A companion piece of sorts to Beagle's critically acclaimed anthology, The Secret History of Fantasy (2010)—a collection of stories that transcended the conventions and clichés of contemporary fantasy—Beagle and Weisman’s latest contains 19 comparable stories from some of the genre's most innovative and exciting new voices.
Although most of the authors included here may not be household names like the ones in the earlier collection (which featured works from Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Octavia E. Butler, among others), the quality of the stories is undeniable. Also undeniable is the impressive diversity of storylines, which range from the whimsy of Ben Loory’s “The Duck,” about a bird who falls hopelessly in love with a rock, to the horror of Carmen Maria Machado’s Nebula Award–nominated “The Husband Stitch,” a darkly lyrical and deeply disturbing look at a woman with a penchant for storytelling whose life becomes a twisted tale. E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” is particularly memorable. A political fable that works on multiple levels, it chronicles a conflict between a nest of imperialistic wasps and a colony of peaceful bees. A few young bees begin questioning the violent new world order and plot rebellion. Other standout selections include “Tornado’s Siren” by Brooke Bolander, a love story featuring a tornado and a girl, and Alyssa Wong’s Nebula and World Fantasy Award–winning “Hungry Daughters and Starving Mothers,” which puts an innovative twist on the vampire mythos with a story about a young woman who, after realizing she can find sustenance consuming people’s thoughts, becomes addicted to eating the darkest. While all 19 pieces are exceptional, the anthology’s title is a bit of a misnomer; some stories were originally published as far back as 2012.
A stellar anthology that proves not only that fantasy is alive and well, but that it will be for years to come.