The works of Terri Windling

8 Dec

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.

Windling’s primary inspirations as a writer and editor –  myth, folklore and fairy tales – are also her main interest as an artist and essayist. Once a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Windling’s essays on myth, folklore, magical literature and art have been widely published in newspapers, magazines, academic journals, art books and anthologies. Together with Datlow, Windling put together several mythic fiction anthologies, each focusing on primal mythological archetypes such as fairies (in Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm), nature spirits (in Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest), ‘trickster’ figures (in The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales) and shapechangers (in The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People). For me, one of the best things about the mythic fiction series are the essays that Windling writes to introduce the reader to the particular subject that each book is concerned with. Like most of her non-fiction works these essays are uniformly informative, thoughtful and genuinely fascinating, often stimulating the reader to engage in further reading on each subject. Another highlight of these anthologies is the award-winning artwork of illustrator Charles Vess, although Windling is no mean artist herself. This multi-talented woman has exhibited her paintings in museums and galleries across the world and is the director of the Endicott Studio for Mythic Arts. Check out her website Terri Windling’s Studio for examples of her work.

I would also recommend a visit to Windling’s website for any aspiring author who wants to create an online presence as it is one of the best-looking writer’s sites I have ever seen (I think it helps that Windling is also an artist!). In the introduction to her site Windling talks about her dual inspirations being both the moors of the British Isles, where most of her favourite tales came from, and the sun-baked Arizona desert, which taught her a lot about art, myth and life. As a consequence she now lives near Dartmoor in Devon, England and winters at an arts retreat in the Rincon Mountain foothills on the desert outskirts of Tucson. A pretty ideal life for a writer I’d say!

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