News & Views
At Blackgate: “…I sampled the fourth volume of [Guran's] Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror back in February, and was very impressed. The fifth volume arrived this summer, with an absolutely stellar line up of authors, and I nabbed it the first chance I could.
Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror is the companion volume to The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Rich Horton and also published by Prime. We covered the 2014 edition of Rich’s series back in July. Together, these two volumes give you a comprehensive catalog of the best genre short fiction of the year.
This year, the book contains fiction from Dale Bailey, Nathan Ballingrud, Laird Barron, Elizabeth Bear, Neil Gaiman, Glen Hirshberg, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Tanith Lee, Joe R. Lansdale, Ken Liu, Brandon Sanderson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Lisa Tuttle, Carrie Vaughn, and over a dozen others.
It draws from the finest magazines in the field, including Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Subterranean Online, Interzone, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s SF, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com, and top-notch anthologies like Fearsome Journeys, Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe, Clockwork Phoenix 4, Dangerous Women, Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, and many others.
Kirkus: Twelve Excellent Horror Reads for October includes The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2014 Edition: “Editor Paula Guran gives her take on the year’s best dark fantasy and horror in this collection, which boasts 32 stories by such talent as Elizabeth Bear, Joe R. Lansdale, Yoon Ha Lee, Ken Liu, Helen Marshall, Sarah Monette, Kit Reed, Brandon Sanderson, Karin Tidbeck and more. The beauty of an anthology like this—besides being the best picks by an editor who knows her stuff—is the diversity of the genre that it reflects. You’ll find stories here spanning all corners of the horror spectrum, guaranteeing that there’s something you’re looking for as well as new discoveries waiting to be found.”
“…Although it never breaks the fourth wall, it glories in metafictionality—and is ultimately a very fun fantasy caper. I enjoyed it a whole hell of a lot. Do recommend.”
“One of my favorite works of modern fantasy is the Promethean Age series by Elizabeth Bear…but after [a] fantastic four-novel flurry, we didn’t get any more. There were rumors of another book to come, one set in Las Vegas (a city Bear knows well), but the wheels of publishing grind slow, and we had to wait over five years for One-Eyed Jack.
It was worth every minute. One-Eyed Jack is my favorite Elizabeth Bear novel. The book is a standalone, and familiarity with the wider world of the Promethean Age isn’t necessary. The central story concerns a secret war be-tween the supernatural rulers of Los Angeles and those of Las Vegas. Los Angeles wants to annex Las Vegas and consume its power, making Sin City into a magical thrall of the City of Angels. The immortal, once-human rulers of Las Vegas are the One-Eyed Jack of the title, who can look through his ‘otherwise eye’ to perceive magic, and his partner Stewart the Suicide King, who is reborn if he dies by his own hand (a surprisingly useful way to get out of awkward and difficult situations). As the novel begins they’re under onslaught from the avatar of Los Angeles, a vicious beauty named Angel, and her coterie of assassins, mages, and the ghost of gangster Bugsy Siegel, all intent on destroying the rulers of Vegas.
Jack and Stewart are very much underdogs, outmatched and underprepared for a coor-dinated attack by sophisticated foes, but they’re an appealing pair of rogues, and quick to adapt. By luck and design they put together their own team of unlikely allies, and Bear’s audacity is delicious here. Jack summons up the ghost of gunslinger John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday, but due to imprecise wording in the spell he calls up the other John Henry, too, the American folk hero and steel-driving man, and they make a wonderfully appealing odd couple, gliding invisibly through the city, doing reconnaissance, and making droll observations. Jack reluctantly accepts the assistance of a vampire named Tribute, a figure who fits into Las Vegas beautifully – because back when he was alive, he used to be Elvis Presley. Bear doesn’t limit herself to historical figures for this team, either. She introduces the concept of ‘media ghosts’— basically culture heroes for our modern age, fictional creations who have taken on enough substance from the love of their audiences to develop independent existence, and so Jack enlists the assistance of various characters from ’60s spy TV shows—some of whom know they’re fictional, and some of whom don’t—providing a delightful game of spot-the-reference.
Writing it all down like this, I realize it sounds like a bit of a mélange, a contemporary fantasy spun in a blender with history and fanfic (and oh, so much wonderful queerness; this is slash with heart). In the hands of a lesser writer, an approach like this could lead to a confection of cultural references, all cleverness and no substance—but Bear is a greater writer than that. Her incorporation and appropriation of fictional and historical characters works as well as it does in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula or Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with the cultural touchstones used to enrich a story that’s powerful on its own merits. There’s real anguish in Tribute, real poignancy in the relationships of the ’60s spies, real stakes and drama in the clash between the supernatural rulers of these iconic cities. And it’s oh so damn much fun.”—Tim Pratt
No, it is NOT by Mike Carey, although he has a story in it! Edited by Paula Guran. Anyway, otherwise the GOODREADS GIVEAWAY for ZOMBIES: MORE RECENT DEAD is on!