24 October 2007

Ain't It Cool News Likes BAF

Without question, I really think this is the best genre anthology of the year. Best American Fantasy did something more ambitious than any of the others could even dare. It might have single-handedly disproved the notion of the 'SF ghetto'.

--Adam Baum
Ain't It Cool News


04 October 2007

Buy a BAF, Get a Hobart

Hobart is a young literary magazine, and editor Aaron Burch is so excited that a story he published, Catherine Zeidler's "Pregnant", is included in Best American Fantasy that he's named Prime Books to be Hobart's Small Press of the Month and he is willing to send a back issue of Hobart to anybody who orders BAF from now on. (Although I expect he'll have to put some limitations on that, as millions of you are now about to go buy more copies...)

If you're interested in Hobart, be sure to stop by the website ... and do consider subscribing -- it's an attractively-designed magazine with eclectic content (in a good way).

(cross-posted from The Mumpsimus)

20 August 2007

BAF Audio Sample by Tyler Smith

With Best American Fantasy safely in bookstores and with the Publishers Weekly starred review and NPR Recommended Summer Reading List attention in the rearview mirror, we thought readers might appreciate this reading by Tyler Smith of his story "A Troop [sic] of Baboons," one of the more tongue-in-cheek stories in the anthology.

Tyler Smith is in the process of finishing a novel, with pieces coming out soon in McSweeney's, Barrellhouse, Fresh Yarn and Monkeybicycle. He has also been contributing regularly to Newsgroper, while the website he edits, Demockeracy, will relaunch with a new and improved format sometime in early September.

You can also listen to an excerpt from Kelly Link's "Origin Story" on the NPR site.

Both the Smith and Link contain some objectionable language, for those with sensitive ears...

17 August 2007

In Stores Now!

The long-awaited day has arrived -- Best American Fantasy is now available in stores as well as online!

21 July 2007

Release Date Update

A few people have contacted us, wondering when exactly Best American Fantasy will be in stores. A fine question indeed.

The book is currently at the printer and should be leaving there by the middle of this week. That means it should be arriving in stores by the last moments of July or, more likely, the first week of August.

19 July 2007

New Address

For anyone who is sending us material to consider for next year's BAF, please note that one of the addresses has changed to:

Matthew Cheney
series editor, Best American Fantasy
P.O. Box 3038
Hoboken, NJ 07030

04 June 2007

NPR Review

At NPR's "All Things Considered", reviewer Alan Cheuse says nice things about Best American Fantasy, and the site includes a generous excerpt from Kelly Link's "Origin Story" and an audio clip of her reading from it.

30 May 2007

Publisher's Weekly Starred Review

Best American Fantasy
Edited by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer.
Prime (www.primebooks.net), $14.95 paper (460p) ISBN 978-0-8095-6280-0

In a genre where yearly “best of” volumes often repeat one another, the first in Prime’s new annual fantasy anthology series is a breath of eclectic and delightfully innovative fresh air. While the VanderMeers have included such fantasy veterans as Kelly Link and Elizabeth Hand, most of the 29 stories are by nongenre authors as well as gifted newcomers. Among the more memorable tales are Tyler Smith’s “A Troop [sic] of Baboons,” about a troupe of unruly baboon thespians, and Tony D’Souza’s whimsical “The Man Who Married a Tree,” about a man in love with a birch tree. This outstanding entry in the crowded “best of” stakes may not be the most commercially successful fantasy anthology of the year, but genre and mainstream fiction fans alike will be pleasantly surprised by these unconventional short fiction gems. (July)

LINK: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6446277.html


We've gotten word that Best American Fantasy will be highlighted on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" as a great summer book. The plan is for there to be a brief reading by Kelly Link from her story "Origin Story" along with the review. Once we know when the show is to be aired, we'll let you know.

The Blurb

We feel incredibly lucky to have captured the attention of Michael Chabon, who read an advance copy of Best American Fantasy and liked it enough to send us a quote for the cover:

"A cabinet of dark wonders, and an important—no, a crucial—map of the richness and strangeness and startling range of the modern American short story."

—Michael Chabon

02 April 2007


Fantasy and the Imagination
by Jeff & Ann VanderMeer

In her extraordinary creative writing book The Passionate, Accurate Story, Carol Bly presents a hypothetical situation. One night at dinner a girl announces to her father and mother that a group of bears has moved in next door. In one scenario, the father says (and I paraphrase) “Bears? Don’t be ridiculous,” and tells his daughter to be more serious. In the other scenario, the father says, “Bears, huh? How many bears? Do you know their names? What do they wear?” And his daughter, with delight, tells him.

The imagination is a form of love: playful, generous, and transformative. All of the best fiction hums and purrs and sighs with it, and in this way (as well) fiction mirrors life. This is how we think of the fiction collected in this first volume of Best American Fantasy. There’s a flicker, a flutter, at the heart of these stories that animates them, and this movement—ever different, ever unpredictable—makes each story unique.

Does it matter if the imaginative impulse is “fantastical” in the sense of “containing an explicit fantastical event”? No. It matters only that, on some level, a sense of fantastical play exists on the page. Bears have moved in next door.

We often disregard this sense of play. Why? In part, the idea of “play” seems immature or frivolous, especially in a society still blinkered by its Puritan origins. However, we also tend to discount play because it speaks to an aspect of the imagination that defies easy measurement. It brings yet another level of uncertainty to an endeavor already supersaturated with the subjective.

During Medieval times, the imagination was often associated with the senses and thus thought to be one of the links between human beings and the animals. Only with the Rennaissance was the imagination firmly linked to creativity and thus the intellect. Both views, however, and modern ideals of functionality and utility—even, sometimes, the idea in modern fiction of invisible prose—ignore or have no place for the sense of play that precedes and infuses creative endeavor.

This is perhaps no surprise, given that you cannot teach imagination in a creative writing workshop. As Bly explicitly states in The Passionate, Accurate Story, by the time a person reaches the age where they want to write and be taught to write fiction, that particular muscle, that particular manifestation of the soul, is firmly locked in place. A good instructor can perhaps draw out an imaginative impulse in a timid student but cannot instill it as other, more empirical aspects of fiction, can be instilled with patience and a firm hand.

To pull out a hoary old quote, Jung once wrote: “The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, which belongs also to the child, and as such it appears to be inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

In the stories contained in Best American Fantasy, events continually challenge and surprise our own imaginations. In this anthology, you will find talking alligators, a man as big as a county, baboon playwrights, a flying woman, sordid superheroes, men who marry trees, the fragments of a storyteller, and the very edge of the world. You may even find the end of narrative.

What you will not find is a set definition of “fantasy.” If you enter into reading this volume eager for such a definition or searching for the fantastical event that you believe should trigger the use of the term, you will overlook the many other pleasures that await you. These are the same pleasures you can find in non-fantastical stories: deep characterization, thematic resonance, clever plots, unique situations, pitch-perfect dialogue, enervating humor, and luminous settings. The extraordinary depth of imagination in the best stories affects not merely their content but their form, the form shaping the content, until we realize the two are not separate, that they are, in the best writing, united by the same imaginative act.

In a sense, defining “fantasy” in the context of fiction is a losing proposition—simply not worth the effort. We do not really talk like people talk in fiction. Lives do not have the kind of narrative arc or denouement often found in fiction. Therefore, we should not look askance at writers who change the paradigm, who have no interest in replicating reality if it does not suit their purposes. (A more interesting discussion of fantasy, beyond the scope of this introduction, might be to define it in the context of metaphor, because a writer’s voice may be described as fabulist rather than mimetic based solely on metaphor, regardless of the nature of the events occurring in the story.)

In all of this, it is important to remember that even flights of fancy must have anchors to be successful. The fantastical has no reality without its characters. The alligator knows the plot of the tale better than anyone. The man as big as a county is weeping for a reason. The flying woman has an admirer. The failed superhero has bills to pay. The edge of the world isn’t the end of everything. Even baboon playwrights and men who marry trees may have hidden depths. The fragments of the storyteller collect themselves long enough to tell one last story.

There’s no real end to narrative, just as there is no real end to the ways in which “fantasy” elements can be put to use in the service of narrative. Every time someone reads Bly’s A Passionate, Accurate Story and comes to the part where the father asks his daughter about the bears, there’s the tantalizing possibility in the reader’s mind that she’ll say something different—something wonderful or horrible or bittersweet.

There’s every possibility that what she says will be different for every reader, depending solely on the generosity of the individual imagination.

25 March 2007


Below are the stories in the first edition of Best American Fantasy, which includes work published in 2006:

A Hard Truth About Waste Management

by Sumanth Prabhaker
from Identity Theory

The Stolen Father
by Eric Roe
from Redivider

The Saffron Gatherer
by Elizabeth Hand
from Saffron & Brimstone (M Press)

The Whipping
by Julia Elliott
from The Georgia Review

A Better Angel
by Chris Adrian
from The New Yorker

Draco Campestris
by Sarah Monette
from Strange Horizons

by Daniel Coudriet
from The Mississippi Review

The Chinese Boy
by Ann Stapleton
from Alaska Quarterly Review

The Flying Woman
by Meghan McCarron
from Strange Horizons

First Kisses from Beyond the Grave
by Nik Houser
from Gargoyle

Song of the Selkie
by Gina Ochsner
from Tin House

A Troop [sic] of Baboons
by Tyler Smith
from Pindeldyboz

Pieces of Scheherazade
by Nicole Kornher-Stace
from Zahir

Origin Story
by Kelly Link
from A Public Space

An Experiment in Governance
by E.M. Schorb
from The Mississippi Review

The Next Corpse Collector
by Ramola D
from Green Mountains Review

The Village of Ardakmoktan
by Nicole Derr
from Pindeldyboz

The Man Who Married a Tree
by Tony D'Souza
from McSweeney's

A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets
by Kevin Brockmeier
from Oxford American

by Catherine Zeidler
from Hobart

The Warehouse of Saints
by Robin Hemley
from Ninth Letter

The Ledge
by Austin Bunn
from One Story

Lazy Taekos
by Geoffrey A. Landis
from Analog

For the Love of Paul Bunyan
by Fritz Swanson
from Pindeldyboz

An Accounting
by Brian Evenson
from Paraspheres (Omnidawn)

Abraham Lincoln Has Been Shot
by Daniel Alarcón
from Zoetrope: All-Story

Bit Forgive
by Maile Chapman
from A Public Space

The End Of Narrative (1-29; Or 29-1)
by Peter LaSalle
from The Southern Review

by Melora Wolff
from The Southern Review

23 March 2007


by Matthew Cheney

The three words in our title do not have stable definitions. Instead of a cause of frustration, this lack of stability can be a source of wonder.

Best. According to whom? Under what criteria? Relative to what?

American. Where? Is it a geography or a mindset? Is it governments or landscapes? Is it a history or a bunch of histories or the eradication of history? Is it by birth or choice? Is it more about and and less about or?

Fantasy. Swords and dragons? Dreams and portents? Nonsense? Does fantasy have to include magic, or can it simply hint at strangeness? Is it a genre or a lens? Is it subject or object? Can it live within the structure of a story, or must it emanate from the content? Where does fiction end and fantasy begin?

To explore these instabilities and pose impermanent answers to the questions, we have settled on two principles for this series: after the second volume, each book will have different guest editors; and every editor will be encouraged to search as broadly as possible for stories that fit within their conception of what best, American, and fantasy mean. If there is one prejudice at the heart of these anthologies, it is a prejudice in favor of the theory that great writing does not show up only in predictable places, under predictable labels, in predictable forms—great writing is, in fact, the least predictable.

* * *

You could be excused for wondering why the world needs yet another best-of-the-year collection when dozens are published annually by big and small publishers alike.

I can only answer by telling a story.

More forcefully than any other books, a series of best-of-the-year anthologies edited by Judith Merril in the 1950s and 1960s taught me how limitless and powerful short fiction can be. I discovered a few of these anthologies in a used bookstore when I was in my teens, and for some reason or another I bought them and read them. Though at first they challenged and frustrated me, soon I found those books to be among the most thrilling collections of short fiction I ever read.

The first of Merril’s anthologies came out in 1956, was titled The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, and had an introduction by Orson Welles. The last came out in 1968 and was titled SF 12. Merril had always had eclectic taste, but the last few volumes of her series are monuments to diversity. That last volume puts Donald Barthelme’s “The Balloon” beside J.G. Ballard’s “The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D”; it puts a short-short story by Günther Grass beside a novella by Samuel Delany; it puts writers generally considered traditional genre writers (Katherine MacLean, Fritz Leiber, Charles L. Harness) beside writers who skirted the boundaries of genres (Sonya Dorman, Thomas M. Disch, Carol Emshwiller) beside writers generally seen as “literary” writers (William S. Burroughs, John Updike, Hortense Calisher).

What is most remarkable to me now when I look at Merril’s last few annuals is that they represent the fiction of their time so well. Many of the writers she included are writers who have, for one reason or another, maintained strong reputations for decades. Certainly, there are stories and authors that have lost their appeal over the years, and stories that do not hold up well when read now, but the contents of those books still, forty years later, impress. (Consider, for instance, the authors listed on the cover of the beat-up old Dell paperback of the eleventh volume that I have: Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Jarry, Isaac Asimov, J.G. Ballard, Roald Dahl, Thomas M. Disch, Gerald Kersh, Donald Barthelme, Jorge Luis Borges, John Ciardi, Harvey Jacobs, Fritz Leiber, and Art Buchwald. “And many more.” Indeed.)

Best-of-the-year collections today sometimes make an attempt to add writers of a variety of styles from various types of publications, but none to my knowledge make it part of their purpose the way Judith Merril did. That is the gap we seek to fill, because we believe the world of fiction is as diverse and exciting as it was when Merril was compiling her collections, and there should be one anthology, at least, to chronicle such diversity.

* * *

Why have any limits, then? Why best? Why American? Why fantasy?

One of the reasons we set limits is that we do not have time to read everything written everywhere in any one year. There are tens of thousands of short stories published annually in big and small magazines, in anthologies and single-author collections, on websites and via email subscriptions. We searched high and low and far and wide for every sort of fiction we could find, and yet we know there are great swathes we never even glimpsed.

I am haunted by all the stories I know we missed, the gems we never discovered, the masterpieces that got away. Nonetheless, I was amazed by the quality of writing we encountered—stories of vivid imagination, stylistic brilliance, narrative power, and personal vision. Every one of the dozens and dozens of stories I recommended to Ann and Jeff was one I thought would do the book proud if included. The stories we settled on including were the ones that we couldn’t forget, the ones we couldn’t bear to let go, the ones that held our interest even after we had read them again and again.

The list of Recommended Reading at the back of the book is a list of stories we seriously discussed including. We’re not lying when we say we recommend them. Seek them out. Support the publishers of these stories, because it is their efforts that allow quality writing of all types to thrive.

We have planned from the beginning to have Ann and Jeff VanderMeer as guest editors for two volumes, because we want to establish as solid a foundation for the series as possible, and I don’t know of anyone better qualified than the VanderMeers to help make this anthology vibrantly unique. Indeed, the project was their idea originally, and it would not exist without their vision and effort. Working with them on it has been both an honor and a joy.

16 March 2007


One thing we've decided to institute for BAF is a last page giving more information on the cover artist chosen for each volume. Each artist chosen will be North American and reflect on some aspect of the fantastic.

For the 2006-07 volume, Scott Eagle did the artwork. It's wonderful stuff.

Here's what we've included about Eagle in the book.


“I have been tremendously influenced by the teachings of Joseph Campbell. One of his main themes was that ‘God is an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.’ He also insisted that the function of mythology and religion is to put the human spirit in accord with its environment and the artist is the symbol maker and the visionary in tune with both.” – Scott Eagle

The cover artist for the inaugural volume of Best American Fantasy is Scott Eagle. Eagle serves as Associate Professor and Area Coordinator of Painting and Drawing at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. His artworks have been exhibited and reproduced internationally. Publications featuring his artwork include The Oxford American, The New York Times, and the Cleveland Plains Dealer.

In the often harrowing, dreamlike world that Eagle conjures in his art, humans are perpetually at the mercy of forces beyond their control. They're beheaded, attacked by sharks, menaced by tornadoes, sent tumbling through space and otherwise rendered powerless, while mysterious events unfold around them.

“Eagle's work aptly reflects the uncertainty and frequent perils of corporeal existence. It's a timeless theme, but one that seems particularly relevant during troubled times.” - Tom Patterson, Winston-Salem Journal

“Perfectly capable of capturing the essence of his art historical sources, Eagle develops his borrowings into intensely personal statements, dense with implications. This introspective man, casting a wide net in his search for answers that ultimately come from within, distills what he has learned into accomplished paintings that glow darkly with a complicated commentary on these complicated times.”
- Huston Paschal, Curator, North Carolina Museum of Art

For more information on Eagle’s art, please visit his website.

03 March 2007

Recommended Reading: 2006

We would like to call special attention to the following stories published in 2006. These are 25 stories that we found of particular interest but could not include in the anthology itself. Congratulations to all of the writers and publications.

"Stab" by Chris Adrian
Zoetrope: All-Story, Summer

"Dominion" by Calvin Baker
One Story, no. 75

"The Creation of Birds" by Christopher Barzak
Twenty Epics edited by David Moles & Susan Marie Groppi

"Inheritance" by Jedediah Berry
Fairy Tale Review, The Green Issue

"The Duel" by Tobias Buckell
Electric Velocipede, no. 11

"The Life of Captain Gareth Caernarvon" by Brendan Connell
McSweeney's, no. 19

"The Paper Life They Lead" by Patrick Crerand
Ninth Letter, Fall/Winter

"The Alternative History Club" by Murray Farish
Black Warrior Review, Fall/Winter

"Night Whiskey" by Jeffrey Ford
Salon Fantastique edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

"thirteen o'clock" by David Gerrold
Fantasy & Science Fiction, February

"Lucky Chow Fun" by Lauren Goff
Ploughshares, Fall

"Letters from Budapest" by Theodora Goss
Alchemy, no. 3

"Galileo" by John Haskell
Public Space, Spring

"The Marquise de Wonka" by Shelley Jackson
Sex & Chocolate edited by Lucinda Ebersole & Richard Peabody

"Irregular Verbs" by Matthew Johnson
Fantasy Magazine, Fall

"The Mysterious Intensity of the Heart" by Jeff P. Jones
Redivider, vol. 4 issue 1

"Bainbridge" by Caitlin R. Kiernan

"A Secret Lexicon for the Not-Beautiful" by Beth Adele Long
Alchemy, no. 3

"A Change in Fashion" by Steven Millhauser
Harper's, May

"Robert Kennedy Remembered by Jean Baudrillard" by Gary Percesepe
Mississippi Review Online, Summer

"The Man with the Scale in His Head" by Eman Quotah
Pindeldyboz Online, August 23

"Magnificent Pigs" by Cat Rambo
Strange Horizons, November 27

"Swimming" by Veronica Schanoes
Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, no. 18

"Mountain, Man" by Heather Shaw
Long Voyages, Great Lies edited by Christopher Barzak, Alan DeNiro, and Kristin Livdahl

"Snow Blind" by Bridget Bentz Sizer
Kenyon Review, Summer

01 February 2007

Second Volume Announcement

Prime Books announces the second volume of a prestigious new anthology series, Best American Fantasy, guest edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, with Matthew Cheney serving as the series editor. The second volume will be published in June 2008, showcasing the best North American fantasy short fiction from the preceding year. The editors will apply as wide a definition of the term "fantasy" as is necessary for the integrity and quality of Best American Fantasy—including magic realism, surrealism, postmodern experiments, and all other applicable permutations.

Best American Fantasy provides a stylish forum for the best short work from U.S. and Canadian writers published in North America. A list of honorable mentions limited to 25 to 50 stories will be included in each volume.

The anthology will feature rotating guest editors, with the series editor providing continuity and stability. Ann & Jeff VanderMeer will serve as guest editors for 2007 and 2008 to help establish Best American Fantasy as one of the premier year's best anthologies in North America.

Reviewers, publicists, and other media should contact Prime editor Sean Wallace.

Prime Books is an award-winning imprint that specializes in literary and cutting-edge cross-genre novels and short story collections.


Literary journals, magazines, anthologies, and other venues based in North America are encouraged to submit their publications to Best American Fantasy so that the content can be considered for inclusion. All publications received will be listed in Best American Fantasy. Please send two copies of materials for consideration to:

Jeff VanderMeer (BAF Coordinator, POB 4248, Tallahassee, FL 32315), who will pass materials on to the guest editors.

Eligible short fiction must fulfill the following rules.

  1. A work of respectable literary quality first published in a U.S. or Canadian periodical (magazines, anthologies, websites, etc.)
  2. Publication in English by U.S. or Canadian writers, or foreign writers who have made U.S. or Canada their home.
  3. Original publication as short stories. Excerpts from novels will not be considered.
  4. Work longer than 10,000 words will not be considered.
  5. All work to be considered must be received by January 16, 2008.

The definition of fantasy shall include fabulation, non-realist fiction, magic realism, surrealism, post modern experimentation, cross-genre, etc. The editors will apply as wide a definition of the term as is necessary for the integrity and quality of Best American Fantasy. Editors or individuals should not pre-judge the fantastical content of individual stories or periodical issues but simply send in all possibly relevant materials. Sending tearsheets is discouraged.

Individuals and editors of online magazines can make recommendations via the Best American Fantasy Recommendation Form found to the right. No self-published work will be considered.

About the Editors

Well known for his novels The Brief History of the Dead and The Truth About Celia, guest editor Kevin Brockmeier is also an eminent short story writer, having received three O. Henry Awards (one, a first prize), the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, and an Italo Calvino Short Fiction Award. His stories have been published in a wide variety of venues, including The New Yorker, The Georgia Review, McSweeney's, and The Oxford American, and have been reprinted in Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and the first volume of Best American Fantasy. Brockmeier's short fiction has been collected in Things That Fall from the Sky and his most recent book, The View from the Seventh Layer. He has also published two children's books, City of Names and Grooves: A Kind of Mystery. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Guest Editor Jeff VanderMeer is a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award. His books from Pan Macmillan, Tor, and Bantam have made the year's best lists of Publishers Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Weekly, Publishers' News, and Amazon.com, among others, and his short fiction has appeared in several year's best anthologies. Novels and story collections by VanderMeer have been translated into twelve languages. As an editor, he is best known for founding the award-winning Ministry of Whimsy Press and its landmark anthology series, Leviathan. He lives in Florida.

Guest Editor Ann VanderMeer has been a publisher and editor for over twenty years, running her award-winning Buzzcity Press, and she is currently the fiction editor of Weird Tales. Work from her press and related periodicals has won the British Fantasy Award, the International Rhysling Award, and appeared in several year's best anthologies. Books published by Buzzcity Press include the Theodore Sturgeon Award finalist Dradin, In Love by Jeff VanderMeer and the IHG Award winning The Divinity Student by Michael Cisco. A Best of the Silver Web is forthcoming from Prime Books in November 2006. She lives in Florida.

Series Editor Matthew Cheney has published fiction and nonfiction with Strange Horizons, One Story, Locus, Rain Taxi, Rabid Transit, Pindeldyboz, Failbetter, and others, and his work has been shortlisted for Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and The Pushcart Prize. He has served on the jury for the Speculative Literature Foundation's Fountain Award, and his weblog, The Mumpsimus, was a finalist for the 2005 World Fantasy Award. He currently teaches English and Women's Studies at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.