FictionFan Awards 2022 – Anthologies

Drum roll please…

…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2022.

For the benefit of new readers, and as a reminder for anyone who was around in previous years, here’s a quick résumé of the rules…

THE CRITERIA

All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2021 and October 2022 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.

THE CATEGORIES

The categories tend to change slightly each year to better reflect what I’ve been reading during the year.

This year, there will be Honourable Mentions and a Winner in each of the following categories:

Anthologies

Vintage Crime

Modern Crime Fiction/Thriller

Modern Literary Fiction

…and…

Book of the Year 2022

THE PRIZES

For the winners!

I guarantee to read the author’s next book even if I have to buy it myself!

(NB If an author is unlikely to publish another book due to being dead, I will read a book from his/her back catalogue…)

For the runners-up!

Nothing!

THE JUDGES

Me!

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So, without further ado, here are this year’s runners-up and winner in

ANTHOLOGIES

I don’t know whether it’s just that I’ve got into them more, but it seems to be a golden era for anthologies of vintage stories, in crime, horror and science fiction. I tend to stick to three publishers, purely due to time limitations – the British Library, with their wonderful series of Crime Classics, Tales of the Weird and Science Fiction Classics; Oxford World’s Classics who have produced several excellent vintage horror collections and anthologies in recent years; and HarperCollins who seem to be getting more into the vintage field recently.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The Edinburgh Mystery and Other Tales of Scottish Crime
edited by Martin Edwards

This British Library anthology has the theme of Scottish stories – either stories written by Scots, or written by people from elsewhere (generally England) but set in Scotland. There are seventeen stories in total, though a handful of them are very short and quite slight. There’s the usual mix of weel-kent names, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson; some regulars of these anthologies, such as Michael Innes and GK Chesterton; and several that I’ve never come across before. Some of my favourite stories were from these never previously encountered writers, of whom several were Scottish, so that pleased my patriotic little soul and has given me a few names to investigate further – always one of the pleasures of these anthologies. The geographical spread is good too – a few of the stories are set in the big cities, but the writers have taken full advantage of the less populated areas of the Highlands and the Borders too.

I really liked the variety – everything from humour, both dark and light, to veering towards the noir end of crime fiction, and Edwards has picked a lot of stories that show different aspects of Scottish life, from urban to rural to wilderness, from the mean streets of Glasgow to the huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ Lairds of the Highlands.

Click to see the full review

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Bodies from the Library 5 edited by Tony Medawar

This series of “forgotten stories of mystery and suspense” from HarperCollins and Tony Medawar has now become an annual event, and one I look forward to. The stories are all ones that haven’t been collected before, or occasionally have never been published. Every year I feel the well must run dry but each year Tony Medawar proves me wrong. He ranges widely to find his treasures – through old magazines and newspapers, into the BBC archives for radio scripts, digging out stories written originally to boost a charity or good cause, and so on. There are sixteen stories in this collection, ranging from a few pages up to novella-length, and lots of familiar names show up, some very well known – John Dickson Carr, Dorothy L Sayers, Ellis Peters, etc. – and others who are becoming well known to those of us who are reading a lot of the vintage crime currently being re-issued by various publishers – Michael Gilbert, Anthony Berkeley, John Bude, et al. The quality is more consistent than it sometimes is in anthologies, which I always find surprising for stories that haven’t been included in collections over the years.

Click to see the full review

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The Ghost Slayers edited by Mike Ashley

From the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series, this one has the theme of psychic detectives – ghost-hunters who investigate hauntings and sometimes set out to lay the ghosts. There are nine stories, some by well-known authors like Algernon Blackwood and William Hope Hodgson, and an array of lesser-known ones, to me at least. Many of the ghost-hunters appeared regularly in their authors’ output, but each of the stories stands on its own.

The overall quality of the stories is high, all rating at either four or five stars. Most of them are not terrifying, focussing more on the ghost-hunt than the scares, and they occasionally have a rather anticlimactic ending as the psychic detective “solves” the haunting. But some have plenty of thrills despite the format, and I found one or two quite chilling, even disturbing. I found it interesting to learn that there was a thriving sub-genre of fictional psychic detectives, and Mike Ashley’s introduction indicates how this arose out of the real-life interest in spiritualism and the psychical researchers who were developing scientific approaches to investigating reports of spiritualist events.

Logo from William Hope Hodgson’s ghost hunter series

Click to see the full review

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Murder by the Book edited by Martin Edwards

Another from the great team of Martin Edwards and the British Library, this one contains sixteen stories, all connected in some way to books, book collectors or authors. I came to the conclusion, in fact, that being a writer is a very dangerous thing – so many of them seem to become either murderers or murder victims! Plenty of big names here – Ngaio Marsh, Julian Symons, Christianna Brand, etc. – and a few less well known ones, though through reading so many of these anthologies I’m beginning to recognise and look forward to some of the names which turn up regularly even if I’ve not yet read any of their novels.

The overall quality of the stories is unusually high, with by far the majority rating as either good or excellent. The variation in styles is also wide, from traditional “closed circle” and “impossible crime” mysteries, to humorous and self-mocking takes on the life of the poor downtrodden mystery writer, all the way to full-on thriller-style stories.

Click to see the full review

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FICTIONFAN AWARD WINNER 2022

for

BEST ANTHOLOGY

The Origins of Science Fiction
edited by Michael Newton

This is the latest in the Oxford World’s Classics hardback collection, several of which recently have been anthologies or collections of weird and Gothic horror. This one is a slight departure into science fiction but, as the editor Michael Newton suggests in his introduction, early science fiction has its roots in the Gothic tradition; and certainly many of the stories in the collection would sit just as neatly in a horror collection. There are seventeen stories in it, most of them quite substantial and with one or two reaching novella-length. It’s in the usual OWC format: an informative and interesting introduction, scholarly in content, but written in an accessible non-academic style; the stories, each preceded by a short biography of the author, including their contributions to the field of science fiction; and the all-important notes, which explain the many classical references and allusions, historical references and any terms that have fallen out of use. I found the notes in this one particularly good – well-written and done on a kind of “need to know” basis; that is, not overloaded with too much detail and digression.

Illustration of Jack London’s The Red One

In his introduction, Newton discusses how the concerns of the time are woven into the stories – the gathering pace of scientific and technological development, the impact of colonialism, anxiety about man’s future ability to communicate with the ‘other’, whether that other may be alien, evolved humanity, or machine. It’s interesting that all of those concerns are still subjects of contemporary science fiction, suggesting we haven’t yet solved the questions these early science fiction authors posed. He also talks about how many authors at that time who were known primarily for other styles of writing ventured into science fiction, sometimes to the displeasure of their publishers and perhaps to the bafflement of their readers. Certainly some of the names that turn up here surprised me – George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc. Others are much better known as stalwarts, even progenitors, of the genre: HG Wells, of course, and Edgar Allan Poe, among others. It’s truly a stellar line-up and they have produced some stellar stories – I gave them a veritable galaxy of stars. A well-deserved winner!

Click to see the full review

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Next week: Best Vintage Crime

35 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2022 – Anthologies

  1. Oh, it’s awards season again! And here’s me with my gown not back from the tailor’s yet! Oh, well, I’ll wear this old rag just for tonight and slip in the back… I’m glad you had some very good anthology-reading experiences, FictionFan. So very often, those collections are uneven, or they don’t have a solid focus, or…. I’m not surprised that a couple of Martin-Edwards-edited anthologies made it to your list. He’s really skilled at pulling together some good stories. And I’ll definitely tell my husband resident sci-fi reader about the Newton. I think he’d really like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You look very nice even in your old rag, and you must save your best ballgown for the Book of the Year Award! 😀
      I think it might be because most of the anthologies are themed recently that makes them more enjoyable – they used to be quite random. Having the theme gives an added interest in seeing how different authors treat basically the same subject, even if the quality still varies. I’m sure your resident sci-fi reader would enjoy the Newton – the intros in these are always interesting, and this particular batch of stories is great!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved Murder by the Book and the Ghost Slayers collection too, both excellent. Just been sent a Polar themed weird anthology by the British Library and am thrilled beyond measure. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Is it already “awards season”? Yay!! I’m pleased to see the winner in this category. I have it on my wishlist, but just need to decide if I’d rather get it in hardback or Kindle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is indeed, and later than usual this year since I’m only doing four categories! I love these hardbacks – they look much better in real life than the cover pics ever make them appear. This one is a lovely silver-grey! However, the content is the same in the Kindle version, and it takes up less shelf-space! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • A well-deserved victory! Yes, there were several writers in this one that I was surprised to see – these older writers seemed quite confident to try out different genres depending on what they wanted to talk about!

      Like

    • Lots of goodies to come in the Awards this year! Yes, I think the idea of theming them has really lifted the quality of anthologies, and some of the editors are great at finding quirkier entries rather than endlessly repeating the famous stories. Too many to keep up with, though!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lots of goodies to come in the other categories! 😀 The more anthologies I read the better I get at skimming over the duds to get to the good ones, and so long as the majority are good I can forgive the rest!

      Like

  4. I looked up the meaning of ‘weel-kent’ and now I know!
    Looking forward to learning what you most weel-kent book of the year is 🙂
    And, like others, I can’t believe it is Awards time again already, where has this year gone?

    Like

  5. Woo hoo, awards season! A small point of clarifaction – must the Book of the Year be drawn from within the categories chosen for this year? If so, I know not to waste my hopes on one in particular that I have in mind 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it will be one of the category winners. I’m intrigued now! I suspect your chosen book must be a classic, which I don’t normally include in the Awards because people usually already know about them. But if it’s a classic… hmm… I’m going to guess Silas Marner?

      Like

      • My chosen book is non fiction. I keep rereading the small print to check if you actually tell me the awards are purely for fiction. That would seem reasonable given your moniker. But you do review a fair bit of nf so I just wondered if it might sneak in. Still curious? 😄

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m hoping to see the Karissa Awards again this year, too! Yes, this really was an excellent book and the choice of authors makes it transcend the simple genre classification, I think.

      Like

  6. Yay, the return of the Awards Season is a delight! If you don’t mind me coughing at the back of the room… hopefully I will be fighting fit by the time you get to my favourite category (which is… er, I don’t know which one, I like them all!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, you will be welcome at the Awards Ceremony even if you have to wear a mask – just make sure you get one that matches your ballgown! 💃 Lots of tempting goodies to come in the later categories… I hope!

      Like

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