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Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 9 cover The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Ninth Annual Collection by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (ed).

Published by St. Martin's Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Each year editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling compile a collection of what they regard to be the best fantasy and horror short stories published during that year. This volume covers the stories of 1995, and as always includes a discussion of the state of the publishing industry and a list of stories that couldn't be included in the volume but were worthy of note.

Fantasy and horror cover a broad spectrum, from retellings of fairy tales and mythology to magic realism, from subtle psychological horror to grim stories of gore and extreme suffering. Sometimes the lines between fantasy and horror aren't always neatly drawn. Occasionally they even cross over into science fiction, as is the case with S.N. Dyer's "Resolve and Resistance," which partakes of alternate history, dealing as it does with a world where Napoleon conquored and occupied England. But this is also a world where the cast of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are real people, and can team up with such historical figures as Lord Henry Cavendish and Admiral Nelson to oust the French tyrant.

Rick Moody's "The James Dean Garage Band" explores similar ground, although at time it tends more toward secret history. What if that fatal car crash weren't quite so fatal?

The folk motif of the magical helper is revisited in Delia Sherman's "The Printer's Daughter," in which an Elizabethan printer is struggling to get an important edition out in time, in the face of impending financial ruin. In a moment of frustration he assembles a mass of ruined sheets into a vaguely human figure -- and then it comes to life.

However, there are also far darker stories, such as Tanith Lee's "La Dame," of a mysterious pale ship, or Ursula K. Le Guin's "Ether Or," about serial killers.

In all, this is an excellent compendium, a particularly good resource for the writer who wants to see what a top editor in the field considers to be the best of the best.

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This review posted October 25, 2000

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