Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror revisited

I’ve been musing on the nature of ‘Year’s Best’ anthologies, and the fact many people kinda grumble when they hear talk of ‘yet another’ Year’s best variation.

Following the announcement of Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror, the responses have ranged from the cautious to the cautiously optimistic (plus one or two more extreme reactions). Maybe I’m naive but this surprised me. I was surprised by comments suggesting horror should be treated as a subset of fantasy (this of course ignores psychological and realist dark fiction in favour of the supernatural, and discounts worthy organisations such as the Horror Writers Association, whom I believe don’t share such a view). I was also surprised by comments suggesting that instead of another reprint anthology, there should be more venues for original fiction instead. This, of course, despite the fact that between Angela and I, we’ve provided venues for original fiction at all lengths: Shadow Box covers micro fiction; Shadowed Reams publishes flash fiction and serials (short stories); Macabre will publish anything up to novelette length; and Fading Twilight is publishing novelette and novella lengths.

However, it did get me thinking.

Perhaps, I thought, the caution has been inspired by the perception that this anthology will be a clone? Surely newcomers couldn’t expect to produce an anthology which has already been done exceptional well by the likes of Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, Jonathan Strahan, Karen Haber, Gardner Dozois, David Hartwell, Stephen Jones, Bill Congreve & Michelle Marquardt, etc. etc.?

It seems the proliferation of Year’s Bests has produced something of an expectation.

Readers expect a package. It’s ingrained in the public consciousness now. To be a Year’s Best, it must look and read a certain way.

As part of the ‘Year’s Best Such and Such’ package, you get a bunch of quality stories hand-picked by the editors, right?. You get an honourable mentions/recommended reading list, right? You get a summary of the genres covered, with some spillover into movies, comics and obituaries, etc, right?

Well, Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror will be very different.

Yes, there will be a brief (very brief) genre summary in the introduction.

Yes, there MAY be a short Honourable Mentions list (more because it’s a popular feature of a Year’s Best package, but even this could be dropped in the final revisions).

But, here’s the kicker (or two).

ADFH will be a genuine snapshot of dark Australian literature. Through the inclusion of the best essays and genre-related articles, it will encompass the very best of the darker genres. Rather than a subjective overview by the editors, the non-fiction will be provided by people living and breathing the genre. So you can likely expect William J Atheling Award (for Review and Criticism) nominees to be given serious consideration for inclusion, as well as anyone who has written an insightful article or genre criticism.

More importantly, we are seeking YOUR assistance in selecting the stories and essays. That’s right. One or two people won’t be dictating what is ‘best’ and what is not.

While Angela and I are hard at work reading and selecting our choice of ‘best’ materials, we’re calling on you to recommend works you believe are the best you’ve read this year. Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror is an inclusive project which will be influenced by your suggestions. Here is your chance to have your say.

Please feel free to leave a comment, recommendation, or even disagree with someone’s suggestion, on the Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Livejournal

I can’t stress this enough – jump on the livejournal and tell us, and the publishers, and ultimately the book buying public, what you consider to be a great horror/dark fiction story. The eligibility details are available on the ADFH website (and now includes New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders). Give the writers the recognition they deserve.