cover image Edited By

Edited By

Edited by Ellen Datlow. Subterranean, $45 (632p) ISBN 978-1-59606-967-1

This impressive doorstopper collects stories from 30 previous anthologies assembled by prolific and influential speculative fiction editor Datlow, with brief notes on her selection process offering deep insight into how one editor can shape a genre. The oldest entry, Pat Murphy’s charming “Love and Sex Among the Invertebrates,” a post-apocalyptic story with a hopeful bent, appeared in 1990’s Alien Sex, and the most recent, Priya Sharma’s “The Crow Palace,” a darkly fantastic story about corvids and changelings, was collected in 2017’s Black Feathers. The standouts are often the longer works, notably Ted Chiang’s spectacular novella “Seventy-Two Letters,” a Victorian-era alternate history that melds the experiments of Frankenstein with golemlike automata. Many of the pieces blur genre boundaries and are linked by their dark undertones and focus on transgressive acts. (Indeed, sensitive readers should be warned that this anthology contains nearly every trauma imaginable.) Though the writing is universally strong, some of the older stories, including “In the Month of Athyr” by Elizabeth Hand and “That Old School Tie” by Jack Womack, have aged poorly in their depictions of gender and sexuality. The anthology is rounded out by an interview with Datlow, in which she discusses the evolution of her career, her love of the grotesque, and her hunt for stories that “hit on all cylinders.” This is a worthwhile investment for Datlow fans and anyone interested in charting the progress of speculative fiction. Agent: Merrilee Heifetz, Writers House. (Sept.)