February 1st, 2010

Summary: Datlow anthologies, 2009

Ellen Datlow, 2009

Every year I come up with some different subcategories of original anthologies, and this year it occurred to me that one good way to slice things might be by editor. Only, of course, for the most prominent editors of original anthologies. To my mind, three people stand at the top. (Not counting Martin H. Greenberg, who, as I understand it, primarily handles the business end of things, with his co-editors doing the bulk of the story-picking, etc. At any rate, most of Greenberg's anthologies are in a single category (DAW), though I believe he was also involved with Esther Friesner's two books for Baen this year.) So -- my choices for the top three editors of original anthologies are (in no particular order): Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois, and Jonathan Strahan. (I should also mention John Joseph Adams -- fourth with a bullet, maybe -- and Peter Crowther, who does some fine books as well as Postscripts, which is a book now officially though I still think of it as a magazine.)

So, I'll have categories for Datlow and Dozois this year. Not for Jonathan -- one of his books was co-edited with Gardner, and the other I've treated already in the "Original Anthology Series" subcategory.

For that matter, I'm relegating one of Ellen's books to another subcategory: I'll be covering Troll's Eye View, co-edited with Terri Windling, in the YA summary. But I did see two other books from her, both very fine, and each inspired by a major American horror writer -- arguably the central horror writer of the 19th Century (Poe) and the 20th (Lovecraft). The books are Poe and Lovecraft Unbound. Between them they feature 35 new stories (Lovecraft Unbound also has four reprints), 8 novelettes, 27 shorts, for a total of roughly 225,000 words. 15 of the writers are women (43%), and I called 8 of the stories SF (23%).

Of the two books I preferred Poe, in part because it seemed to contain more stories simply "inspired" by Poe than direct pastiches. I particularly liked Pat Cadigan’s "Truth and Bone", about an extended unusually talented family, and the wrenching "talent" the main character inherits. And even better was John Langan’s "Technicolor", a smart and sly story, about a professor mixing speculation about Poe’s life and death with exegesis of "The Masque of the Red Death", leading to a perhaps predictable but still quite well-sprung conclusion. David Prill's "The Heaven and Hell of Robert Flud" is also very fine, as an encyclopedia salesman visits a spooky isolated house. Other strong stories came from Barbara Roden (who, I will mention, had a remarkable year), M. Rickert, and Steve Rasnic Tem.

Lovecraft Unbound contained one true standout, "Mongoose", an SF story by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. One Israel Irizzary is summoned to Kadath Station (other stations also have Lovecraftian names: Providence, Leng, Dunwich, etc.), to deal with an infestation of toves and raths -- which points at Carroll, not Lovecraft, and of course the title hints at Kipling -- but after all toves and raths are horrors out of space and time, so Lovecraftian. Monette and Bear nicely suggest that horror, and also suggest that bureaucratic screwups are a horror too, as they let Irizzary, with an unexpected ally, and with his partner Mongoose, deal with the infestation while learning some surprising facts about their universe. Other nice work: William Browning Spencer's "Come Lurk With Me and Be My Love", in which a man is seduced by an intriguing young woman, with predictably unfortunate results; and Anna Tambour's "Sincerely, Petrified", about a couple of collectors with particular interest in the Petrified Forest. I also liked stories by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Marc Laidlaw, and Nick Mamatas, and I can also highly recommend one of the reprints, Michael Chabon's "In the Black Mill".