I have a complicated relationship with anthologies. I really do. Once upon a time, it was simple. I didn’t like them. By and large there was only one story in there that you were really interested in and all the rest were thrown in there by the publishing company as either filler, like sawdust or packing peanuts, to fill out the book and make it actually novel size, or in a desperate and fairly transparent bid to make the other, lesser known authors in the book look better by association with the headlining author of the book. You can always tell which type it is too, you just have to look at the font size on the author’s names. If one of them is easily twice the size of all the others, it’s door number two. If there’s one, possibly even two, good stories in there and the others make you want to gouge your own eyes out, it’s door number one.
I was comfortable with that. I could work with that, and I did that by pretty much ignoring all anthologies. And if an author tried to be clever and force you to buy the stupid thing by making some big plot point happen in a hundred page short story, then I am not ashamed to say that I would sit in the aisle at B&N, read that particular story, and then go about my business.
And then, and don’t ask me why, I went through a really weird phase where I kept buying anthologies. Again, no idea why, it just seemed like a good idea. But there was a day when I was at the store and I saw one with an author I like in it and thought “Well what the hell?” and actually discovered two really important things: that I really can’t stand Charlaine Harris and the beauty that is Meljean Brook and Ilona Andrews. (The other author, in case you were curious, was Nalini Singh.) That’s right, in one book I found a short story by an author I like and two new authors to love. It was amazing.
So I have since revised my opinion on anthologies… ish. I have since read a couple more (I did say it was a phase) and not all of them turned out well. One of them, in fact, was one of those eye gougingly awful ones I mentioned earlier, but on the other hand, it can lead to you discovering really awesome new authors that it might otherwise have taken you years to discover. So it’s an extrememly cautious thumbs up, with a “Be Careful” attached.