The chosen becomes the chooser: Machado, the award-winning author of Her Body and Other Parties (2017) and a contributor to last year’s anthology, serves as guest editor for the 2019 volume.
Every one of these 20 tales shines; there’s not a lackluster one in the bunch. They cover a variety of overlapping subgenres, from haunted-house horror to speculative social fiction to alien invasion to apocalyptic fantasy, and feature some of the most notable and rising writers in these overlapping areas, including Seanan McGuire, Daryl Gregory, P. Djèlí Clark, Sofia Samatar, and last year’s editor, N.K. Jemisin, among others. In her introduction, Machado declares her intention to ignore any artificial lines drawn between those stories considered “literary” and those labelled as “genre,” and she says that her chief criterion in selecting these works was whether they provided her with pleasure. That doesn’t mean these stories offer happy endings or simple answers. If there’s one theme that unites them, it’s the characters' desire to escape: from that haunted house (Adam-Troy Castro’s “Pitcher Plant”), the forces of time itself (Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s “Through the Flash” and Adam R. Shannon’s “On the Day You Spend Forever With Your Dog”), the restrictions of expected fictional tropes (Ada Hoffman’s “Variations on a Theme From Turandot”), racism and classism (LaShawn M. Wanak’s “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” and P. Djèlí Clark’s “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”), misogyny and the associated bonds of social convention (Sofia Samatar’s “Hard Mary,” Kelly Robson’s “What Gentle Women Dare,” Theodore McCombs’ “Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women,” and Lesley Nneka Arimah’s “Skinned”), and of course, foolish and dangerous preconceptions about the world that everyone holds in some measure (that’s just about every story).
A strong collection that will inspire, disturb, and, yes, give pleasure.