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25 Years of The Best Short Stories in Science Fiction Has Come To This

Illustration for article titled 25 Years of The Best Short Stories in Science Fiction Has Come To This

It's been 25 years of Gardner Dozios' The Year's Best Science Fiction, and the 25th anniversary edition totals 692 pages of testimony to the state of the industry. Dozois dedicates the first 51 pages alone to a summation of the previous year, a trend he started in the first volume a quarter of a century ago. Congratulations is in order for the editor of this venerable series. Now we judge whether this year's group was worthy of his attention.In his introduction to the volume Dozois writes of the British journal Postscripts, "I could wish they'd print more core science fiction and less slipstream/postmodernism/ fantasy." This is his usual complaint with the thirteen other "Best of the Year" anthologies released. His preference carries over to SF films, of which he counts only one real science fiction film, Danny Boyle's solar voyage Sunshine in 2007. Dozois doesn't lack for attitude, as friend Michael Swanwick makes clear in his memory of the first time he met the editor:

Illustration for article titled 25 Years of The Best Short Stories in Science Fiction Has Come To This

I first met Gardner twenty-umpty-some years ago at a Philcon. He was sitting in a hallway, surrounded by fans, giving a dramatic reading of Robert Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, in order to demonstrate that sections of it had the same cadence as Longfellow's "Hiawatha." (Go ahead, try it for yourself. Chapter XI: "Stand with me on man's old planet,/gazing north when sky has darkened . . . Here is life or here is dying;/only sin is lack of trying./Grab your picks and grab your shovels;/dig latrines and build your hovels - " And so on.) He was a one-man carnival.


The Year's Best Science Fiction starts off with David Moles' "Finisterra", and Ken MacLeod's "Lighting Out", and more heavy hitters come later in the volume. For some reason, both lead stories feature the same small note at the end - a knowing smile on the part of a character. With a collection of this size, it's difficult to not have overlap: in subject matter, terminology, and general worldview. Some of the stories do begin to blend together despite solid debuts from Una McCormack, James Van Pelt and Justin Stanchfield.

Illustration for article titled 25 Years of The Best Short Stories in Science Fiction Has Come To This

But Dozois generally knows where he's going, and in an anthology like this, there's a solid core of impressive regulars. Gardner Dozios published Robert Silverberg (at left) in his first annual The Year's Best anthology in 1984. Silverberg's fifteenth contribution to the series is "Against the Current", a showpiece here, both for its quality relative to the rest of the volume, and its masterful depiction of a man fighting the wrong way against time. Originally appearing in Fantasy and Science Fiction, it's well worth seeking out. Dozois' group is at its best when it doesn't limit its restrictions, and shoots beyond where you usually land in 20 short pages. John Barnes' "An Ocean Is A Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away" from Jim Baen's Universe is a tender love story, and despite Dozios' shots at fantasy in the introduction, he includes British writer Gwyneth Jones' fantasy-styled short story, "Saving Tiamaat" from his other anthology this year, The New Space Opera - he also reprints a brilliant Ian MacDonald story among other transplanted from that volume. A passion for adventure stories is obvious, and he closes out the volume with Gregory Benford's masterful adventure "Dark Heaven." The reclusive Australian author Greg Egan is Dozois' absolute favorite, as you can see if you check out the number of Egan stories in the anthology's history. Dozois often published two Egan stories each year in the anthology, a distinction he reserved for few other writers. We get two Egan stories here, the better of which is "Glory." The stories that read the best — and some are strangely prescient on this matter — are ones that find ways to comment interestingly on economic issues. In stories by Ian McDonald and Bruce Sterling, the problems of the global economy are depicted with strong characters and economic analysis that make great reading for aspiring Alan Greenspans and young moguls-to-be. Even though many of these stories are available online, $22 sounds more than reasonable given the size of this volume. We leave you with the most "storied" authors in the 25-year history of The Year's Best Science Fiction: Greg Egan (19) Nancy Kress (16) Michael Swanwick (16) Robert Silverberg (15) Robert Reed (15) Walter J. Williams (14) Bruce Sterling (12) Ian MacDonald (12) James Patrick Kelly (12) Ian MacLeod (11) John Kessel (11) Pat Cadigan (11) Ursula K. LeGuin (10) Howard Waldrop (10) Stephen Baxter (10) Joe Haldeman (8) Kim Stanley Robinson (8) Connie Willis (7) Kage Baker (7) Gregory Benford (7) Mike Resnick (7)

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I've not been a buyer of the anthologies, because I read the monthlies cover to cover. (Yes I know Gardner reads more sources than I do.) I'm more interested by the anthologies of decades past.. because I'm not filling all those gaps in the monthlies too successfully.