The “Year’s Best Science Fiction” series
I’ve been reading science fiction a long time – at least 40 years. I’ve read a lot of the annual collections, and this one remains my favorite, probably because Gardner Dozois and I have similar taste. I’ve got all 27 volumes of Year’s Best Science Fiction on my shelves. Often, it comes out just before my birthday in July, which means it’s an easy choice for a gift from my wife and kids. This year, it came out a little later, so I bought it myself.
The summation of the year in Year’s Best Science Fiction
Each volume of Year’s Best Science Fiction starts off with an overview of the year. This year, it is 30 pages long, about the same as usual. I read this, but it will primarily be of interest to serious SF fans. It includes publishing trends, a list of which magazines and electronic sites got started or went under in the year, subscription addresses, science fiction on TV and film, awards given out, and deaths in the past year.
The stories in Year’s Best Science Fiction
The main part of each volume of Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction is the stories. This year, there are 32 stories covering 632 pages. Each story is prefaced with a one or two paragraph introduction, telling a little about the author and the story. One of the strengths of this collection is you can find more stories and books by authors you like.
My favorites this year included:
Useless Things by Maureen F. McHugh. A near future story set in the American southwest, about a woman struggling to survive, and struggling to stay human and humane in distressing times. I like a lot of McHugh’s writing, including her novels China Mountain Zhang and Half the Day is Night. They share a sensibility, in which the future world is not that great, but in which, nevertheless, people survive and continue to have the same sorts of problems they have now.
Black Swan by Bruce Sterling
Sterling probably needs no introduction to science fiction fans. His stories are usually cynical, witty, well-written and dystopic, and this story, set in a multitude of Europes, is no different. I don’t want to spoil it, but it reminds me of the joke.
What’s the difference between optimists and pessimists? An optimist says “this is the best of all possible worlds” and the pessimist says “I am afraid I agree with you”.
Seventh Fall by Alexander Irvine.
Irvine is a relatively new writer, I had not read anything by him before this. His first story was sold in 2000. This story is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, where society is barely hanging on, and tells the tale of a few people who are struggling to keep it hanging on a little better.
Lion Walk by Mary Rosenblum
Rosenblum started writing in the 1990s, and is fairly prolific. This story is set in a nature reserve where scientists are recreating some ancient creatures. It’s not just an SF story, but also a mystery, and it raises some interesting points about ecology as well.
Three Leaves of Aloe by Rand B. Lee
Another fairly new writer, Lee here tells a story about prejudice, maternal love, and class struggle. It’s set in a near future India, and includes the impact of nanotechnology on human lives in a very intimate way.
Mongoose by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette
Bear is a new writer, who has won several awards in the last 5 years. Monette, her frequent collaborator, is less celebrated but equally new. This story is more old-fashioned science fiction, set in a fairly distant future in which the occupation of exterminator takes on frightening new dimensions.
Hair by Adam Roberts
Roberts is a writer and also critic and historian of SF. In this story, he tells what happens when a man invents a way for no one to ever starve again.
The editor of Year’s Best Science Fiction
Gardner Dozois is a science fiction author, but is primarily known as an editor. He was the editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction for many years. He has also edited many SF collections in addition to this series.
Summary of Year’s Best Science Fiction by Gardner Dozois
People who like science fiction, particularly at the shorter lengths, will want this book.