Fae Visions of the Mediterranean: An Anthology of Horrors and Wonders of the Sea, Edited by Valeria Vitale & Djibril al-Ayad
This is the fifth Future Fire anthology that I have read. The first three—Outlaw Bodies, We See a Different Frontier, and Accessing the Future—are each linked by a common theme or idea, and the fourth one, TFF-X: Ten Years of The Future Fire, is a mix of new work and selected reprints published to celebrate the tenth year anniversary of The Future Fire magazine. The most recent anthology, Fae Visions of the Mediterranean: An Anthology of Horrors and Wonders of the Sea, is a collection of stories, poetry and artwork connected by geography rather than ideas.
I read and appreciate a fairly wide spectrum of what can be called speculative fiction, but my preferences tend to run more towards science fiction and realistic fantasy than to other sub-genres. As in art, music, and romance, there is no accounting for taste, but for some reason, stories about sea monsters and other mythic ocean creatures don’t usually float my boat (excuse the pun.) I am also not very drawn to horror. Nevertheless, though this anthology is filled with such elements, there is something about it that was pleasing to me, something that has to do with the impressively diversity of the pieces contained in the collection. Not only is there prose, poetry, and artwork, but a wide range of writing and artistic styles are also represented. The stories likewise come from a large number of nations, cultures, and traditions, all linked by their physical connection to the Mediterranean Sea.
The inclusion in the collection of many of the languages of the region was particularly effective. Though the anthology is still primarily English (and can be enjoyed by a unilingual anglophone), I appreciated the opportunity to see some work in its original regional language followed by the English translation, and the fact that in some cases the translation seemed truncated or at least secondary somehow made the story feel more authentic for me. In fact, while the collection has an almost mythic feel to it, at the same time, it seems very “grounded” in the history and legends of the Sea, thereby giving it a well-researched or even academic solidity
Here are some of my favourite pieces:
“The Miracle Town” by Mattia Ravasi: I was very drawn in by the story-telling skills of this author. I did not know what the story was about for a while (no spoilers) but it did not matter because the writing was so enjoyable, and the build and reveal were very well-done.
“The Wisps of Tabarka” by Hella Grichi: I enjoyed this both as a story and a work of art. There is a lovely integration of the original language with the English telling. It is written as a fairy tale, but not like a western fairy tale.
“Ghanja Bla Flus/A Free Song” by Maria Grech Ganado: This is a beautiful poem, filled with passion, sharp wit, and mystery.
“The Minotaur in Pamplona” by Rhys Hughes, is a well written tale filled with longing and regret, with just enough mystery mixed + foreshadowing to make the ending satisfying.
“Bilaadi by S. Chakraborty”: This is beautifully written, with a very successful use of second person narration. It is a deep, a very human story at the same time that it is a tale of gods and myths.
“The Return of Melusine” by Angela Rega is a well-told story that reads both contemporary and as an ancient myth.