‘The New Voices of Fantasy collects the work of nineteen authors of fantasy that Peter S. Beagle and I firmly believe will soon be much better known. […] All of the stories in this book are recent, published after 2010.’ – Jacob Weisman from his Introduction.
Short-story collections can often be a mixed bag of good stories as well as not so good ones. After reading The New Voices of Fantasy, I can say that every story in here is worth reading if you have an interest in fantasy or modern fairy tales. Peter S. Beagle is an author I really admire, so seeing his name attached as one of the editors drew me to this volume. I’ve highlighted the stories that stood out the most for me and would love to hear which stories you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy.
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
I’d read this one before. I bought the “Queers Destroy Horror Special” edition of Nightmare magazine just to read this story because I’d heard how good it was. It’s a modern re-imagining of a vampire story which pulses with sexuality and horror, while also commenting on dating in the modern era. A brilliant, dark and humorous story with prose to die for. This is one of my favourites. (Read it online here).
“Selkie Stories are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar
A selkie is a mythical creature that lives as a seal in the sea but sheds its skin and becomes human when it leaves the water. This is a story about loss and how we cope with it. The narrator does tell a few selkie stories and they are intriguing as well as tinged with sadness. I enjoyed the frank, easy style of the writing which creates a believable narrative voice. Recommended. (Read it online here).
“A Kiss with Teeth” by Max Gladstone
What would happen if a vampire settled down with his hunter and they strived to make a “normal” life together? This modern vampire tale is so good that it led me to seek out and purchase author Max Gladstone’s ‘Three Parts Dead’, the first novel in his highly-rated ‘Craft Sequence’. (Read it online here).
“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon
This is another terrific story which features skin-changers called “jackalopes” and a young man determined to catch one. How he goes about this is captured brilliantly by the author resulting in a truly harrowing scene. The story contains a great character in Grandma Harken who reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s wonderful creation Granny Weatherwax. I’m looking out for more by Ursula Vernon. (Read it online here).
‘The moonbeams went shattering down to the ground and the jackalope wives took off their skins and danced.’
“The One They Took Before” by Kelly Sandoval
Kayla is released from the Twilight Land but struggles to readapt to ordinary, mortal life. She is tempted by the fae to return to faerie and finds herself considering it, despite what happened before. There’s a real sense of longing for the forbidden as well as a desire to recapture what has been lost. Sandoval varies the style from simple narration to brief, beautiful descriptions to help contrast the mundane with the fantastic. (Read it online here).
‘FOUND: Rift in the fabric of the Universe – (West Seattle)’
“The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado
Wow! This is a mesmerizing story that deserves to be read more than once. It is in equal parts fascinating, unsettling, arousing, and terrifying. It tells the story of a young woman who wears a green ribbon around her neck and how her life unfolds after she meets her future-husband. It is a tale about trust, desire, love, and marriage told in the style of the best fairy tales. (Read it online here).
The New Voices of Fantasy also contains the following short stories:
“Tornado’s Siren” by Brooke Bolander
“Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” by Sarah Pinsker
“The Cartographer Wasps and Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu
“The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate” by A. C. Wise
“The Tallest Doll in New York City” by Maria Dahvana Headley
“The Haunting of Apollo A7LB” by Hannu Rajaniemi
“Here Be Dragons” by Chris Tarry
“Tiger Baby” by JY Yang
“The Duck” by Ben Loory
“Wing” by Amal El-Mohtar
“The Philosophers” by Adam Ehrlich Sachs
“My Time Among the Bridge Blowers” by Eugene Fischer
“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T. Malik
In my opinion, The New Voices of Fantasy is a very fine collection of short stories. It has introduced me to some new authors, which is no doubt one of the goals of such story collections. Looking at the reviews of this book over on Goodreads I have read some rather harsh, negative critiques among the majority of positive ones. Rather than criticizing the quality of the writing, the main complaint seems to be that some of these stories are not “Fantasy-enough”. I’m not sure what that means and have no desire to start debating about definitions of genres.
A lot of these stories focus on families and familial relationships, which gives them something we can all relate to. They may be fantastic tales, but they almost always contain things which are familiar to us. I think this gives the collection more of a modern fairy-tale or folk-tale atmosphere, so perhaps this is what those “where’s-the-fantasy?” critics meant. Nevertheless, I found much to enjoy in The New Voices of Fantasy and recommend it to readers seeking an entertaining volume of fantastic stories from the last seven years!
[Thanks to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for the e-ARC. All opinions are my own.]