“All Good Things…”
By Jeff Baker
For this month, a brief rumination on the state of the Queer Speculative Fiction short-story. Word has reached us that the upcoming edition of Lethe Press’ fine “Wilde Stories” will be the last. Likewise, “Heiresses of Russ,” the edition reviewed in this column June 12, 2017 will be its last. This is sad news for followers of short fiction, for while there have been and will be Queer-themed short stories published in online, independent and mainstream markets, for a while at least, a representational sampling will not be collected in one place (really two places.)
For 11 years, “Wilde Stories” focused on the best gay-themed speculative fiction. And since 2011 “Heiresses of Russ” offered up the best lesbian-themed spec-fic. These elegantly-produced anthologies (the covers were usually stunning) were a compilation of some of the best of what has been a growing field in the area of fantasy and science fiction. But the anthologies had become costly for the small-press to produce. The success of the short-story form brings with it innate problems.
We are living now in a golden age of “Best of the Year” anthologies. My shelves show no less than six science fiction, fantasy, horror and/or speculative fiction yearly best series that I currently buy, not counting the two Lethe Press offerings. It is a literary period to be looked back on fondly decades hence with a treasure trove of stories preserved between covers, but it is also a glut of “Best of” books. We have been too fortunate too long. As they say, all good things must come to an end. The era of Best Of anthologies compiled by Boucher, Merril, Wollheim, and (sadly recently) Dozois all reached an end. Each a series of “Best of” anthologies compiled by a sure editorial hand.
No hands could have been surer than those of Lethe Press’ Publisher, and “Wilde Stories’” editor Steve Berman, along with the co-editors of “Heiresses of Russ;” A.M. Dellamonica, Jean Roberta, Melissa Scott, Tenea D. Johnson, Connie Wilkins and JoSelle Vanderhooft.
For their care in selecting stories and ensuring not only a quality product but an entertaining one, readers of every possible orientation owe them their thanks. In the last decade there has been an expansion of the markets for Queer-themed genre fiction; what part the existence of these “Best Of” anthologies had, readers can only guess.
In the introduction to the first volume, “Wilde Stories 2008,” editor Berman wondered in his introduction if Oscar Wilde would approve in the anthology being named after him. Berman thinks he would.
And nearly eleven volumes later I believe Wilde would have approved of the results.
NOTE: My apologies to the artist of the fine cover represented here; I did not get the name!
Jeff Baker blogs about reading and writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror and other sundry matters around the thirteenth of every month. His fiction has appeared in three QSF anthologies, two editions of The Yellow Booke among other places. He also blogs and posts fiction at http://authorjeffbaker.com His Facebook page is at Jeff Baker, Author. He lives happily with his husband Darryl and (as you may have guessed) a lot of books.