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5 Great Speculative Fiction Anthologies of 2020

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Emily Wenstrom

Staff Writer

By day, Emily Wenstrom is a content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstorm, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.. Her Chronicles of the Third Realm War series includes Mud (#1), Tides (#2), Rain (#0), and more to come. Follow her on Twitter @ejwenstrom.

2020 hasn’t given us very much to be happy about. But it has at least been a stellar year for book releases. And among them have been a number of creatively themed, diverse anthology collections. It doesn’t hurt that these 2020 speculative fiction anthologies feature authors near and dear to my own eager reader’s heart, either. These editors know what they’re about.

I’m not typically one to love short stories over a novel, but a well-done anthology is a unique kind of thrill. Much like some kind of literary gymnastics, each author takes the spotlight in turn to deliver their own unique take on the same theme—and the results are always a delight.

Readers probably won’t love every story equally, but I always come out of an anthology feeling as though my imagination has been stretched, and I almost always have one or two new favorite authors to add to my list, as well.

So, because we all really need it this year, here are some of the very best speculative fiction anthologies of 2020. Enjoy.

A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope, Edited by Patrice Caldwell

Through this collection edited by Patrice Caldwell, 16 award-winning and best-selling authors explore the Black experience of women and nonconforming individuals through speculative fiction. It features stories from Elizabeth Acevedo, Justina Ireland, L.L. McKinney, and more.

If you’re not already sold, the blurb compares it to Beyonce’s Lemonade for teens and also Octavia Butler in one breath.

Cursed, Edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane

Drawing inspiration from the darkness of fairytales, this anthology brings together 20 curses shared in 20 different stories. The result is a collection that puts new spins on old favorite stories and tropes, as well as offers a few completely new takes on the concept. Within its pages you’ll find names including Neil Gaiman, Charlie Jane Anders, M. R. Carey, and more. 

Wickedly Ever After, Edited by Rachel Kenley

Another collection darkly inspired by fairytales, taking on the perspective of the villains and taking on a thematic twist. Honestly it’s so fun I almost don’t want to tell you what it’s about, so if you want to trust me on the fun and leave yourself spoiler-free for the read, skip ahead now. 

But if you want the juicy details, this collection quietly revolves around a series of stories in which the classic villains of fairytales win. 

Latinx Rising: An Anthology of Latinx Science Fiction and Fantasy, Edited by Matthew David Goodwin

This anthology celebrates the many ways a new generation of Latinx authors have influenced speculative fiction since magical realism first left its mark on the literary scene 50 years ago. Going far beyond these roots to explore broad facets of science fiction and fantasy, each story delves into what Latinx identity means in the United States today.

The collection features stories from Kathleen Alcalá, Carmen Maria Machado, and Ernest Hogan, among other established and new voices. 

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite, Edited by Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C. Parker

The title works because it’s so true—there is always a voracious readership for vampires. And the best thing about well-worn (and well-loved) tropes is that they leave ample room for play, new twists, and upended expectations. Reviewers are calling it boundary-pushing and satisfying, all while offering a cast to characters that is richly diverse in perspective as well as representation. 

The authors featured in this collection make up a true list of speculative fiction contemporary rock stardom, including V. E. Schwab, Heidi Heilig, Rebecca Roanhorse, Samira Ahmed, and more.