The British Fantasy Society Yearbook 2009
Publisher: BFS, 2009.
Pssssst....yeah you, you looking for a bargain? Well keep it to yourself but head over to the BFS website and for £30 you can get four issues of Prism (the society newsletter), 2 issues of Dark Horizons (journal with stories, articles etc) and 2 issues of New Horizons (showcasing new names) as well as all the other member benefits. Quite a bargain isn't it?....But wait. What about if you also got an exclusive hardback anthology featuring the likes of Tim Lebbon, Conrad Williams, Gary McMahon, Adam L.G. Nevill and James Barclay among others.....surely some mistake.
The 2009 anthology must be one of the strongest collections of genre names brought together anywhere. It's a beautifully produced hardback with 21 wildly diverse tales to entertain you.
Starting with The Name Game by Mark Morris a funny look at suburban society and keeping up with the Jones's (or should that be the Beckhams). After The Ape by Stephen Volk shows us the immediate aftermath of the events in King Kong in another humerous and poignant tale.
The Stretch by Christpher Fowler also contains a fair bit of black humour, mixed with tradgedy as we go behind the tinted glass of a stretch Limo. The Convent At Bazzano by Allyson Bird is a great traditional ghost story set in an Italian convent. Deadhouse Steps by Mark Chadbourn takes us on a thrilling modern day adventure where the inequalities in modern day society are explored.
Patience, A Womanly Virtue by Juliet E. McKenna is a courtly tale of revenge. The Language Of the Land by Tim Lebbon is of his usual high standard, as a man in tune with nature meets the reality of "normal" society. The Edge Of A Thing by Karron Warren gives us a tale of ancient Fijian traditions and the dangers of ignoring them.
The Chosen One by Andrew Cartmel teaches us in a humerous, yet morbid fashion that it's right not to trust cats. Life and Life Only by Steve Lockley is another tale about connections with nature this time passed down through the generations. Deleted Scenes by Conrad Williams sees the distinction between movies and real life blurred.
Snow Angels by Sarah Pinborough is a heart wrenching tale set amidst the beauty of snowfall (especially pertinent at the moment). Survivor Guilt by Gary McMahon is another excellent horror story where a man tries to identify a good samaratin.The Ancestors by Adam L.G. Nevill describes how a building can carry memories of it's former occupants. La Belle Dame Sans Grace by Gary Kilworth outlines the dangers of stealing treasure from the Faerie.
Unfollow by Nicholas Royle takes us right up to date with the horror of twitter. Twain by James Barclay must win some award by being the only traditional "fantasy" in the BFS collection. In The Park by Suzi Feay gives us some remarkable chracters and moving moments. Refusing Jack by Gary Fry sees waste recyclying given a whole new spin.
Finally we get two strange, original and very interesting stories with Under The Skin by Daniel O'Mahoney where schizophrenia is taken to a whole new level and George Clooney's Moustache an often tragic tale of obsession.
For a "free" anthology you could forgive a few clunkers but there are none here. This is a collection of the highest quality featuring some of the biggest genre names around in the UK and many others who are surely destined to become equally big names in the future. There is a remarkably high standard of writing on show here.
Non-fantasy fans could be forgiven for thinking this might not be for them but rest assured there is not an orc, nor a dwarf to be seen. This is an anthology full of diversity, indeed the only common theme here is the quality of the writing. I could pull out some highlights but I won't because that would undersell the ones I didn't mention.
So if you have ever considered joining the BFS, now might be the time. If a collection of this quality had been put together by the small presses it would surely be selling for £20-£30. So if you want a real bargain follow this link, knock twice and tell them Colin sent you.
Rating 5 out of 5