Long Hidden edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. ★★★ 1/2
Long Hidden is a speculative fiction anthology focusing on the those marginalized by history – people of color, queer people, disabled people, women, ect. The stories are set in different periods and locals throughout Earth’s history, and all of them involve some fantastical element.
Long Hidden was of fairly average quality when it came to short story collections. There’s a number of stories I liked, a lot that left me cold, and a few that I struggled with. I doubt it will take long for me to forget the vast majority of the stories in Long Hidden. The one exception is my favorite story of the collection, Ken Liu’s “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring,” a dark tale of two women struggling to survive as their city is invaded. For all its brutality, “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring” also managed to create some beauty.
“Free Jim’s Mine” by Tananrive Due is a very well constructed story of a runaway slave in the American South and her Cherokee husband. I’ll admit that I was apathetic for most of the story, but the twist at the end adds some intriguing layers to this tale.
There were actually a large number of other stories also set in the US or Canada, twelve in total out of twenty-seven stories. There were also five more stories set in Western Europe, giving the overall collection a greater focus on the West than I expected. While other stories did range across Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia, I would have preferred for them to make up a greater segment of the collection.
Other stories I enjoyed include “The Colts” by Benjamin Parzybok, where executed Hungarian peasants rise from the grave. “A Wedding in Hungry Days” by Nicolette Barischoff tells of the marriage between a lonely dead girl and a lonely living boy in rural China. “Each Part Without Mercy” by Meg Jayanth is set in India during 1746 and follows a girl whose dreams lend themselves to an unusual purpose. “Diyu” by Robert William Iveniuk adds a bit of science fiction to the collection with a Buddhist monk working on a railroad in Canada having an alien encounter.
The only story I skipped was “Jooni” by Emba Banton. I read the first few pages but wasn’t feeling it. There were only a couple of other stories that I actually disliked. “Ffydd (Faith)” by S. Lynn was confusing and meandering, and I don’t understand why it was included in the first place. “Marigolds” by L. S. Johnson was mentioned on the back cover, and I was excited for it going in. A f/f romance in revolutionary France! Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The speculative element didn’t seem well thought out, I didn’t buy the connection between the two women, and I was put off by what I interpreted as an attempt at a love spell.
I was excited about the inclusion of interior illustrations, but I found most of those to be disappointing as well. But at least the cover art is gorgeous. I do want to note that I hated the formatting of the paperback copy I read. There were practically no margins, and it made it very difficult to read. If you’re going to read this collection, I’d suggest trying to get an ebook copy instead.