From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Unplugged: The Web’s Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 2008 Download, edited by Rich Horton

Reviewed by Paula Guran

[Note: Rich Horton reviews for Fantasy Magazine.]

Editor Horton packages fourteen stories originally published online during 2008 into an anthology that confirms the obvious: good short sf/f can be found on the Web. It is, perhaps, more bounteous than in the days when OMNI magazine went online in late 1996 (“Get a Grip” by Paul Park, published by OMNI in March 1997, became the first fiction originally published on the Internet to be nominated for a World Fantasy Award), but the amount of less-than-good fiction is even more abundant. Unplugged serves two purposes: to point out examples of outstanding fiction and to direct the reader to the online sources that publish it. It also provides proof of the variety of speculative fiction available. Most importantly Unplugged does what any good “best of” anthology does:
showcase highly readable, enjoyable fiction.

Readers who appreciate diversity will be well rewarded with the selections and, perhaps, those with singular taste in fiction will be convinced to broaden their palates. Merrie Haskell’s delightful science-fictional fairy tale, “The Girl-Prince” was first published by Coyote Wild Magazine. Catherynne M. Valente’s “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica” (Clarkesworld) describes the offerings of a cartographical auction thereby conveying the story of a pair of early Antarctic explorers. Beth Bernobich’s alternate-Victorian-era “Air and Angels” (Subterranean), is gently mannered science fiction. Nancy Kress employs genetic science to examine the extent of humanity [Jim Baen’s Universe (ceasing publication after the April 2010 issue)]. In the near-future of Cory Doctorow’s “The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away” (Tor.com), a geek-monk emerges from the Order of Reflective Analytics and ventures into the world in a quest for an Anomaly. The inimitable fantasy of Hal Duncan is represented by “The Behold of the Eye” [Lone Star Stories (now defunct)].

Stories were also selected from Abyss and Apex, Aeon Magazine (no longer published), Cosmos, Futurismic, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Helix (now defunct, although the selected story, “The Bitrunners is now posted on Transcriptase), Strange Horizons, and this publication, Fantasy Magazine.

Horton provides an appendix of of recommended “markets” (online periodicals) and honorable-mention stories as well.

Ironically, there is evidently no ebook version of Unplugged.

Unplugged: The Web’s Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 2008 Download
Rich Horton, Editor
Wyrm Publishing
$14.95 | Trade Paperback | 304 pages
ISBN: 9781890464110
December 2009

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