The door to fantastic worlds, skewed realities, and breathtaking other realms is opened wide to you once more in this third anthology of the finest short fantasy fiction to emerge over the past year, compiled by acclaimed editor David G. Hartwell. Rarely has a more magnificent collection of tales been contained between book covers -- phenomenal visions of the impossible-made-possible by some of the field's most accomplished literary artists and stellar talents on the rise. Year's Best Fantasy 3 is a heady brew of magic and wonder, strange journeys and epic quests, boldly concocted by the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Swanwick, Tanith Lee, and others. Step into a dimension beyond the limits of ordinary imagination . . . and be amazed!.
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June 30, 2003
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Excerpt from Year's Best Fantasy 3 by Kathryn Cramer
Her Father's Eyes
by Kage Baker
Kage Baker [http://members.tripod.com/~MrsCheckerfield/] lives in Pismo Beach, California. She is known primarily as a science fiction writer, especially for her series of stories and novels about The Company, an organization from the future that sends agents back in time to retrieve lost artifacts, such as priceless art treasures. Her collection of stories in that setting -- Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers -- was published to substantial critical acclaim in 2002. She has attracted additional notice in the last few years for fantasy stories. Last year her story "What the Tyger Told Her" appeared in our Year's Best Fantasy 2. Her first fantasy novel, The Anvil of the World, is published in 2003. She worked for some years for the Living History Centre and says, "Twenty years of total immersion research in Elizabethan as well as other historical periods has paid off handsomely in a working knowledge of period speech and details."
Her attention to period detail in certainly evident in "Her Father's Eyes." This story was published in Asimov's, where most of her short fiction has appeared. A girl child and her parents -- her father just back from military service -- are riding a train in the late 1940s, and she sits next to a little boy who is in the custody of an evil couple who are not really his parents. There are perhaps echoes of Hans Christian Andersen's great fairy tale "The Snow Queen."
It was so long ago that fathers were still gaunt from the war, their awful scars still livid; so long ago that mothers wore frocks, made fancy Jell-O desserts in ring molds. And that summer, there was enough money to go for a trip on the train. She was taken along because she had been so sick she had almost died, so it was a reward for surviving.
She was hurried along between her parents, holding their hands, wondering what a dome coach was and why it was supposed to be special. Then there was a gap in the sea of adult legs, and the high silver cars of the train shone out at her. She stared up at the row of windows in the coach roof, and thought it looked like the cockpits in the bombers her father was always pointing out.
Inside it was nicer, and much bigger, and there was no possible way any German or Japanese fighter pilots could spray the passengers with bullets; so she settled into the seat she had all for herself. There she watched the people moving down on the platform, until the train pulled out of the station.
Then her parents exclaimed, and told her to look out the wonderful dome windows at the scenery. That was interesting for a while, especially the sight of the highway far down there with its Oldsmobiles and DeSotos floating along in eerie silence, and then, as they moved out into the country, the occasional field with a real horse or cow.
The change in her parents was more interesting. Out of uniform her father looked younger, was neither gloomy nor sarcastic but raucously happy. All dressed up, her mother was today as serene and cheerful as a housewife in a magazine advertisement. They held hands, like newlyweds, cried out in rapture at each change in the landscape, and told her repeatedly what a lucky little girl she was, to get to ride in a dome coach.
She had to admit they seemed to be right, though her gaze kept tracking nervously to the blue sky framed by the dome, expecting any minute steeply banking wings there, fire or smoke. How could people turn on happiness like a tap, and pretend the world was a bright and shiny place when they knew it wasn't at all?