BAF Review on Strange Horizons

Gwyneth Jones has reviewed Best American Fantasy at Strange Horizons. Matt Cheney, our able series editor, has a response that is more general, really, than a response to the review itself (which is mixed).

The only comment I have is that there’re some ham-handed cultural observations about the US that I don’t think a reviewer from this side of the pond would have made. The grievous one to me is the mis-reading of “The Whipping,” a story with a very strict attention to detail and a kind of “super-realism”, as “the real Simpson’s movie.” I cannot, in re-reading the story, see how anyone could arrive at this conclusion.

And I’m increasingly weary of the observation that there are few big names in the anthology. Depends on how widely read you are. Kevin Brockmeier, Tony D’Souza, and Daniel Alarcon, in the wider world, have at least as much pull, recognition, and TV appearances as your typical high-powered “genre” writer triumverate. For example.

8 comments on “BAF Review on Strange Horizons

  1. As I’m currently reading BAF I can’t offer too much about her particular observations, but I like the way that the review ends:

    “It’s a mood that sets the tone of the whole. Best American Fantasy is a minor-key collection: a jumble of spirit messages falling out of the pockets of an old coat, like God’s overcoat in Kevin Brockmeier’s “A Fable With Slips Of White Paper Spilling From The Pockets.” With few stand-outs, and some difficult material, it’s still a curiously compelling study. Worth seeking out.”

    This, in my opinion, would be enough to snag a curious reader who enjoys finding those minor keys. It’s always the strange, dangerous and seemingly unclassifiable stories that catch my attention, and I’m sure that there are others out there like me. Bring me the “difficult material,” please.

    In this aspect, this isn’t a bad review at all.

  2. I don’t think of it as a bad review–and Matt C wouldn’t have used the opportunity to talk about certain things if it had. Nor does this mean we’ll be responding to every review we get!


  3. These are the kinds of reviews that I find exasperating. The tone–to me–was lukewarm throughout. Not that any review of an anthology wouldn’t highlight some stories as falling in either ‘liked’ or ‘didn’t like’ categories; it’s the nature of an anthology. But overall, my impression was that Jones did not find much to praise about the anthology itself–which makes the last three words sound a bit of a sell-out to me. After reading this this review I have no more idea whether I’d want to pick up BAF.

  4. Yep, true enough. Counterbalancing that is a starred review in PW and being on NPR’s summer recommended reading list.

    Tell you what–you buy it, Brian, and I’ll refund your money if you don’t think you get enough enjoyment out of it.


  5. Okay Jeff, now you’ve made me laugh, so I guess I’ll have to pick it up. I am curious about one thing. I thought I saw there was a story by Sarah Monette in BAF but didn’t see it mentioned in the review. Did I just miss it, or did I misread the contents?

  6. It is in there, just not mentioned, “Dracos C—“.

  7. I am almost done reading the anthology…getting ready to write my review for Endicott’s blog. I’ve been reading it slowly…because I’ve really enjoyed the work so much. I find myself after finishing a story flipping back to have a look at the authors’ bios–making a note to pick up their other works. And I too blanched at Gwenth’s statement that Kelly is one of the “few major names” in the collection. I wanted to ask in whose literary world? And that’s another thing I’ve really enjoyed about the anthology — all the wonderful writing out of the usual genre comfort zone. I can’t hope to write as long a review as Gwenth’s for the blog…but I hope to hit what I think are the anthology’s many highpoints…I think you guys did a fabulous job.

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