cover image Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy

, . . Subterranean, $40 (225pp) ISBN 978-1-59606-183-5

This vaguely themed offering from Subterranean publisher Schafer brings together a wide array of big names and lesser-known contributors under the umbrella of dark fantasy. Tim Powers’s “The Hour of Babel,” a contemporary time-travel tragedy with metaphysical underpinnings, and William Browning Spencer’s “Penguins of the Apocalypse,” a modern fable that excels at tense misdirection, rub shoulders with Rachel Swirsky’s “Monstrous Embrace” and Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Road to Levinshir,” both heavily grounded in pseudomedieval fantasy worlds. Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “The Steam Dancer (1896)” is a warm meditation on the biological and mechanical elements of a woman’s altered body, and what Poppy Z. Brite’s “The Gulf” lacks in fantasy elements, it makes up for with darkness. Although many of the stories are individually outstanding, the jumble of modern, historical and fanciful settings, traditional monsters and imagined threats make this feel more like an issue of a magazine than an anthology with a firm motif. (July)