January 26th, 2010

Summary: DAW anthologies, 2009

Summary: DAW anthologies, 2009

This year there were 11 mass market paperbacks in what is sometimes called DAW's "monthly magazine". (August was skipped.)

The books, not in publication order:
We Think, Therefore We Are, edited by Peter Crowther;
Other Earths, edited by Nick Gevers and Jay Lake;
Crime Spells, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Loren L. Coleman;
Ages of Wonder, edited by Julie E. Czerneda and Rob St. Martin;
Swordplay, edited by Denise Little;
Terribly Twisted Tales, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg;
Gamer Fantastic, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes;
Intelligent Design, edited by Denise Little;
Spells of the City, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg;
The Trouble With Heroes, edited by Denise Little;
Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes.

Subtotals: 11 books, 175 new stories (1 novella, 22 novelettes, 152 short stories (2 short-shorts), about 975,000 words of new fiction.

Stats: 74.5 of the stories (about 42.5%) were by women, more or less the reverse of last year's stats, and similar to the year before. Only 47 of the stories (27%) were SF, similar to last year. (Please note that for these and all the anthologies, my categorization of stories as SF vs. Fantasy is a bit approximate, and for that matter I may misidentify the gender of some writers.)

As I've mentioned for years now, the DAW anthologies are often rather disappointing -- lots of very ordinary, by-the-numbers, work. I'll say a couple of things in defense of the editors -- budgets are low (and, I am given to understand, lower now than in previous years). And for all the disappointment, they are a major source -- by volume -- of new fiction, and while much of their fiction is mediocre, some every year is quite good. This year there was one truly outstanding book in the series, the Gevers/Lake anthology Other Earths (though I believe that book originated with another house). (Peter Crowther is usually the best regular DAW editor, but his entry this year was not his best anthology. And Denise Little is a fairly reliable editor as well.) And I'll point as well to one unusual story -- a novella! a really long novella! (Lucius Shepard's "Dog-Eared Paperback of My Life". Of course, to Shepard a 30,000 word story is like a novelette!)

As I mentioned last year, in these anthology summaries I am going to hew more closely to the idea of only mentioning the real highlights. So some decent stories that might have been mentioned had they appeared in a small press magazine will not be cited. Anyway, the clear top story in the DAW anthologies this year was "This Peaceable Land, or, The Unbearable Vision of Harriet Beecher Stowe", by Robert Charles Wilson, from Other Earths. It's an alternate history, set around the turn of the 20th Century in a world where the Civil War was avoided. A white photographer accompanies a black historian trying to document the terrible events at a sort of work camp for freed black men that to us resembles the Nazi work camps -- the implication of the nature of the in some ways seemingly positive changed history are distressing. Other strong stories include another from Other Earths, Theodora Goss's "Csilla’s Story", about a girl fleeing Hungary to the US, where she learns that the stories her grandmother has told her, of the green-haired Tündér, descendants of the Daughters of the Moon, are true representations of a history of persecution -- and hope.

Also worth a look are: from We Think Therefore We Are, Brian Stableford’s "The Highway Code", which concerns an AI truck, and what in its character led it to defy is programming in a heroic fashion. From Crime Spells, Ilsa J. Bick's "Second Sight", in which a detective investigates a murder that soon appears to have been committed by a woman held in some form of sex slavery -- and which leads weirdly to crimes committed in Vietnam decades ago. From Ages of Wonder, Tony Pi’s, "Sphinx!", set in a quite alternate history, in which the land of Ys is threatened by a sphinx that a film maker has apparently revived for a new movie. From Terribly Twisted Tales, Michael Stackpole's "The Adventure of the Red Riding Hoods", a Poe pastiche set in an animal society, with of course nods to the fairy tale. From Gamer Fantastic, David D. Levine's "Aggro Radius", about using VR to help deal with an attack on a gaming company.

Stories by James Lovegrove, Paul di Filippo, Liz Holliday, Paul Park, and Brendan de Bois, as well as the body of work of Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, were also worthwhile.