Friday, January 01, 2016

FFB: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Sixteenth Annual Collection -- Gardner Dozois, Editor

The stories in this volume of The Year's Best Science Fiction were copyrighted in 1998, making them 18 years old now.  As you can see from the cover blurb, it's a hefty volume of over 250,000 words, which either does or does not include the 59-page intro by Dozois.  I know the blurb says the words are all "fantastic fiction," but I don't trust the blurb.  No matter.  It's a fat book.  My copy is a book club edition, and I don't know if it's any shorter than the regular printing.  I do know that it's 602 pages of tiny print, not including the intro and the several pages of "honorable mention" stories.  I didn't read all the stories in the book, but I did read a few.  Dozois provides solid introductions to all of them.

My favorite was "Craphound" by Cory Doctorow.  It's about an alien and a earth guy who are pickers, or craphounds.  Anybody who likes looking for stuff at antique malls or garage sales might like this as much as I did.  The two make some amazing finds before they have a falling out.  The feelings about nostalgia and flea-market finds are exactly right.

Robert Charles Wilson's "Divided by Infinity" begins ordinarily enough, with a man going into a used-book store and finding some old SF paperbacks by authors whose names he knows.  The thing is, those authors never wrote these books.  The books shouldn't even exist in this world.  Where Wilson goes from there, you'll have to find out for yourself, but I can tell you that it won't be anywhere that you expect.  It's complicated.

Howard Waldrop's "US" is an alternative history with three possible futures for the Lindbergh baby.  Funny and impeccably researched.

Ursula K. LeGuin's protagonist in "The Island of the Immortals" is warned that the price of immortality isn't worth the costs, but when did that ever deter anybody?  I was reminded a little of the story of the Sybil by this one.

I like everything I've read by William Browning Spencer, so I figured I'd like "The Halfway House at the Heart of Darkness.  And I did.  It's about becoming addicted to virtual reality and about trading one addiction for another to recover.

Ian R. MacLeod's "The Summer Isles" is a pretty long story, another alternative history, about England losing WWI and being in a sad state.  Edward is on the throne, but the people are thrilled about a dictator.  It can't happen here, of course. 

There are many more stories in the book, and maybe I'll get around to reading some of them.  Or maybe I'll just go on to the other volumes in this series that I've accumulated.

Here's the whole ToC:

Gardner Dozois: "Summation: 1998"
Greg Egan: "Oceanic"
Geoffrey A. Landis: "Approaching Perimelasma"
Cory Doctorow: "Craphound"
Tanith Lee: "Jedella Ghost"
Bruce Sterling: "Taklamakan"
Ursula K. Le Guin: "The Island Of the Immortals"
Paul J. McAuley: "Sea Change, With Monsters"
Robert Charles Wilson: "Divided By Infinity"
Howard Waldrop: "US"
Ian McDonald: "The Days Of Solomon Gursky"
Robert Reed: "The Cuckoo's Boys"
William Browning Spencer: "The Halfway House At the Heart Of Darkness"
Michael Swanwick: "The Very Pulse of the Machine"
Ted Chiang: "Story Of Your Life"
Liz Williams: "Voivodoi"
Stephen Baxter: "Saddlepoint: Roughneck"
Rob Chilson: "This Side Of Independence"
Chris Lawson: "Unborn Again"
Tony Daniel: "Grist"
Gwyneth Jones: "La Cenerentola"
William Barton: "Down In the Dark"
Jim Grimsley: "Free In Asveroth"
Cherry Wilder: "The Dancing Floor"
Ian R. MacLeod: "The Summer Isles"
Honorable Mentions


George said...

I pick up Gardner Dozois anthologies whenever I run across them. As you point out, these massive books have plenty of good stories (and some drek).

Deb said...

You're probably already aware of it, but Cory Doctorow (I assume he's related to E.L., but don't know for sure) writes about technology and other things at the left-leaning BoingBoing:

Unknown said...

I link to BoingBoing now and again and read it every day. Cory Doctorow is from Canada, I think. Don't know if he's related to E. L.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I don't think so. I know he's buddies with John Scalzi.

That Wilson story sounds right up my alley. If you read the latest Stephen King collection, there is a similar-sounding story there. At least I think it was the King. But I read so many short stories these days (789 this year) it's hard to keep track. But the more I think about it, the surer I am it was King. Maybe Deb can remember the story I mean.

Unknown said...

You might think the Wilson story is right up your alley, but it goes in a very strange direction. Trust me. The Doctorow story, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward.

Todd Mason said...

What, a King story that might strongly remind one of someone else's story? How often could that happen (Kevin Nealon, sotto voce: "Every other story")?

I still will argue for inclusion in a BEST over too small a range, but the bugcrushers can certainly be daunting...

Rick Robinson said...

Happy New Year everyone. If it magically appeared on the front door mat, I'd welcome the entire set of these Dozios anthologies. From what I can tell they are some of or maybe THE best of the SFF yearly anthologies. I certainly liked his OLD MARS and OLD VENUS volumes.

Alice Chang said...

Well, I'd suggest that among the current annuals, and the recently suspended David Hartwell anthology (the last to appear in mass-market format, though by the end that was no longer true), none of them have been anything to be ashamed of, though the Dozois, I gather, is still the best-selling unless the new BEST AMERICAN has taken the commercial lead. I still need to read the most highly-regarded story in this volume, Ted Chiang's "The Story of My Life"...and I suppose I should make a small proviso, as I've not yet read my copy of the new Year's Best Military and Adventure SF annual (clearly the favorite, in theory, of Tea Puppies everywhere) nor have I picked up Paula Guran's first novellas annual, but the Strahan and Horton sf/fantasy annuals in the Merril tradition (along with the new Adams) are not to be sneezed at, either. (It's remarkable how many horror annuals we have at the moment, with no annual trying to cover the whole range of fantasy)

Todd Mason said...

That's me, Todd Mason, accidentally forgetting to log out of Alice's address while using her computer, above.

Todd Mason said...

Or, even, Chiang's "Story of Your Life." Sigh. It's early.

Unknown said...

I'll have a look at "Story of Your Life."