Same Old Stories

Cassandra Khaw begins her story “Don’t Turn Out the Lights” (see page 439 of the book):

Stories are mongrels. It don’t matter whether they were lightning-cut into stone or whispered over the crackle of a dying flame; no story in the world has pedigree. They’ve all been told and retold so many times that not God himself could tell you which one came first. Yes, every story in creation.

ybdfh2018 sentiment has been expressed in various ways by others, and some have also added the rest of the truth about it. Anna Quindlen completed it well: “Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had.”

And that is what makes the speculative fiction—dark or not—being written today especially exciting. Once, not all that long ago, readers found the vast majority of published fiction was written by white heterosexual men who were primarily from the United States or the United Kingdom. Sure, each individual “brought themselves” to it, but the worlds, characters, and stories they created tended to reflect Western European culture from a male viewpoint. It is a valid way to tell a story. It’s just not the only way, and it shouldn’t be the predominate way.

Things, thank goodness, have changed. Now, even with all our stories written in English, a book like this is chock full of tales told by all sorts of people from a multitude of backgrounds, races, sexualities, and ethnicities, with different views of the world and unique voices.

When you are looking for the “best” you don’t have to go out of your way to find this diversity. It is easily found.

Well, maybe not yet as easily as it should be or ultimately will be, but the point I am making is that it has become impossible to deny the “best” is vibrantly diverse. And the best of the “pale male” writers are no longer so monocultural or confined by their own gender. There’s no excuse to fill a book with the same old stories told in the same old ways.

This is the ninth volume in this series. I’m grateful for the chance, every year—despite the grousing I grumble, the blood, sweat, and maybe a few teardrops I shed—to be able to read so many fine tales crafted in so many ways, to choose from them, and present to you here. The fact the stories can be so different while still resonating with us in a common human way gives me some faith that we may yet be able to keep reality from being overtaken with darkness.

Book Lovers Day 2018
Paula Guran