Monday, April 08, 2013

Unnatural Creatures, and other things you don't see every day

Last year I edited an anthology, as a benefit for 826DC. This year -- in two weeks time -- it will be published.

826DC is also known as the Museum of Unnatural History, so a book of unnatural creatures seemed obvious. I gathered together my favourite stories of werewolves and griffins and unicorns and the like. I tried to include authors I'd loved as a child (E. Nesbit, Frank R Stockton) authors I'd loved as a young man (Samuel R. Delany, Gahan Wilson, Diana Wynne Jones) and authors I had only started loving comparatively recently (Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson). And there's an introduction and a story by me in there, too.

When the process started getting a bit beyond me I called for help and was assisted in this mad endeavour by Maria Dahvana Headley, who is not only a terrific writer but is a great deal more organised than I am. She gave the book a story (did I mention that all the everything on this was done for free, so that the advance money could go to 826DC?) and she found an illustrator and suggested some more stories  and she contacted everyone and got them contracts and got the contracts signed and was overall pretty amazing.

We now have US and UK covers... AND a handful of early reviews coming in.

That's the US cover.

The UK cover is:

Here's the starred review from Publisher's Weekly:

Unnatural Creatures
Edited by Neil Gaiman with Maria Dahvana Headley. Harper, $17.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-223630-2
In this striking anthology of 16 stories of strange and incredible creatures (most previously published), Gaiman and Headley have included several classic tales, such as Frank R. Stockton’s delightful “The Griffin and the Minor Canon” (1885), which concerns the unlikely friendship between a monster and a minister; Saki’s mordant werewolf tale “Gabriel-Ernest” (1909); and Anthony Boucher’s astonishingly silly “The Compleat Werewolf” (1942). There are also fine stories from such major contemporary fantasy writers as Peter S. Beagle, Samuel Delany, Diana Wynne Jones, and Gaiman himself. Particularly pleasurable are the stories by newer writers, such as Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Smile on the Face,” which demonstrates the benefits of channeling one’s inner hamadryad; E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees,” an animal fable with a sting in its tale; and Nnedi Okorafor’s original story “Ozioma the Wicked,” which concerns “a nasty little girl whose pure heart had turned black,” but who nonetheless saves her village from a monstrous snake. Teens with a yen for the fantastic would be hard pressed to find a better place to start. The collection benefits literacy nonprofit 826DC. Ages 13–up. (May)

Booklist made it their Review of the Day and they said

 From darkly menacing to bizarrely surreal, these 16 fantasy stories featuring mythical and imaginary creatures combine work from such luminaries as Saki, E. Nesbit, and Anthony Boucher, as well as more contemporary writers. Larry Niven’s “The Flight of the Horse” is on the sillier side of the spectrum: a time traveler is sent to the past to retrieve a horse, which he has never seen except in picture books, and he mistakenly returns with a unicorn instead. In Nalo Hopkinson’s “A Smile on the Face,” a self-conscious girl is bullied for her size and pressured into an unwanted sexual encounter, but she finds inner strength—and an inner fire-breathing monster—thanks to an accidentally swallowed cherry pit from the hamadryad in her front yard. Gaiman’s contribution, “Sunbird,” recounts the adventures of the Epicurean Club members, who, grown bored after tasting every available thing on the planet, enjoy the best (and last) meal of their lives. In true Gaiman fashion, these stories are macabre, subversive, and just a little bit sinister. His fans will eat this up—ravenously. The book will benefit nonprofit 826DC, which fosters student writing skills.

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