The OF Blog: BAF, no more, alas

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BAF, no more, alas

I knew this was coming, but it still is a bit saddening to see the Best American Fantasy series discontinued.  There are a combination of factors that led to this and although I wish it could have somehow continued, it just couldn't, for reasons Jeff alludes to in his post.

But I am not by nature someone who dwells overlong on the past.  Rather, I like to emphasize lessons learned and joys experienced.  During my nearly eight months as series editor for BAF, I have had the opportunity to get to know several editors for the academic journals, literary magazines, as well as those whose publications were oriented more specifically toward speculative fiction readers of all stripes.  Later this weekend, I am going to try and contact as many of the publications that sent us materials and thank them for the materials that they provided.  Their contributions, whether it be a simple mailing or suggestions on particular stories that may be of interest, all those were greatly valued.

I had already completed the first half of my job as series editor when the news arrived.  And while I do not know which stories the guest editor for BAF 4, Minister Faust, would have chosen for the final publication, I can at least share the 65 stories that I had sent him (Alan Swirsky had another 25-30 that were also forwarded to him; perhaps I can find that list and post those URLs later).

These are some damn fine stories in a wide variety of styles.  Following the example set forth in the first three BAF volumes (Matthew Cheney being the series editor, with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer being the guest editors for the first two volumes and Kevin Brockmeier for BAF 3), the lines between the speculative and the mundane, between dream and "reality," between all those little "invisible borders" that we throw up to delineate matters, all these lines were smudged, crossed, transgressed, or perhaps even erased in the stories listed below.  Their publishers are also listed; many of these issues can be ordered online, and some were originally posted online.  The order in which they are listed is quasi-chronological, based on which publications I read first over the first six months of 2010.  Feel free to take this as a guide to great short fiction published between May 1, 2009 and May 31, 2010:

1.  Leah Bobet, "Six" (Clockwork Phoenix 2)

2.  Kelly Barnhill, "Open the Door and the Light Passes Through" (Clockwork Phoenix 2)

3.  Peter Beagle, "Dirae" (Warriors)

4.  John Langan, "City of the Dog" (Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2010)

5.  Ander Monson, "Decidicousness:  The Mechanism" (Ninth Letter, Fall/Winter 2009-10)

6.  Antonia Clark, "How to Shoot a Tomato" (Mipoesias, September 2009)

7.  Robert Mayette, "Prison of the Gnome" (Mipoesias, September 2009)

8.  Rachel Swirsky, "A Memory of Wind" (, November 2009)

9.  N.K. Jemisin, "Non-Zero Probabilities" (Clarkeworld Magazine, September 2009)

10. Eric Schaller, "The Sparrow Mumbler" (New Genre, #6)

11. Christian Moody, "Horusville" (Best New American Voices 2010)

12. Julee Newberger, "Calvin Makes His Escape" (Gravity Dancers)

13. Matt Bell, "The Cartographer's Girl" (Gulf Coast, Winter/Spring 2010)

14. Deborah Schwartz, "Music in the Storm" (Gulf Coast, Winter/Spring 2010)

15. Fred Gavran, "The Reincarnation of Horlach Spencer" (Harvard Review, #37)

16. Benjamin Percy, "The Tree" (Ecotone, #8)

17. Aimee Bender, "The Color Master" (Cincinnati Review, 7.1 Summer 2010)

18. Brian Beglin, "Something Ancient" (Cincinnati Review, 7.1 Summer 2010)

19. Saladin Ahmed, "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" (Clockwork Phoenix 2)

20. Catherynne M. Valente, "The Secret History of Mirrors" (Clockwork Phoenix 2)

21. Michael Blumlein, "California Burning" (Asimov's, August 2009)

22. Eugene Mirabelli, "Love in Another Language" (Not One of Us, #42)

23. Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, "Monkeys of the Sea" (Glimmer Train #74 Spring 2010)

24. Jenny Boully, excerpt from "not merely because of the unknown that was stalking towards them" (Gulf Coast, Summer/Fall 2009)

25. Matt Bell, "A Long Walk, with Only Chalk to Mark the Way" (Redivider, vol. 7, issue 2)

26. Joe Celizic, "Reborn" (Redivider, vol. 7, issue 2)

27. Christopher Boucher, "Maryland" (Redivider, vol. 7, issue 2)

28. Deirdra McAfree, "The Shield of the Norns" (The Georgia Review, Fall 2009)

29. Amit Majmudar, "Azazil" (The Kenyon Review, Fall 2009) (Note: TKR is serializing this in 5 issues, I think)

30. Will Kaufman, "Eris Sink Pluto" (Kaleidotrope, April 2010)

31. Joan Connor, "Cassie Bunyan's Yarn: A Short Tale" (Green Mountains Review, XXII, #2)

32. L. Annette Binder, "Halo" (Green Mountains Review, XXII, #2)

33. Benjamin Percy, "Terminal" (Ninth Letter, Fall/Winter 2009-10)

34. Viet Dinh, "Stomp Tokyo" (Ninth Letter, Fall/Winter 2009-10)

35. Stephen Marche, "What Rought Beast" (Ninth Letter, Spring/Summer 2010)

36. Traci O. Connor, "Starla and June" (Gargoyle 54)

37. Adam McOmber, "Of Wool" (Ascent, Winter 2009)

38. A.C. Wise, "A Mouse Ran Up the Clock" (Electric Velocipede 19)

39. Teresa Milbrodt, "Cyclops" (Indiana Review, Summer 2009)

40. Ben Marcus, "The Moors" (Tin House 42)

41. Karen Russell, "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach" (Tin House 41) Note: She was chosen as one of The New Yorker's "20 under 40" writers

42. B.R. Smith, "Caregivers" (Witness XXIII, 2010)

43. Joe Meno, "Birdmen of Mars" (Redivider, Spring 2009)

44. Judith Cooper, "Sister Light-of-Love Love Dove" (Shenandoah, Winter 2009)

45. Kelly Luce, "Wisler" (The Southern Review, Autumn 2009)

46.Gilbert Allen, "Ecumenical Bedding" (The Southern Review, Autumn 2009)

47. Sean McMullen, "The Art of the Dragon" (Fantasy & Science Fiction, August/September 2009)

48. Wayne Wightman, "Adaptogenia" (Fantasy & Science Fiction, June/July 2009)

49. Elizabeth Hand, "The Far Shore" (Fantasy & Science Fiction, October/November 2009)

50. M. Rickert, "The President's Book Tour" (Fantasy & Science Fiction, October/November 2009)

51. Damien Dressick, "Accrual" (Gargoyle 55)

52. Anthony Farrington, "Oh, You Turtledoves, All You Birds under Heaven, Come Help Me" (The Kenyon Review, Spring 2010)

53. Melanie Rae Thon, "Lost Children" (The Southern Review, Spring 2009)

54. Debbie Urbanski, "Taken" (The Southern Review, Spring 2010)

55. Benjamin Percy, "The Mud Man" (The Southern Review, Winter 2010)

56. James B. Pepe, "I am Enkidu, His Wild Brother" (Sybil's Garage, #6)

57. Richard Parks, "The Queen's Reason" (Lady Churchhill's Rosebud Wristlet #25)

58. J.W.M. Morgan, "Superfather" (Lady Churchhill's Rosebud Wristlet #24)

59. Blake Butler, "Our Anniversary, Repeated" (Redivider, vol. 7, #1)

60. Brad Modlin, "Dark Gray Door" (Indiana Review, 31.2)

61. Aimee Bender, "Among Us" (The New Dead)

62. Adam Peterson, "Blood Work" (The Cincinnati Review, 6.2)

63. Micah Riecker, "The Drowned Girl" (The Cincinnati Review, 6.2)

64. Laura C.J. Owen, "The Execution Trick" (American Short Fiction, Winter 2009)

65. Tabaré Alvarez, "The Translation of the Bones" (ep;phany, Fall/Winter 2009)

Yes, some authors were repeated on this list (and possibly a misspelling here and there, as my penciled notes were smudged a bit), largely because I could not decide which one of theirs was the best, so I left it up to Minister Faust to decide.  In addition, I sent Minister a copy of Conjunctions 52:  Betwixt the Between because the entire issue dealt with eligible stories and I didn't want to write down half of the ToC and still perhaps overlook a few.   If you have further questions about the stories themselves, feel free to ask, although I won't say much beyond "Well, I enjoyed the story and thought it would complement the other stories being considered on this longlist that I constructed for the guest editor to winnow down until the final 20-25 were chosen."

So yeah, working on this was a mostly fun experience.  What I learned, I'll probably detail in another post in the next few days, but for now, just look up these stories and authors and give them a chance, okay?


Matt Denault said...

Man, that sucks--I really enjoyed the first two volumes, and had just started to dip into the third (the Jeff Ford story, which I'm guessing provided the cover image for the book). I was looking forward to seeing what you and the other folks involved would come up with next--certainly the list of stories you've shared here points towards the need and importance of a series that does what this one did. I'm sorry that the work you've put into it won't have an immediately outlet, but am glad the overall experience was a good one, and sure that the connections you've made and communications you've had will serve you well in the future.

Larry Nolen said...

Yeah, it's just one of those things where the market has to be "just so" for something like this to work and sometimes, anything slightly off-kilter can ruin the intent. I think this set was continuing the veer away from the old Trad 3 and toward online and cross-genre publications. And given more time, I think the definitions of "American" would have become blurred as well, as I was hoping for BAF 5 and 6 (too rushed with 4 to do it wholescale) to contain quite a few translations from Latin American writers that I would have done gratis, or rather have it be part of my series editor fee.

But live and learn. The experience was a good one and has been fruitful already, I believe.

Chad Hull said...

I look at that list as places to track down new fiction. The Georgia Review has been my favorite magazine since I discovered. I can only hope my library keeps their subscription to The Sun and Glimmer Train.

Sad news.

Matt Denault said...

By the way, if you can indeed post the list of online fiction, that would be grand--both for general utility, and specifically because the 2010 stories might be of interest to this project.

Aishwarya said...

I'm really sorry to hear about this - that was a great series, and judging by this list, this would have been an excellent volume.

Teresa said...

I'm quite honored by the nomination, even if the anthology will never come into being. Sometimes I worry the short story is an endangered species, so it's great to know people are still reading and appreciating them. Thanks much for posting the list.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

I saw Joe Meno's name up there, have you read any of his novels or his collection?

J m mcdermott said...

This is sad news. At least you got a lot of excellent reading out of it.

Do you think a Best American Fantasy internet site (posting as many of the best fantasy fictions to a website as allowed by creators, or linking to the ones available on-line) might be a compromise to carry the banner forward?

Anonymous said...

A bit off-topic, but Torque Control is organizing a new edition of the short-story club this fall.
They already have a long longlist of stories to choose from, but they come nearly exclusively from genre magazines.
How many of the stories you selected from literary magazines are available online (preferably published in 2010, though I don't think this is set in stone)?

You could go there and add some recommendations.


Alison said...

I'm truly sorry to see this series cut short. Thank you for all your hard work in putting together Vol. 4. I'm thrilled to see my story on the long-list, even though the book is never to be.

Eric Schaller said...

Thanks for considering one of my stories, and for posting the list even though the volume won't see the light of day. I too am saddened that BAF won't be continuing--it really fills a niche out there that is not being filled by anything else. A lot of work on your part too, and an effort that I hope won't go unrewarded. It's easy enough, even tempting to say that no good deed goes unpunished, but I am always pleasantly surprised by how often positive efforts do yield something positive down the road, even if it is not what was originally planned. I trust that will hold here as well.

Annette said...

I'm sad to hear the series won't continue. Thanks for your hard work and for posting this list.

Anonymous said...

I'm honored you would even consider mentioning me in the company of these amazing writers. I really can't say how much being included on this list means to me.

BAF was doing something wonderful, and pushing at all the right boundaries. It's sad to see it go, especially considering what I've read of the plans for BAF's future. Here's hoping your next project will be just as wonderful.

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