing the basis on which I might be willing — or indeed able — to pull together a collection, and I quickly dismissed the traditional anthological fundaments: Historical Development (where fantasy came from and how it grew); Defense of Genre (why fantasy is written); Technical Display (how fantasy can be written); and Thematic Modulation (what fantasy has to say about X and Y)… once all these bases have been diminished, why bother to do a collection at all?
[Click the images for dream-sized versions.]
Because, I told Martin, I love these stories. Some of them made my viscera twang; some impressed themselves on my memory or on my heart. In fact, there are certain stories included here that I’ve been quite unable to forget. They aren’t just memorable, they’re indelible. What’s wrong, I asked Martin, with an anthology built on the simple principle that the stories in it are ones I haven’t been able to shake from my mind? … what’s wrong with an anthology founded purely and plainy on my own taste? It may be egocentric, but at least it’s sincere.
Martin, bless him, was kind enough to say that there’s nothing wrong with an anthology like that. And so here we are.
Strange Dreams was published almost exactly 25 years ago, and it is a very strong anthology indeed. It contains a handful of major award winners and nominees, including Harlan Ellison’s “Jeffty Is Five” (Hugo, Nebula, Locus and BFA Award winner), Garry’s Kilworth World Fantasy Award nominee “Hogfoot Right and Bird-Hands,” Ed Bryant’s Nebula nominee “Strata,” and John Varley’s Hugo, Nebula, and Locus nominee “Air Raid.”
But it also includes a great many neglected gems, such as M. John Harrison’s Viriconium tale “The Dancer from the Dance,” Walter Jon Williams’s Liavek novella from There Will Be War, Volume VI, “Consequences,” and one story original to this collection Patricia A. McKillip “Lady of the Skulls.” Plus stories from Franz Kafka, Rudyard Kipling, Jorge Luis Borges, Nancy Kress, Edgar Pangborn, Robin McKinley, Sheri S. Tepper, Theodore Sturgeon, Michael Bishop, Jack Vance, Lucius Shepard, C. J. Cherryh, R. A. Lafferty, and many more.
HarperCollins (UK) edition; cover by Geoff Taylor
Strange Dreams was published in trade paperback in 1993 with a cover by Gervase Gallardo, and reprinted a month later in the UK with a new cover by Geoff Taylor. It had a hardcover edition from the Science Fiction Book Club in 1994, but that was the last time it was reprinted. It never appeared in mass market paperback, and there is no digital edition. It has been out of print for 24 years.
Here’s the complete Table of Contents.
Introduction by Stephen R. Donaldson
“The Aleph” by Jorge Luis Borges (1945, translated 1970)
“Lady of the Skulls” by Patricia A. McKillip (original to this collection)
“As Above, So Below” by John M. Ford (Dragons of Light, 1980)
“Eumenides in the Fourth-Floor Lavatory” by Orson Scott Card (Chrysalis 4, 1979)
“Narrow Valley” by R. A. Lafferty (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1966)
“The Dreamstone” by C. J. Cherryh (Amazons!, 1979)
“The Storming of Annie Kinsale” by Lucius Shepard (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, September 1984)
“Green Magic” by Jack Vance (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1963)
“The Mark of the Beast” by Rudyard Kipling (The Pioneer, July 12 + 14, 1890)
“The Big Dream” by John Kessel (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, April 1984)
“The House of Compassionate Sharers” by Michael Bishop (Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, May 1977)
“The Fallen Country” by S. P. Somtow (Elsewhere, Vol. II, 1982)
“Strata” by Edward Bryant (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, August 1980) — Nebula Award nominee
“And Now the News …” by Theodore Sturgeon (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1956)
“The White Horse Child” by Greg Bear (Universe 9, 1979)
“Prince Shadowbow” by Sheri S. Tepper (Faery!, 1985)
“The Girl Who Went to the Rich Neighborhood” by Rachel Pollack (The Women Who Walk Through Fire, 1984)
“Consequences” by Walter Jon Williams (There Will Be War, Volume VI: Call to Battle!, 1988)
“The Stone Fey” by Robin McKinley (Imaginary Lands, 1985)
“Close of Night” by Daphne Castell (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, May 1984)
“Hogfoot Right and Bird-Hands” by Garry Kilworth (Hogfoot Right and Bird-Hands, 1987) — World Fantasy Award nominee
“Longtooth” by Edgar Pangborn (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1970)
“My Rose and My Glove” by Harvey Jacobs (Omni, May 1984)
“With the Original Cast” by Nancy Kress (Omni, May 1982)
“In the Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka (1948) (1919, translated 1948)
“Jeffty Is Five” by Harlan Ellison (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1977) — Hugo, Nebula, Locus and BFA Award winner
“Air Raid” by John Varley (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Spring 1977) — Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award nominee
“The Dancer from the Dance” by M. John Harrison (Viriconium Nights, 1985)
Strange Dreams was published by Bantam Spectra in July 1993. It is 531 pages, priced at $14.95. There is no digital edition. The cover is by Gervase Gallardo. I bought an unread copy on eBay for $7 earlier this year.
See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.