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Year's Best Fantasy 3

by ;
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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-01-01
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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The door to fantastic worlds, skewed realities, and breathtaking other realms is opened wide to you once more in this third anthology of the finest short fantasy fiction to emerge over the past year, compiled by acclaimed editor David G. Hartwell. Rarely has a more magnificent collection of tales been contained between book covers -- phenomenal visions of the impossible-made-possible by some of the field's most accomplished literary artists and stellar talents on the rise. Year's Best Fantasy 3 is a heady brew of magic and wonder, strange journeys and epic quests, boldly concocted by the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Swanwick, Tanith Lee, and others. Step into a dimension beyond the limits of ordinary imagination . . . and be amazed!.

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The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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Her Father's Eyes

Kage Baker [http://members.tripod.com/~MrsCheckerfield/] lives in Pismo Beach, California. She is known primarily as a science fiction writer, especially for her series of stories and novels about The Company, an organization from the future that sends agents back in time to retrieve lost artifacts, such as priceless art treasures. Her collection of stories in that setting - Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers - was published to substantial critical acclaim in 2002. She has attracted additional notice in the last few years for fantasy stories. Last year her story "What the Tyger Told Her" appeared in our Year's Best Fantasy 2. Her first fantasy novel, The Anvil of the World , is published in 2003. She worked for some years for the Living History Centre and says, "Twenty years of total immersion research in Elizabethan as well as other historical periods has paid off handsomely in a working knowledge of period speech and details."

Her attention to period detail in certainly evident in "Her Father's Eyes." This story was published in Asimov's , where most of her short fiction has appeared. A girl child and her parents - her father just back from military service - are riding a train in the late 1940s, and she sits next to a little boy who is in the custody of an evil couple who are not really his parents. There are perhaps echoes of Hans Christian Andersen's great fairy tale "The Snow Queen."

It was so long ago that fathers were still gaunt from the war, their awful scars still livid; so long ago that mothers wore frocks, made fancy Jell-O desserts in ring molds. And that summer, there was enough money to go for a trip on the train. She was taken along because she had been so sick she had almost died, so it was a reward for surviving.

She was hurried along between her parents, holding their hands, wondering what a dome coach was and why it was supposed to be special. Then there was a gap in the sea of adult legs, and the high silver cars of the train shone out at her. She stared up at the row of windows in the coach roof, and thought it looked like the cockpits in the bombers her father was always pointing out.

Inside it was nicer, and much bigger, and there was no possible way any German or Japanese fighter pilots could spray the passengers with bullets; so she settled into the seat she had all for herself. There she watched the people moving down on the platform, until the train pulled out of the station.

Then her parents exclaimed, and told her to look out the wonderful dome windows at the scenery. That was interesting for a while, especially the sight of the highway far down there with its Oldsmobiles and DeSotos floating along in eerie silence, and then, as they moved out into the country, the occasional field with a real horse or cow.

The change in her parents was more interesting. Out of uniform her father looked younger, was neither gloomy nor sarcastic but raucously happy. All dressed up, her mother was today as serene and cheerful as a housewife in a magazine advertisement. They held hands, like newlyweds, cried out in rapture at each change in the landscape, and told her repeatedly what a lucky little girl she was, to get to ride in a dome coach.

She had to admit they seemed to be right, though her gaze kept tracking nervously to the blue sky framed by the dome, expecting any minute steeply banking wings there, fire or smoke. How could people turn on happiness like a tap, and pretend the world was a bright and shiny place when they knew it wasn't at all?

The candy butcher came up the aisle, and her father bought her a bag of mint jellies. She didn't like mint jellies but ate them anyway, amazed at his good mood. Then her mother took her down the car to wash the sugar from her face and hands, and the tiny steel lavatory astonished and fascinated her.

From time to time the train stopped in strange towns to let people off or on. Old neon signs winked from brick hotels, and pointed forests like Christmas trees ran along the crests of hills, stood black against the skyline. The sun set round and red. While it still lit the undersides of the clouds, her parents took her down to the dining car.

What silent terror, at the roaring spaces between the cars where anyone might fall out and die instantly; and people sat in the long room beyond, and sipped coffee and ate breaded veal cutlets as calmly as though there were no yawning gulf rushing along under them. She watched the diners in awe, and pushed the green peas round and round the margin of her plate, while her parents were chatting together so happily they didn't even scold her.

When they climbed the narrow steel stair again, night had fallen. The whole of the coach had the half-lit gloom of an aquarium, and stars burned down through the glass. She was led through little islands of light, back to her seat. Taking her place again she saw that there were now people occupying the seats across the aisle, that had been vacant before.

The man and the lady looked as though they had stepped out of the movies, so elegant they were. The lady wore a white fur coat, had perfect red nails; the man wore a long coat, with a silk scarf around his neck. His eyes were like black water. He was very pale. So was the lady, and so was their little boy who sat stiffly in the seat in front of them. He wore a long coat too, and gloves, like a miniature grownup. She decided they must be rich people.

Presently the Coach Hostess climbed up, and smilingly informed them all that there would be a meteor shower tonight. The elegant couple winked at each other. The little girl scrambled around in her seat, and peering over the back, asked her parents to explain what a meteor was. When she understood, she pressed her face against the cold window glass, watching eagerly as the night miles swam by. Distant lights floated in the darkness; but she saw no falling stars.

Disappointed, cranky and bored, she threw herself back from the window at last, and saw that the little boy across the aisle was staring at her. She ignored him and addressed her parents over the back of the seat ...


Excerpted from Year's Best Fantasy 3 by David Hartwell Copyright © 2003 by David Hartwell
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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