Exactly what is it that allows the fairy tale, a story archetype that by all rights should have disappeared with powdered wigs and petticoats, to survive, and even thrive, in the new millenium? Perhaps it’s because they concern important lessons – warnings, morals, aspects of the unknowable, ancient folk wisdom – or maybe it’s just for their pure entertainment value. Whatever the reason, fairy tales, in one form or another, are still enjoyed today. Whether it’s classics collected by the Brothers Grimm, Andrew Lang and Charles Perrault, or new tales, such as Charles de Lint’s Newford stories or Neil Gaiman’s tales of American Gods; fairy tales, stories of fantasy, myth and legend, are still creating wonder and magic for people around the world. Perhaps this is why they survive, because no matter when or where a fairy tale is first told, they embody universal images and truths that, over the centuries, have passed beyond time or place, and become one with the vast tapestry of human consciousness. But naturally, as times change, the stories people tell also change. Cities give rise to their own types of stories – the urban legends that make the rounds from time to time, stories that utilize elements of the old ways, but with a metropolitan spin on them that just didn’t exist until the modern city was created.
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.