cover image Modern Classics of Fantasy

Modern Classics of Fantasy

Gardner Dozois. St. Martin's Press, $35 (688pp) ISBN 978-0-312-15173-7

Looking back on 50 years of American fantasy writing, veteran SF editor Dozois has chosen to collect 32 splendid short stories according to one irrefutable criterion: ""I liked them."" In his retrospective preface, Dozois adds that he has selected only stories leading toward modern fantasy, which he feels differs from SF only in its attitude, its ""emotional weather."" Opening with H.L. Gold's 1939 ""Trouble with Water,"" a quirky rendition of the Midas myth, and passing through two of Fritz Lieber's best 1950s precursors to the sub-subgenre of sword and sorcery, Dozois's choices soon exhibit his fascination with sensually charged, emotionally elegiac subcreations and with humanity facing doom unbowed. Keith Roberts's 1966 ""The Signaller"" delineates a church militant gone mad with power, and Poul Anderson's brilliant 1977 ""Tale of Hauk"" brings icy Norse sagas with volcanoes at their hearts to burning life again. Sadly, women fantasists receive scant attention from Dozois, although he does include Ursula le Guin's crystalline grief over environmental depredation in ""Buffalo Gals. Won't You Come Out Tonight?"" (1987), Jane Yolen's superb hymn to the huntress Diana, ""The Sleep of Trees"" (1980), and Judith Tarr's moving medieval otherworld of ""Death and the Lady"" (1992). With the best stories here, especially John Crowley's haunting 1990 ""Missolonghi 1824,"" Dozois spreads out a tapestry of dreams, a banquet of ""pain dipped in honey."" (Jan.) FYI: Dozois has won seven Hugo Awards for Best Editor.