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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2007 edition, edited by Rich Horton

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“Journey Into the Kingdom” by M. Rickert
“The Water Poet and the Four Seasons” by David J. Schwartz
Image“Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” by Geoff Ryman
“The Osteomancer’s Son” by Greg van Eekhout
 “Salt Wine” by Peter S. Beagle
“The Original Word for Rain” by Peter Higgins
“The Lineaments of Gratified Desire” by Ysabeau S. Wilce 
“Journey to the Gantica” by Matthew Corradi
“Irregular Verbs” by Matthew Johnson
“A Fish Story” by Sarah Totton
“The Night Whisky” by Jeffrey Ford
“A Fine Magic” by Margo Lanagan
“Naturally” by Daniel Handler
“Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge” by Richard Parks
“Citrine: A Fable” by Elise Moser
“A Siege of Cranes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum

Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2007 edition, edited by Rich Horton, includes four stories that were not reviewed by Tangent in their original publications [Ed: Links below will take you to the review of each story in the publication it was originally published in].  If there’s something that ties these four together, it’s a foregrounding of the manner of telling rather than an emphasis on something startlingly new or strange within the stories (with one partial exception).

“Journey Into the Kingdom” by M. Rickert
“The Water Poet and the Four Seasons” by David J. Schwartz
“Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” by Geoff Ryman
“The Osteomancer’s Son” by Greg van Eekhout
“Salt Wine” by Peter S. Beagle

In “The Original Word for Rain” by Peter Higgins, readers are given a fairly typical story device of a young man inheriting enough money that he need not work.  Saul, the young man, is responsible enough to live simply and spends his time researching, trying to uncover the lost language of Eden.  This is again a common idea from other stories, of the perfect language, the language that touches reality instead of simply referring to other words.

As Saul conducts his research, he also finds himself falling in love with Julia, the pretty young curator of a collection of esoteric texts housed within a public library.  There’s little that’s surprising in this storyline either, or in how it interacts with the main idea of his research.  It’s simply in how the story is told that the enjoyment lies, in the smooth and evocative language building up to the climax.

“The Lineaments of Gratified Desire” by Ysabeau S. Wilce
“Journey to the Gantica” by Matthew Corradi
“Irregular Verbs” by Matthew Johnson
“A Fish Story” by Sarah Totton
“The Night Whisky” by Jeffrey Ford

“A Fine Magic” by Margo Lanagan has the feel of a story shared by a storyteller, not a formal event so much as a casual telling.  It begins, “Well, in the town where these two beautiful daughters lived there was a fascinator, name of Gallantine.”  The story tells of this fascinator (a magician) who wants to woo one of these girls—either one—simply to make the young men of the town envious.  When the girls spurn him, he devises his strange and devious revenge.  The key pleasure here is in that casual oral style, which Lanagan uses well even as the magic in the story takes a darker turn.

If the name Daniel Handler sounds vaguely familiar, it may be because you’ve read something by him under his pseudonym, Lemony Snicket.  Handler’s story, “Naturally,” is a ghost story that feels very different from most ghost stories—in this sense it does challenge the common thread I mentioned earlier, though again the manner of telling is significant.  It tells the story of Hank, who is dead but still aware of what’s going on around him.  He eventually manages to leave his body and wanders, wishing that someone would notice him.  This is a poignant part of the story, showing ghosts to be simply spirits who long for the attention of the living.

Eventually, someone does notice him, a woman who doesn’t seem to realize he’s a ghost.  Here the storytelling takes a strange turn as the narrator (who had seemed simply an anonymous third-person narrator) begins referring to himself and his former connection with the woman, his ex-wife.  The rest of the story follows this love triangle.  There are some hints of the Lemony Snicket persona in how this is told, including some puns in the final scene.  But because of how the story is set up, the puns aren’t groan-inducing but simply a natural part of the story.  The tension between the strangeness of Hank’s ghostly existence (both strange compared with real life and strange compared with other fictional treatments) and the more mundane aspects of love angle allow this story to linger.

“Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge” by Richard Parks

The storytelling of “Citrine: A Fable” by Elise Moser is very much in a fairy tale mode.  It tells the story (beautifully) of Citrine, a trophy wife married to a man identified only as the Lord of the manor.  He is proud of her as an object, proud of the price in lands he had to pay her father to win her, and he wishes her to remain completely idle to not risk her beauty.  With these restrictions, she begins to sicken, so he brings in a peculiar old woman to paint her portrait.  Here the magic enters, giving the readers a wonderful story reminiscent of Patricia A. McKillip.  When stripped to its barest storyline, it seems pretty simple—a tale of setting women free from a restrictive patriarchal power—but both the language and the magic within the story make such simplification an injustice to this rich story.

“A Siege of Cranes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (20 Epics)

Publisher: Prime Books (July 2007)
Price: $7.99
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
ISBN: 0843959061