cover image The Year’s Best Fantasy and Dark Fantasy and Horror, Vol. 2

The Year’s Best Fantasy and Dark Fantasy and Horror, Vol. 2

Edited by Paula Guran. Pyr, $21.95 (408p) ISBN 978-1-64506-032-1

The stellar lineup of 30 stories selected by Guran for this annual “best-of” volume attest to the imaginative breadth of dark fantastic fiction written in 2020. Victor Lavalle’s “Recognition” is a ghost story set in contemporary Manhattan during the Covid-19 pandemic. By contrast, Alix E. Harrow’s “The Sycamore and The Sybil” and Alison Littlewood’s “Swanskin” approach their explorations of gender roles through traditional fairy and folktales. Elizabeth Bear mixes the whimsical with the weird in “On Safari in R’lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera,” while Brian Evenson’s “The Thickening” and Elizabeth Hand’s “The Owl Count” end with nightmarish thunderclaps of genuinely unsettling horror. The familiar weird fiction themes of the haunted house and the vampire get creative makeovers in John Wiswell’s “Open House on Haunted Hill” and Craig Laurance Gidney’s “Desiccant,” respectively, while A.C. Wise’s “To Sail the Black” and Elaine Cuyegkeng’s “The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter” probe the relatively underexplored dark side of science fiction. There’s not a story in the mix that doesn’t merit the appellation of “best,” and the diversity of the selections bodes well for future annuals. (Oct.)