"Ardent Clouds" by Lucy Sussex
"Gather" by Christopher Rowe
"North American Lake Monsters" by Nathan Ballingrud
"All Washed Up While Looking for a Better World" by Carol Emshwiller
"Special Economics" by Maureen F. McHugh
"Aka St. Mark's Place" by Richard Bowes
"Shira" by Lavie Tidhar
"The Passion of Azazel" by Barry N. Malzberg
"The Lagerstatte" by Laird Barron
"Gladiolus Exposed" by Anna Tambour
"Jimmy" by Pat Cadigan
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The darkest hours
Ellen Datlow has long been a force to be reckoned with in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Now, with The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Sixteen Original Works by Speculative Fiction's Finest Voices, she has published a book that will lure casual readers into finding out more about writers such as Margo Lanagan, Nathan Ballingrud and Laird Barron. Some of the contributors are well known (Jeffrey Ford, Maureen F. McHugh), some of them are newer (Christopher Rowe, Anna Tambour), but all enjoy exploring the weirder aspects of life. Datlow tends toward darker stories (she edits the horror half of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, of which, full disclosure, I co-edit the fantasy half), so there are stories here that will have readers checking that their doors and windows are locked. Lanagan's retelling of Hansel and Gretel, "Goosle," reminds readers that fairy tales are definitely not all for children, and Barron's "The Lagerstätte," where a young widow is tempted to join her late husband, is a horrifying page-turner. The first story, Jason Stoddard's alternate historical "The Elephant Ironclads," is especially memorable. Traditional virtues clash with cold war politics when two Navajo boys are caught up in an attempt to acquire the nuclear bomb for their nation. This book will stand out among the year's extraordinarily rich field of anthologies.