The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy : Sixteen Original Works by Speculative Fiction's Finest Voices
"Ellen Datlow is the queen of anthology editors in America."
With original stories by Jeffrey Ford, Pat Cadigan, Elizabeth Bear, Margo Lanagan, and others
From Del Rey Books and award-winning editor Ellen Datlow, two of the most respected names in science fiction and fantasy, comes a collection of fifteen all-new short stories, plus a science fiction novella, that could count as a virtual "best of the year" anthology. Here you will find slyly twisted alternate histories, fractured fairy tales, topical science fiction, and edgy urban fantasy.
In "Daltharee," World Fantasy Award-winning author Jeffrey Ford spins a chilling tale of a city in a bottle-and the demented genius who put it there. In "Sonny Liston Takes the Fall," John W. Campbell Award-winning author Elizabeth Bear pens a poignant and eerie requiem for the heavyweight forever associated with his controversial loss to Cassius Clay. From hot new writer Margo Lanagan comes "The Goosle," a dark, astonishing take on Hansel and Gretel. In the novella "Prisoners of the Action," Paul MccAuley and Kim Newman take a trip down a rabbit hole that leads to a Guantanamo-like prison whose inmates are not just illegal but extraterrestrial.
Many of the writers you'll recognize. Others you may not. But one thing is certain: These stars of today and tomorrow demonstrate that the field of speculative fiction is not only alive and well-it's better than ever.
Declaring that short stories are the heart and soul of fantastical fiction, prolific and venerable editor Datlow collects 16 impressive original stories in this unthemed anthology. Standout selections include Margo Lanagan's deeply disturbing The Goosle, which eloquently corrupts the Hansel and Gretel fable with bubonic plague, sexual slavery and mass murder; Jason Stoddard's The Elephant Ironclads, which describes an emergent 20th-century Navajo nation struggling to become a world power while staying true to its culture; Elizabeth Bear's Sonny Liston Takes the Fall, a poignant tale about the life, death and sad legacy of the troubled heavyweight fighter; and Pat Cadigan's Jimmy, a strange and supernatural coming-of-age story set in the moments just after John F. Kennedy's assassination. The thematic diversity and consistently high quality of narrative throughout make for a solid and enjoyable anthology. (Apr.)
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April 28, 2008
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Excerpt from The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Ellen Datlow
The Elephant Ironclads
Jason Stoddard lives in Newhall, California, with his wife, Lisa (who writes under the name Rina Slayter), and a motley assortment of tortoises and cars. He has gone from the discipline of engineering to the halls of advertising, then on to the wild world of interactive marketing.
His short fiction has appeared in SCI FICTION, Interzone, Strange Horizons, Fortean Bureau, Futurismic, and GUD, and he was a finalist for both the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. Jason is currently working on novels based on his short fiction. His website is www.xcentric.com.
"The Elephant Ironclads" is another alternate history--based (as most of the best of the subgenre) on some unbelievable but actual historical events.
Ow, those are healthy elephants," Niyol Chavez said.
Wallace Chee ground his teeth. Ahead of them, a caravan loaded with Mexican sugar was coming down the dusty road from the Albuquerque airfield. On top of the lead elephant, a fat merchant in a gaudy Hopi outfit bounced, wearing the satisfied grin of a man who has made an excellent deal.
"See how they almost prance," Niyol said, pointing. "Healthy."
"Stop it," Wallace said.
"Look at how they shake their heads."
"They even sound like--"
Wallace turned and pushed Niyol, hard. Wallace caught a glimpse of his friend's broad, playful smile, then Niyol's legs tangled and he fell sideways into the scrub.
"I was joking!" Niyol said, his dark eyes flashing anger.
I didn't know the elephant was sick, Wallace wanted to say. Images of the dead elephant, lying in the dust outside the skeleton of his father's burned-out workshop, came unbidden. The slack stares of Niyol and Patrick and Jose, who had given all their Din� pesos for Wallace's tales of an elephant of their own, a trade route that would bring them riches before they were fourteen. The flaming anger of his mother when she'd discovered he'd taken her precious tourist dollars to fund his dream. Her tears when she saw the carcass. The way she looked from the elephant to the workshop and back again. And, finally, the few pesos he'd been able to get from the butcher as he began the grim job of rendering the elephant down to dog food and bonemeal.
"I told you I'd pay you back."
"No. You won't." Niyol picked himself up and brushed dust from his jeans.
"We'll both pay your mother back." Niyol eyed the Din� airships that dotted the faraway field. "If there's any work left, that is."
"What do you mean?"
"The caravans are already coming south, so they've probably already unloaded."
Wallace grimaced. Niyol was as sharp of mind as he was of tongue. He would probably go back to school next year, to The-Years-That-Finish- You. And after his years at the Americanized school, he'd be able to get a job in California or Mexico, rather than Din�tah.
"There'll be other airships," Wallace said.
Niyol scanned the empty blue sky and shrugged.
As the caravan passed, the elephants' trumpeting sounded like laughter.
At the Albuquerque airfield, a half dozen airships hung motionless in the clear blue winter sky. On one of the ships, Din� airmen were making repairs to the skyshields, their bright orange-and-red-tunics in sharp contrast with the blue fabric that shielded the airships from the ever-watchful eyes of the Diyin Din�. None of the ships wore gray stormshields, so they must be expecting the clear weather to continue. The sun was bright, but the early-March chill still bit with every breeze.
On the ground, nothing moved. Stacks of crates and bags of sugar in the cargo shacks showed that the airships had already been unloaded. Big men lounged on the rough wood porches of the shacks, smoking cheap American cigarettes and telling poor jokes that poked fun at one another's clans. Several of them gathered around a radio, which was chattering in English about a new war the Americans were starting in a place called Korea.
Wallace remembered the days when the Americans always seemed to be at war. His own war games with Niyol. Japs and Americans. Like Cowboys and Indians, or Elephant Ironclads and Cavalry. He was only nine when he'd heard about the end of the Second World War, coming in softly in Navajo over the Din�tah station. It was hard to believe the war had been over for five years.
Niyol hung back, so Wallace introduced himself to one of the men and said they were looking for work.
The man, cigarette dangling loosely from his lips, looked them up and down and laughed. In that moment, Wallace saw himself and Niyol through those men's eyes, two scrawny kids looking to do heavy labor. Something seemed to crumple and collapse in his heart.
I'll have to go back to Isleta, he thought. I'll have to be a shepherd.
"You see?" Niyol said, after they'd walked out of earshot.
"Maybe I'll become an airman," Wallace said.