cover image The Years Best Fantasy & Horror: Tenth Annual Collection

The Years Best Fantasy & Horror: Tenth Annual Collection

Ellen Datlow. St. Martin's Press, $29.95 (624pp) ISBN 978-0-312-15700-5

The 39 stories and four poems included in the 10th volume in this series, which has won two World Fantasy Awards, range from the confusing to the sublime. The fantasy tales reinforce Windling's view, as expressed in her introductory summation, that the genre enjoyed robust health in 1996, partly through the infusion of Latin American magic realism, as in Yxta Maya Murray's elusive ""La Llorona,"" and also through such ""mythic fantasy"" as Shara McCallum's unforgettable poem, ""Persephone Sets the Record Straight."" The horror choices are strong as well, but generally less palatable. Most are British-authored shockers; several mix eroticism with terror; and a few, like Graham Masterton's lusciously decadent ""The Secret Shih Tan"" and Kathe Koja and Barry N. Malzberg's surging and potent ""Ursus Triad, Later,"" achieve Datlow's expressed intent: they ""continue to disturb."" Several dark fantasies, meanwhile, like Lisa Spaar's ""Rapunzel's Exile,"" twist the knife edge between the genres. Also included are clever exercises in wit, notably Robert Olen Butler's tongue-in-fang ""JFK Secretly Attends Jackie Auction"" and Susanna Clarke's exquisite ""The Ladies of Grace Adieu."" Capping the volume are the summary essays from both editors, noting and subdividing fantasy and horror novels, collections, graphic works, music and so on. With only a few questionable entries, this ambitious collection buttresses Clarke's assertion that ""magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head."" (Sept.)