Another award?

Well, not really. But. There have been so many good short story collections this year that I thought I’d mention the ones that I thought stood out. So, what follows is a list of the Top 25 collections I saw this year (Note: This doesn’t include books that are yet to be published, and is limited to books I’ve seen). I am tempted to present the Coodies, though. An award for the best collections of the year. The categories might be Best Collection of the Year and Best Career Retrospective, but I’ll see. In the meantime, the list:

Baker, Kage, Mother Aegypt and Other Stories
Butner, Richard, Horses Blow Up Dog City & Other Stories
Charnas, Suzy McKee, Stagestruck Vampires & Other Phantasms
Cherryh, C. J., The Collected Short Fiction of C. J. Cherryh
Crowley, John, Novelties & Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction
Di Filippo, Paul, Neutrino Drag
Dozois, Gardner, Morning Child and Other Stories
Duchamp, L. Timmel, Love’s Body, Dancing in Time
Ford, John M., Heat of Fusion and Other Stories
Goss, Theodora, The Rose in Twelve Petals and other stories
Gunn, Eileen, Stable Strategies & Others
Jones, Diana Wynne, Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories
Lanagan, Margo, Black Juice
Lethem, Jonathan, Men and Cartoons
MacLeod, Ian R., Breathmoss and Other Exhalations
Morrow, James, The Cat’s Pajamas and Other Stories
Pratchett, Terry, Once More* With Footnotes
Roberts, Adam, Swiftly: Stories that Never Were and Might Not Be
Sargent, Pamela, Thumbprints
Shepard, Lucius, Trujillo
Silverberg, Robert, Phases of the Moon: Stories from Six Decades
VanderMeer, Jeff, Secret Life
Varley, John, The John Varley Reader
Williams, Liz, The Banquet of the Lords of Night and Other Stories
Wolfe, Gene, Innocents Aboard

If you’re going to do it, do it right

I get really fed up when a potentially great project gets stuffed up by laziness, dumbness, a shoddy approach, or dubious commercial motivation. It’s not that I’m necessarily immune to some of these things myself (I’ve certainly been lazy, dumb, and/or shoddy at times), but they just grate on my nerves. I especially hate it when a book project is announced and you go “yes!” and then it gets royally stuffed up.

There are countless examples. I remember when, way back in 1990, a major Larry Niven career retrospective was announced. Now, Niven wrote some of the most exciting hard SF short fiction of the late ’60s and early ’70s. A big collection, assembling the very best of those stories would have been a wonderful thing, the kind of book that everyone should own. But the book, N-Space, was crap. It featured essays, minor stories and (unforgivably) novel excerpts, in amongst some terrific major work. A terrible disappointment. Perhaps enough time has passed – it’s been almost 15 years now – that someone could do a major ‘Best of Larry Niven’ but I have my doubts. More recently there was The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge. Vinge is an interesting writer, and a single volume ‘collected stories’ wasn’t a bad idea. But, the book omits his single most famous short story, “True Names”. As it happened, another book was published at pretty much the same time that featured that story and some essays about it. But, so what! It wasn’t the collected stories, it was dumb.

I could go on and on, but what I want to do is mention a great recent book where they got it right. I remember, as though it were yesterday, being turned on to the science fiction of John Varley. I stumbled across a paperback edition on In the Hall of the Martian Kings, and was entranced. Strange, challenging, and yet reminiscent of Heinlein (who I loved above all else at the time), it seemed like the pure stuff. Real SF. And the stories kept coming, right through to the smack in the face of “Press Enter”. And then we got the collection Blue Champagne from Dark Harvest, and it stopped. From the mid-’80s through till last year, when a couple good stories were published, there was almost no Varley short fiction and not that much at novel length. A major career retrospective seemed like an obvious book to publish, at least to me, but it kept not happening until the good folk at Ace announced they would do it. And The John Varley Reader was born. Collecting 18 stories and adding a bunch of fascinating biographical material, it’s what a major retrospective should be. The best-of-the-best stories presented so modern readers can get at them, nothing less than a single volume argument as to why the writer is important and worth reading. The John Varley Reader does that, and in spades. It could have added “Blue Champagne”, but that’s a personal taste thing. This is book you need to own. Kudos to Ginjer Buchanan and every one at Ace for having the guts and the savvy to do the book right.

Blogging the bushpocalypse

As noted here, and elsewhere of late, William Gibson has a blog. This is a good thing. In it he is discussing politics. This is an interesting thing. However, even a casual reading of Gibson’s blog makes it clear that what the world may need now is not love sweet love, but a Jack Womack blog. Gibson quotes Womack’s often very incisive comments on a number of occasions and it would be fascinating to hear his thoughts directly. Of course, he has a day job and a young family, so blogging the Bushpocalypse probably isn’t at the top of his list of priorities, but, as Elvis sang, we can dream of a better day…

Things to do…

I’ve just been trying to work out what I need to do in the next week or so if I’m going to actually meet my deadlines and other commitments. In addition to playing my part in getting things ready for Sophie’s birthday party (cleaning up, doing some gardening, organising etc), I’ve got a bit to do.

First, I’ve finished the story notes for Science Fiction: Best of 2004 and have done most of the notes for Fantasy: Best of 2004. I need to finish those, and write the main volume introductions, by the end of the weekend. I also need to follow up on permissions for the books.

Second, I’ve got to deal with some financial stuff. It’s tax time here, and I need to keep on top of that.

Third, I’ve got to send out email reminders to all of the potential contributors to The Starry Rift. I wrote to all of them a while ago, but a follow-up now seems about right. This is only slightly complicated by having sporadic email problems. I also need to get in touch with Sharyn (hi Sharyn!) to discuss the book.

Fourth, I’ve got to finish proofing the December Locus, edit the columns that are coming in for the January issue, and get a real start on recommended reading. It’ll run in the February issue, but we do all of the to-and-fro-ing between now and the end of December. Charles is flying out to Perth for New Year’s and we’ll finalise all of the lists then.

Fifth, I’ve got to do some follow-up emailing for review material for myself, some of the review staff and the magazine.

Sixth, I’ve got to do some reading. I’m half-way through the January F&SF, finished the Gwyneth Jones novel (which was excellent) and am currently toying with a few other choices. I also need to read a bunch of potential contenders for recommended reading listing.

Seventh, get some new tyres for the car.

Once that’s all done – and most of it must be done before month’s end – I can get on to some general pre-Christmas house organisation, help my mother with her soon-to-arrive visitors, write a couple long-overdue book proposals and generally try to get my act together before summer gets here. I tend to slow way down in the hot weather, so I need to be on top of my schedule by New Year’s. Also, I need to get our computer problems dealt with before then, because as the weather heats up, the computer tends to die more often.