While doing some searching at the Internet Speculative Fiction Data Base on anthologies, I noticed one called Warrior Fantastic. Turns out I have it but forgot about it. I forgot about it because I read one story at the time and the book got shoved behind others on one of my bookshelves.
Martin H. Greenberg edited a series of anthologies for D.A.W. Books that had the world “Fantastic” in the title. The series ran from 1991 to 2009, generally with one book per year though 1997 had four entries. There were 25 books in all. There were five Cat Fantastic volumes, so we know the demographic this series was aiming for.
One can characterize this series as fantasy chick-lit. Any volume had 60-75% women authors present. The books should have been packaged with pastel yellow, orange, pink, and fuscia colors.
Warrior Fantastic edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers came out in December 2000, D.A.W Book #1170, 310 pages, $6.99. John Helfers also co-edited Knight Fantastic with Greenberg. He has written three of the Deathlands novels as “James Axler.”
The Fantastic anthologies appear to have the same cast of writers for most of the contents of any given volume- Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jody Lynn Nye, Fiona Patton etc.
The stories start out strong with “At Sea” by Alan Dean Foster with a modern tale of Valkyries landing on a fishing boat smuggling cocaine.
“A Two-Edged Blade” by Diana Paxson is the wow story in this book. She tackled the Finn & Hengest story from the Dark Ages. Tolkien and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur both tried their hands at this in the past. Paxson’s story is as good as Brodeur’s (“The Honor of a King,” Adventure, Sept 20, 1923), almost better because it moves quickly. There is Teutonic blood feud, shield wall combat, a hall burning, and treachery. This story needs to be reprinted.
Pauline Dungate’s “Demon Hunter” is interesting for using Indian background and mythology.
An immortal Lancelot battles a serial killer who believes he is Galahad in “Final Score.” Roger Zelazny owns the immortal Lancelot idea in his classic “Last Defender of Camelot.”
I have book about mercenaries edited by Bill Fawcett. He also does some writing and editing. “Barbarian” is a slightly humorous take on a noble who hires a barbarian to protect him. The humor is better handled than what L. Sprague de Camp would have done.
I found Gary A. Braunbeck’s “Bright Be the Face” to be haunting. There is no blood and thunder but a disfigured veteran, probably WWI from the description who is visited by ghosts who offer to restore his body in return for inflicting the injuries on the local village. This is a very moral story.
I normally like Charles de Lint’s fiction but his “Making a Noise in This World” was too understated for me. A Canadian Indian plans to kill a crooked cop who beats up Indians in the city and drops them off in the countryside in winter to freeze to death. The ending did not fit the build up.
There are some other stories in this anthology that did not interest me. I will have forgotten them completely in a few weeks.
Reading this book was a revelation after just having read the more recent fantasy anthologies such as The Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry. What leaped out at me is the overall level of writing ability is greater. Some of these stories were bland or meh but there were some good and one fantastic story contained therein. Also these writers who did deliver had an actual story to tell. They were not meandering along with characters trying to come to grips with their feelings or keeping it real by wallowing in feces. I need to sit down and reread one of the Swords Against Darkness volumes to note the difference between the 70s and 90s.
I don’t know if character angst or scatology is what the editors want or what is being taught at writing courses and seminars these days. It is getting in the way of the story or more likely a cover for lack of story.
How many good stories are scattered throughout the Fantastic anthologies? The idea of wading through the mediocre to find the occasional gem does not fill me with enthusiasm.