In my lj profile, I list among my interests both "interstitial arts" and "stitial arts." The latter is me being a little silly about the fact that I tend to enjoy things that are doing something well in the dead center of their genres. That's not the only thing I enjoy, of course, but sometimes I really like to say, "Now, that's what high fantasy is all about," or, "That's how a cozy mystery should be done." In anthologies, though, I often like the outliers, the stories that stretch the premise far enough that you can tell the editor only included them because they were really awesome.
This anthology is not like that. My two favorite stories--"The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan" by Heather Lindsley and "Captain Justice Saves the Day" by Genevieve Valentine--are squarely in the middle of classic superhero/supervillain relations, the kind of mad scientist idea that has been done before--but the point is not always to do something wholly new in every regard. Sometimes the point is to do what you're doing really well, and both Lindsley and Valentine deliver on the emotional arcs of their stories. One heroine consults, one assists, but both are delightful.
There are, of course, other worthy stories here. "Rocks Fall" by Naomi Novik explores more of the same classic supervillain territory, while "The Mad Scientist's Daughter" by Theodora Goss is more the sort of thing I expect to enjoy in an anthology: the outer edge of the premise. Indeed, it's not clear from the ending of Goss's story whether the women in it will cross the line into evil genius territory--nor, from the Victorian influence, is it supposed to be.
I can't say that the volume was an unmitigated success for me. I found Diana Gabaldon's novella (or was it a long novelette? it felt like a novella)...um...no more to my taste than anything else of hers I've ever read. L.E. Modesitt's piece also hit me wrong. I understand that a themed anthology like this is trying to appeal to a variety of tastes, though, and particularly in the case of the Gabaldon it's probably a situation where the story is competently appealing to a different audience than me. It's an anthology--one or two misses don't ruin the volume. It's still cackling, hand-rubbing good fun. Possibly because of my own physics background (which some people might consider inherently a bit mad), I feel like there's room for another volume of mad science stories, at least. Certainly I found myself mulling a few ideas while I read. More mad scientists! An army of mad scientists! An army of genetically engineered mad scientists! Taking over the....
I'm going to sit quietly in the corner and take deep breaths now.