The New Voices of Fantasy is an anthology compiled by Peter. S. Beagle (famously known for his work The Last Unicorn) and Jacob Wiseman. All the stories in this collection have been previously published between 2010 and 2017 in short story magazines like Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. In 2010 Beagle edited another anthology The Secret History of Fantasy exploring the merging of genre fantasy and mainstream markets into a new form of literary fantasy. Wiseman asserts that “this anthology constitutes something of a sequel.”
Beagle begins his introduction to this anthology with a block quote paraphrasing an excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination:
“Jules Verne, who always considered himself a scientist, was distinctly put out by the work of the younger writer H.G. Wells. ‘Il a invente!’ the author of From the Earth to the Moon sniffed at the author of The War of the Worlds. ‘He makes things up!’”
The older generation constantly unwilling to accept the young/new. What Verne could not accept was that Wells invented machines beyond what was mechanically possible—unlike what Verne did in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with the submarine—Wells expanded by creating a time machine. Beagle relates an anecdote from his experience as a young writer where one of his older teachers, Frank O’Connor, could not accept Beagle’s storytelling in the writing class back in the ‘60s because he was a fan of realism and classics. Beagle writes: “I was outraged at O’Connor’s rigidity.” The resistance from the older generation is not the only thing keeping young fantasy writers back–there is also the hierarchy, favouring ‘literary works’ and ‘realism’ above the innovations brought forward by fantasy. Ursula K. Le Guin tells Beagle:
“all of us [fantasy writers] feel, to one degree or another, that mainstream fiction has been stealing our ideas—and even our classic clichés—for generations, and selling them back to us as ‘Magical Realism.’”
Realism is not everything, and fantasy under a different name does not become more ‘literary’ or significant. Beagle and Le Guin ask us to open our eyes and see that it was Fantasy all along.
What Beagle does with this anthology is an elegant passing of the writing pen to a younger generation of fantasy writers, and he presents them to us, the readers, without rigidity as his teachers before him have. He accepts them as they are and is in awe of their risk-taking, creativity, and courage. I cannot imagine how many works Beagle must have read through to select these top 19 stories, but I had a hard time selecting my favourites, as each one of them brings something completely unique to the Fantasy cornucopia. His selection includes a great balance of men and women writers, as well as various backgrounds.
The stories featured in this anthology are as follows:
- “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
- “Selkie Stories are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar
- “Tornado’s Siren” by Brooke Bolander (opening line: “Rhea is nine years old when she first meets the tornado that will fall in love with her”)
- “Left the Century to Sit Unmoved” by Sarah Pinsker
- “A Kiss with Teeth” by Max Gladstone (featuring Dracula as a suburban dad so worth reading)
- “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon
- “The Cartographer Wasps and the 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 Rajeniemi
- “Here Be Dragons” by Chris Tarry
- “The One they Took Before” by Kelly Sandoval
- “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 Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado
- “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T. Malik
I linked some of my favourite ones, but in support of Beagle and his work I would recommend this anthology as an individual codex because it is cohesive and works well as a collection with the choices Beagle has made.
I recommend this anthology to anyone who loves fantasy and wants to try some of the new emerging voices. I have no doubt that each one of these writers will continue to write and publish larger works in the future, and this anthology is a great introduction to them. I would especially recommend this to readers who are new to fantasy and want to sample shorter works without committing to an entire series and/or trilogy.
Many thanks to Tachyon Publications for sending me an ARC for review. This anthology is currently scheduled to be published on August 18, 2017 (though books are always subject to having dates pushed back). Regardless of publication date, it is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.