Reading Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Eight

Sunday, November 13th, 2016 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

the-best-horror-of-the-year-volume-8-smallDespite me not being a horror writer (or much of a reader, or a movie watcher), it surprises me that about a quarter of my posts end up touching on horror in some way. That being said, I am trying to crack to horror code, to see what makes it work, mostly because I’d love to have additional tools in my writerly toolbelt, and partly because I just like to figure stuff out.

I recently finished reading Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 8 and thought I’d put my musings to paper (or electrons). In the interests of full disclosure, I appeared in her Best Horror of the Year, Volume 6 and may have gotten an honorable mention in Volume 2. That being said, I’ve got no other interest in this book — I just wanted to read the anthology and talk about it. Make of that what you will.

Now, it doesn’t take much of a definitional search to find the totally intuitive statement that horror fiction seeks to provoke shock, fear, repulsion or loathing. A bit more searching unearths the definition of weird fiction, the cousin of horror, which blends horror, fantasy and science fiction. I’m not trying to be academic or coy with my thoughts on Datlow’s 8th Best of the Year. This kind of grounding was necessary (for me) to fully take in what I was reading.

Why’s that? Ask most anthologists (or for that matter magazine editors who put 8-12 stories per month in an issue) what their concerns are, very often you’ll hear balance.

When I read a Gardner Dozois Year’s Best SF, I know he will balance space opera, with near future, with far future, with alternate history, with literary SF, with military SF, etc, etc. That is to say, like SF, horror has its own sub-genres and each one comes with its own conventions. You may be very disappointed if you read a literary SF story expecting to apply the conventions of military SF to your reading. I didn’t want my inexperience with the horror field to detract from my read of this year’s best.

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Clarkesworld 119 Now Available

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 119-smallI’ve been enjoying Charles Payseur’s short fiction reviews at his website, Quick Sip Reviews. Here’s what he says about the August issue of Clarkesworld:

It’s a month of surprises at Clarkesworld this August, as there is an extra original story plus a story in translation from German instead of the usual Chinese translation. So there’s definitely a lot to see with four short stories and two longer novelettes. The good news is that it’s all weird. Seriously, these are stories that push at the boundaries of the imagination. That conjure up strange worlds and uncertain realities and the vastness and power of both space and violence. Stories that set aliens next to 50’s greasers and mix time travel, tragedy, and immigration. And through it all there’s a sense of yearning that pervades. For a brighter future, a peaceful cooperation, and the comfort of another presence. To the reviews!

To the reviews, indeed. After a lead-in like that, it’s hard to resist. Read his complete review here.

I’m not completely used to longer fiction at Clarkesworld yet — and there are some longer pieces in this issue, including Dale Bailey’s “Teenagers from Outer Space” (11,690 words), and Karla Schmidt’s “Alone, on the Wind” (13,449 words, translated from the German). There’s also original fiction from Kali Wallace, Emily Devenport, Sean Bensinger, and Ryan Row, and reprints by Tobias S. Buckell and Madeline Ashby.

Here’s the complete list of stories featured this issue.

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See the Table of Contents for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, edited by Karen Joy Fowler and John Joseph Adams

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016-smallThe Mariner Books Best American series is one of the more successful and highly regarded anthology series on the market. Their titles include Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and Best American Sports Writing.

Last year they added an inaugural SF and fantasy volume, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, with John Joseph Adams as series editor. The 2015 edition was edited by Joe Hill and was one of the stronger Best of the Year anthologies from last year; check out the compete TOC here.

This year’s volume is edited by Karen Joy Fowler. Earlier this month io9 presented the complete Table of Contents, including fantasy tales by Sofia Samatar, Rachel Swirsky, Salman Rushdie, Maria Dahvana Headley, Sam J. Miller, and others, and science fiction by Kelly Link, Catherynne M. Valente, Dale Bailey, Charlie Jane Anders, Ted Chiang, and many others.

It will be available in trade paperback in October, and will include a Foreword by John Joseph Adams, and an Introduction by Karen Joy Fowler. Here’s the complete TOC.

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Future Treasures: The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016, edited by Paula Guran

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016-smallI really enjoy dark fantasy and horror, but my hands are full just keeping up with the latest fantasy magazines and anthologies. It’s almost impossible to simultaneously stay on top of the excellent work being done in horror, in magazines like Sirenia Digest, Lackington’s, The Dark, and Nightmare, and anthologies like Aickman’s Heirs, Innsmouth Nightmares, Horrorology, Sing Me Your Scars, and many others.

That’s why I’m so grateful to editor Paula Guran, whose excellent Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror volumes — published every year since 2010 — have guided me towards the writers and editors doing really exemplary work. I look forward to new editions every year, and this year’s installment arrives in trade paperback from Prime Books next week.

Macabre meetings, sinister excursions, and deadly relationships; uncanny encounters; a classic ghost story featuring an American god; a historical murderer revived in a frightening new iteration; innovative Lovecraftian turns; shadowy fairy tales and weird myths; strange children, the unexpected, the supernatural, the surreal, and the all-too real… tales of the dark. Such stories have always fascinated us, and modern authors carry on the disquieting traditions of the past while inventing imaginative new ways to unsettle us. Chosen from a wide variety of venues, these stories are as eclectic and varied as shadows. This volume of 2015’s best dark fantasy and horror offers more than 500 pages of tales from some of today’s finest writers of the fantastique — sure to delight as well as disturb.

This year’s volume contains 30 short stories by Kelley Armstrong, Dale Bailey, Gemma File, Neil Gaiman, John Langan, Ken Liu, Seanan McGuire, Kelly Robson, Sofia Samatar, John Shirley, Angela Slatter, Catherynne M. Valente, Damien Angelica Walters, Kai Ashante Wilson, and many others.

Here’s the complete table of contents.

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March 2016 Lightspeed Magazine Now on Sale

Monday, March 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Lightspeed March 2016-smallThe cover story for the March 2016 Lightspeed is Caroline M. Yoachim’s “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station, Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0.” You have to admit, as title’s go, that one’s pretty darn good. The cover artist is Reiko Murakami.

The ebook-exclusive reprint this month is Mark W. Tiedemann’s novella “Miller’s Wife,” which originally appeared in Black Gate 4. Here’s what Rich Horton said about it when he reviewed it in the January 2004 issue of Locus.

The centerpiece of the Fall issue of Black Gate is Mark Tiedemann’s impressive novella “Miller’s Wife.” Egan Ginter is fleeing another failed relationship in the big city; he hopes a couple weeks at a friend’s house in the Ozark town of Saletcroix will heal him. But something odd is going on — Saletcroix’s valley is dying, and a bad run of luck is plaguing the townspeople… Tiedemann maintains the suspense very well, and resolves the story just that little bit unexpectedly to make it memorable.

Rich made “Miller’s Wife” his Recommended Story of the Month.

In his editorial, John Joseph Adams talks about the impressive success Lightpseed and its sister magazine Nightmare have had in the 2016 Awards season.

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March 2016 Asimov’s Science Fiction Now on Sale

Sunday, March 6th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction March 2016-smallIn her editorial in the latest issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Sheila Williams pens a passionate and thoughtful defense of Young Adult fiction.

I’m used to being told that the engineering in one story is too realistic or the fantasy in another too pervasive. The critic will avow that the tale would have been better off in Analog or F&SF. On rarer occasions, I have been criticized for featuring tales about children and young adults. The implication is that Asimov’s is a magazine for adults, which means the tales should all be about adults as well. This last criticism has always been the one that most surprises me.

It’s hard to imagine a magazine that purports to cover all the conditions of humanity not covering the early years every so often. Any reader of Asimov’s has certainly experienced childhood and the ’tween years. Many of the issues that faced us then reverberate throughout our lives. With any luck, some of our readers picked up the magazine as precocious young adults….

It can be argued that there are two types of stories about young protagonists. One is really written for the adult who is looking back on those early years…. The other seems to be written specifically for the child or young adult… I’ve also enjoyed many works that fall into the second category… That young people will learn much about the world from reading adult literature does not mean that adults can’t find pleasure and illumination in works that were primarily written for the young.

Hear, hear! You tell ’em, Sheila. I discovered Asimov’s with the Summer 1977 issue at the tender age of 12, and the fact that the magazine was very friendly to young readers was a huge plus for me. I hope it continues to attract young readers, and having an occasional YA component to the fiction is a huge piece of that.

Read Sheila’s complete editorial here.

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New Treasures: Clarkesworld: Year Eight, edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

Friday, March 4th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld Year Eight-small Clarkesworld Year Eight back-small

If you’re like me, you don’t have time to read every issue of Clarkesworld — even though you probably should. It is a three-time winner of the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine, and in 2013 it received more Hugo nominations for short fiction than all the leading print magazines combined. Wouldn’t it be great if every year editors Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace gathered all the fiction in Clarkesworld into one big volume, so you could catch up on everything you missed at the end of the year?

Well, actually, they do. Every year Neil and Sean assemble every story from the previous year into a single generous volume, and this year is the biggest yet: 448 pages, collecting all 38 stories published in 2015, from authors like Michael Swanwick, Robert Reed, Sean Williams, N. K. Jemisin, James Patrick Kelly, Dale Bailey, Naomi Kritzer, Maggie Clark, E. Catherine Tobler, Ken Liu, Matthew Kressel and many others. The book also serves as a fund-raiser for the magazine (which is available free), and every purchase helps support the magazine.

It’s a marvelous bargain, and it helps support one of the finest publications in the industry. What more could you ask for?

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Future Treasures: King of Shards by Matthew Kressel

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

King of Shards-small

Matthew Kressel has had an impressive career over the past decade. He started publishing fiction in his own magazine, Sybil’s Garage, and quickly branched out to Electric Velocipede, Interzone, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. He received his first Nebula Nomination for “The Sounds of Old Earth” in 2013, and his second for “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” earlier this year. He has also been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, for editing Sybil’s Garage.

King of Shards is his debut novel. It will be published by Arche Press, a quality small press who this year have also produced Marguerite Reed’s Archangel, and The End of the End of Everything by Dale Bailey. It is the first novel in The Worldmender Trilogy, and N.K. Jemisin called it “A surreal and exotic adventure in a unique mythological setting. Scary, exhilarating fun!” It follows Daniel Fisher, abducted on his wedding day by the demon king, Ashmedai, who been supplanted by the demon Mashit. Daniel and Ashmedai must work together to stop Mashit, before she destroys all of existence.

King of Shards will be published by Arche Press on October 13, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $17 in trade paperback. The striking cover is by Leon Tukker (click the image above for a bigger version). Read more at Matthew’s website.

New Treasures: The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2015 Edition, edited by Paula Guran

Friday, July 10th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015-smallI’m a big fan of dark fantasy, and there’s a lot of terrific work going on in the field right now. Dale Bailey, Laird Barron, Gemma Files, Maria Dahvana Headley, John Langan, Ken Liu, Usman T. Malik, Helen Marshall, Simon Strantzas, Steve Rasnic Tem, Lavie Tidhar… these folks and many others are writing excellent fiction.

The real challenge, of course, is finding it. All of the writers above published top-notch stories last year, but you’d have to have access to a top-notch library to get even half of it. A lot of the very best fiction from last year appeared in small print run magazines (like Dark Discoveries, Sirenia Digest, Jamais Vu, SQ Mag and Lackington’s), premiere anthologies (such as Dead Man’s Hand, Letters to Lovecraft, Fearful Symmetries, Monstrous Affections, and Nightmare Carnival), and small press collections (like Burnt Black Suns, Here with the Shadows, and Black Gods Kiss).

What you really need is an astute editor with impeccable taste who can read through all that material (and a great deal more) for you, and collect the very best, so you can settle back in your favorite recliner with a cool beverage and enjoy the finest dark fantasy and horror from the top practitioners in the field in a single fat anthology, every single year.

You see where this is going, don’t you.

Paula Guran and Prime Books have released the sixth volume in their excellent The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, which collects stories from all of the writers mentioned above, and a great deal more. It is one of three Best of the Year volumes from Prime (the others are Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, and the brand new The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas, also edited by Paula Guran).

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June 2015 Nightmare Magazine Now on Sale

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Nightmare Magazine June 2015-smallThe June issue of the online magazine Nightmare is now available.

Fiction this month includes original short stories from Maria Dahvana Headley and Dale Bailey, and reprints from Kaaron Warren and Stephen Graham Jones:

Original Stories

The Cellar Dweller” by Maria Dahvana Headley
Snow” by Dale Bailey


The Changeling” by Sarah Langan (originally published in Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters, September 2011)
The Music of the Dark Time” by Chet Williamson (Originally published in The Twilight Zone Magazine, June 1988)

The non-fiction this issue includes the latest installment in their long-running horror column, “The H Word” (“Why Do We Read Horror?”), plus author spotlights, a showcase on cover artist Okan Bülbül, an editorial, and a feature interview with Lucy A. Snyder.

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