Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bad-Ass Faeries (review by Tom Powers)

This week's review comes from my good friend (and the coauthor of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy: The Discerning Fan's Guide to Doctor Who), Tom Powers.

If we were to randomly approach a person on the street, say a construction worker or a no-frills politician, and ask that individual what characteristics a faerie possesses, the words “magical,” “innocent,” “childish,” and “silly” would probably come to mind. However, if this same person were then handed a copy of Bad-Ass Faeries (Marietta Publishing, 2007) to peruse, a subtle perceptional shift may occur. Immediately bearing in mind its unconventional title, this potential reader may now suppose the anthology will present faeries whose primary function is to shock and turn traditional assumptions about fantasy fiction upon their pointed ears. This supposition, of course, will be additionally shaped by the anthology’s Amy Brown cover that depicts two sexy, deadly-weapon-wielding faeries standing rather dominantly over a genuflecting faerie boy, signaling to us that bad-ass faeries are indeed a post-feminist, cross-genre approach to fantasy storytelling.

Split into five sections – “Warrior Faeries,” “Outlaw Faeries,” “Wild Faeries, “Street Faeries,” and “Faerie Noir” – Bad-Ass Faeries more or less attempts to address as many cross-genre permutations as possible in its two-hundred entertaining pages. Just imagine tough-as-nails biker faeries with hearts of gold; tongue-in-cheek, cybernetic faerie assassins; and hard-boiled faerie detectives, and you can begin to picture the ilk of faerie the various authors are delineating. If you’ve also ever imagined what it would be like to read about how faeries precisely make love or war or wanted to see them in an Old West, samurai-era Japan or ghetto setting, then this anthology will satisfy that curiosity.

If you’re afraid, more importantly, that the authors will still somehow manage to take their subject matter too seriously, look no further than author Den C. Wilson’s “Heart of Vengeance,” which presents a cynical reader surrogate in the form of Alan Wright, a professor of folklore who is about to discover that the fantasy realm is closer to reality than he has ever expected. Wright, complaining to his agent for booking him at a SF/Fantasy convention instead of one of the more “respectable” academic conferences at which he normally appears, sarcastically remarks that the convention’s organizers had him “leading a discussion on sightings of faerie people with a three hundred pound woman who writes pornographic stories about elves.” With such a joyfully self-deprecating tone, Bad-Ass Faeries thus immediately posits itself as a book that works on more than one level. So, whether you’re an obese fantasy enthusiast who’s cool enough to be lampooned or a cynic who despises flighty faeries and overweight fantasy fans but is willing to give the genre a second chance, then this anthology, once again, is the right read for you.

Being an eclectic mixture of storytelling styles and genres, Bad-Ass Faeries, nevertheless, can function as a double-edged sword, in that, depending on your individual taste, stories may satisfy or disappoint. Moreover, you may occasionally wish some stories were longer so that you could delve deeper into a certain author’s spin on a fantasy world. On the other hand, that feeling of slight frustration may just be symptomatic of fantasy writing – whose aim is to introduce readers to magical characters and worlds that gradually become even more real than the paper on which their stories are inscribed.

A satisfying anthology overall, Bad-Ass Faeries is bound to charm and amuse you with at least one of its creatively mischievous tales.

Review by Tom Powers

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