The Queen of Air and Darkness: Volume 2 of the Short Fiction of Poul Anderson (Nesfa's Choice)
by Poul Anderson
Review by Steve Sawicki
NESFA Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781886778870
Date: 10 July 2009 List Price $29.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK /
This is yet another fine book put out by NESFA press and is volume two of what will be a multi-volume effort to collect all of Anderson's short fiction. Most of this fiction was originally published in the magazines and pulps and most of those are unavailable to the public. So, NESFA does what NESFA does best and puts forth an effort to not be judgemental by gathering only specific works but by pulling together everything. And with Poul Anderson they have their work cut out for them as Anderson was fairly prolific with his short fiction.
Volume three is planned for 2010 and there is a volume 4 in the works as well. The volumes do not collect Anderson by theme or series or even in chronological order rather it is editorial whim which decides which stories are in this volume and which ones you will have to wait for in volume 3 or 4. I have no problem with whimsy so long as it is orderly.
There are 18 stories in this collection, originally published between 1956 and 1971, including "The Longest Voyage" which won a Hugo and "The Queen of Air and Darkness" which won both a Nebula and a Hugo. There are also 10 examples of verse and 4 essays. All of this comes with a wonderful Tom Canty cover illustrating the title story.
Anderson is hard to categorize because he wrote everything, and he was pretty good at most of it. Better than pretty good given the number of awards he won. Anderson was also an imaginative thinker, both inside and outside the book covers. He was a founding member of the SCA and involved, early on, in the SFWA. What he should also be credited with is serving as the inspiration for hundreds of writers who followed him.
Well, this is yet one more amazing book from NESFA. I don't think they could produce a bad book if they tried. Not that I want them to since I'm enjoying all the great books they put out in the present. NESFA is doing a great service to the genre by going after and preserving some of the most important writing in the field. That this writing is still enjoyable and entertaining is a credit to the skill of the writers.
Because of NESFA, you now have the opportunity to: 1) find out what all that sense of wonder stuff was all about; 2) support an incredible effort by a hard working group of volunteers; and 3) gather to yourself fiction that would cost you ten times the amount of this volume, assuming you could even find it, if you had to track it down yourself.
I can't recommend this series highly enough nor the work that NESFA does and continues to do for the field, for writers and, most of all, for readers.