2 The Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women, Viking pounds 17. Uh-oh, it's the F-word! Fortunately, editors A Susan Williams and Richard Glyn Jones avoid the unicorn 'n' troll syndrome. Successful women's fantasy is more about revenge or subtle wish-fulfilment, though so intrinsically playful a genre is not just a vehicle for self-expression but a creative joy in its own right. Thus Daphne du Maurier reworks Celtic myth in her tale of aged lovers, amazingly transfigured in the final lines; Janet Frame's "Two Sheep" is a enigmatic fable; Margaret Atwood's "When It Happens" is the gripping, paranoid fantasy of a middle-aged woman alone at her kitchen table. Of the unknowns, Kit Reed's witty "Cynosure" is a brilliant satire on the houseproud. Less assured are the tales which barely warrant liberation from the sci-fi mags in which they were first published. The best are, in fact, not fantasy at all, but ghost stories, like Joan Aiken's creepy "Marmalade Wine". The sublime Leonora Carrington supplies both the handsome cover painting and a baffling story, "My Flannel Knickers".
2 We Can't Even March Straight by Edmund Hall, Vintage pounds 7.99. Hall writes from the heart - he was dismissed from the Navy after admitting his homosexuality - about gays in the British armed forces. His case studies detail the shame and distress of gay recruits once the service police swoop. Humiliating questions, demands for other names, searches and segregation follow accusation; why does the British attitude to homosexuality in the forces remain so obdurate, when other countries have relented? As Hall points out, lying about your health and age in order to get into the army has always been seen as heroic; why is lying about your sexuality to do the job you love so heinous? And what about the teenage recruits who don't necessarily know they are gay when they join up? A passionate plea for change and understanding.Reuse content