Terri Windling is an author and editor whom I hold in the very highest regard for her contribution to the fantasy field. Although she is a writer of some note (having won the Mythopoeic Award for her haunting novel The Wood Wife), she is also the editor of over thirty anthologies of speculative fiction and in this role she has done more than almost anyone else to keep the genre of the fantasy short story alive. In her capacity as a writer, she was one of the founders of the urban fantasy genre alongside her great friend Charles De Lint in the 1980s and, as an editor, was a major contributer to the late 20th century resurgence in interest in mythic fiction and fairy tales, often with another of her good friends Ellen Datlow. She has been justly rewarded for her work as an anthologist, winning an impressive haul of 9 World Fantasy Awards and the Bram Stoker Award. Beyond awards though, what distinguishes Windling’s anthologies, in particular the now semi-legendary Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, was the fact that they reached out beyond the boundaries of genre fantasy to a mainstream audience by virtue of the variety and sheer quality of the short stories which they included. Now sadly defunct, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, which Windling left before the end of its run (resulting, in my view, in a marked drop in the quality of stories which the anthology featured) was a showcase for urban fantasy, gothic punk, magic realism, surrealism, postmodernism, poetry and other forms of magical literature. It is a testament to the quality of this and the other anthologies in which Windling was involved that the writers featured therein went on to have massively successful careers, including Jane Yolen, Charles De Lint, Neil Gaiman, James P Blaylock, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Poppy Z Brite, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and a multitude of others.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an award-winning author who has written fiction in many genres – including science fiction, horror, romance and mystery as well as what she is best known for, fantasy. As if that weren’t enough, she has also found time to edit a number of genre magazines. With all of this on her plate, it constantly surprises me to see that she is able to produce original, inventive and thought-provoking short stories and novels. Take one of her most famous efforts, Hitler’s Angel, which tells the story of Annie, a young American student in the 1970s investigating the death of Hitler’s niece Geli Raubal, who was famously found dead of a gunshot wound in 1931. Although at the time Geli’s death was ruled suicide, the suspicion of murder has always remained and Annie finds and interviews the retired detective in Munich who led the original investigation in the 1930s. Slowly but surely, in a tale often told in flashback by the detective, layer upon layer of mystery surrounding Geli’s death is lifted and the horrifying truth is revealed. I’ve often thought that Hitler’s Angel might make a terrific film, not least because of Rusch’s startling ability to create pictures with her prose and this is a common feature of much of her writing. Continue reading