It’s no secret that I’ve always enjoyed fairy tales. Whether it was The Snow Queen, a Disney movie, Tales for Telling or so many other memorable exposures, fairy tales have always been stories I’ve loved. And, over the years, I’ve also come to realize that I truly do enjoy anthologies for a host of reasons. So fairy tale based anthologies probably can’t do wrong.
A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested a set of anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I noted down the titles (though I promise I didn’t realize they were anthologies at the time) and filed them away for bookstore browsing. You know, something I’ll try to find every now and then, but not my regular authors by a long shot.
Then, as I was making my careful pass through of sci-fi/fantasy at the Newberry’s book sale, a spine caught my eye. Silver Birch, Blood Moon it read, a title that immediately caught my interest. Then I pulled it out for a closer look and saw the editors’ names. Finally, after three years, I’d found one of the elusive books! The fifth, as it turns out, as the back refers to “four previous volumes.” This didn’t concern me because it won’t be the first time I’ve read anthologies out of publication order. After all, as long as it’s not a Valdemar anthology, I shouldn’t be encountering sequel and ongoing stories.
Then I looked at the authors listed inside, and my smile grew even wider with all the names I recognized. Not necessarily from reading them, but still, I knew these names and they shouldn’t be that successful if they were poor writers. I knew Tanith Lee, Patricia Briggs, Nancy Kress, Anne Bishop, Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley and Patricia A. McKillip off of the top of my head, and seven out of twenty-one is more than enough for me to grab an anthology.
In fact, of the twenty-one authors, ten had one or more short stories already in my library. One of the other eleven I have books by, and two of the last ten I knew to be prolific and skilled authors, leaving eight that I had no previous exposure to. When entering these stories into my database, I was tempted to look up these other stories to try and figure out what I knew about the authors based on their work, but that was more effort than I wanted to put in. The only one I looked up whose other piece I did know off the top of my head was Melanie Tem. Her older story is “Half-Grandma” and I remember it because I’ve practically memorized the contents of Immortal Unicorn.
In case you didn’t pick up on it, I thoroughly enjoyed this anthology. I didn’t dislike a single story, though some were far better than others. And Neil Gaiman’s “Locks” is actually a poem, not really a story. It’s…not nearly as creepy as certain other stories. Ones like “Snow, Glass, Apples,” which is my go-to for making fairy tales terrifying.
I’d say that overall, every piece in this anthology was a strong one. Some I had more positive reactions to, others more negative, but I never felt myself falling out of immersion or failing to be immersed. And there are at least four other books that these women put together! I’m quite confident that I won’t be disappointed by their other collections based on what I’ve read here. Unfortunately, it’ll be some time, I’m sure, before I do find them.
I always seem to have one or more anthologies in my Pile of late and while I enjoy them, I prefer novels in most cases and use anthologies to take a break from the greater amount of attention a long, involved, and ongoing story requires. I’m not yet ready to give up on the hunt as I feel no particular urgency for this set. This isn’t some series in which I’m dying to know what happens next, it’s just an assortment of well-written stories. Besides, by leaving it for another time, I know that there’s more good tales to discover in the future.
As for what’s next, I’m not entirely certain. And here’s a vague update on those projects I mentioned: one has been completed, but may have more parts coming soon. The other has had the simple stuff done, but there’s more I could do and will do as I find it necessary. Why do today what I don’t need until next month or even next year? So, the first project may rear its head again and eat my free time at home, but the second is only going to take small or medium chunks of time at unpredictable intervals and probably never again so much that I’ll bother mentioning it here.