I am tackling a great mystery today: How the hell do you review a collection of short stories?
The inevitable truth of short story anthologies is that there are going to be some stories you really like and some you really hate. Personal taste can be so selective and even when a story is good, that doesn’t mean the reader is going to enjoy it. So do you judge by your favorite story or by how much you hated or do you do it by averages? I hated three stories, but really liked four, and the other six were fine, so does that make it a good collection?
The mark of a good editor is not just in finding quality stories in the piles of slush, but finding stories that work together. Space is a premium in every anthology, every story has to count. A really good editor might pick a slightly lower quality story over a slight higher quality one, if the lower quality one fits the theme better and resonates well with other stories already slated for the collection. I don’t envy editors their task, but some people return to the task, again and again, putting forth collection after wonderful collection.
So Fey is a collection of stories centered around crossing queer characters with literal fairies. Obviously inspired by the usage of ‘fairy’ as a pejorative term for homosexuals, this anthology embraces and explores the connection between homosexuality and the fey. Gay and lesbian protagonists in a variety of places in their life (from confused teens uncertain of where they fall on the spectrum to aging gay men trying to cope with that issue) come head to head with fey.
What I like best about this anthology is that there are very few good fairies in the collection. There are some, (Mr. Grimm’s Faery Tale and Charming, a Tale of True Love come to mind) and these are good stories. But most of the fairies we see are ambiguous in their morals to outright dangerous. The anthology features stories with the Wild Hunt, fairies trapping and tricking mortals, and the difficulties of mortals and fey trying to love one another.
I couldn’t be happier. I get so sick of sugar coated fairies, wish granting sweet tempered beings who represent nature or some lost human innocence or whatever. I like my fairies with teeth, with dark sides and inhuman perspectives on matters. I like them unearthly and other and above all else, dangerous. And that’s what makes many of these stories so thrilling. They’re about people coming to terms with their sexuality or other aspects of themselves while in real danger, physical, spiritual, or otherwise. It’s exciting, it’s interesting, and I recommend the anthology for anyone with a fondness for fantasy, queerness, and/or fairies.
A few of my personal favorites are as follows:
Dark Collection by Luisa Prieto
Year of the Fox by Eugie Foster (which I’ve read elsewhere, but I still adore it)
Ever So Much More Than Twenty by Joshua Lewis
If you like gay stories, but aren’t a fan of fairy tales (the puns, please send help), then check out other works by Steve Berman. He’s edited a number of collections out, including annual collections of some of the best gay speculative fiction printed each year (Wilde Stories) and another yearly for lesbian speculative fiction (The Heiress of Russ). On top of those, he has various themed collections which he edits. I picked up Suffered From the Night, which centers on the idea of queering Bram Stoker’s Dracula on the hopes that it will contain dark, dangerous, and gay vampires.
I have a weakness, okay?