If you don’t have a selection of anthologies on your bookshelf, you are missing out. Anthologies, collections of shorter fiction, are amazing things. They offer a multitude of worlds, allowing us to experience more with few words and less commitment. Anthologies are underrated. But more than that anthologies are punk.
Novels are great. It’s wonderful to immerse yourself in a long story that wanders to and fro before making its point. But short fiction is the punk rock equivalent of the novel. Good short fiction is like punk rock; a stripped down version of larger works. It exposes itself to the world with an attitude. Short fiction doesn’t have time to waste on niceties. It grabs you and jams its message down your throat. The most convenient way to get more short fiction in your life is to grab a handful of anthologies.
Anthologies come in many forms. They can be about a particular subject, from a singe author, from a single source, or even just pulled out of the air by the editor by whatever whim they’ve chosen. Whatever the source, a great anthology can have you returning to its pages time and again.
Anthologies truly shine when their editor is passionate about whatever theme the anthology espouses. A good editor will select stories that fit the theme nicely. However, a great editor will choose ones that shock and surprise the reader with their choice. A great editor chooses what the reader needs, not what the reader wants.
There are several signs of a good anthology. Firstly, the anthology is hard to get a hold of. Harlan Ellison is a controversial author. He was outspoken and, at times, ill behaved, but his Dangerous Visions anthologies are among the most coveted in speculative fiction.
Secondly, does the theme remain relevant. The anthology of single authors tend to remain relevant forever as they collect rarer works from those authors. However, an anthology of a single theme, using stories from several authors, can become dated. Mystery and horror anthologies are often timeless.
Lastly, a great anthology is more than its theme. With the right selection of stories an editor will change the way we see and think about a theme or subject. This lets the reader enjoy a new perspective of our world.
Not every story in an anthology is equally loved by every reader. However, readers will always find at least two or three gems to enjoy. So, show the world that you don’t follow the crowd. You’re a free-thinking anarchist. One apart from the rest. Anthologies are punk, and so are the people that read them!