Best of the Year 2006

I edit three year’s best anthology series: THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION OF THE YEAR and THE BEST FANTASY OF THE YEAR anthology series for Night Shade Books, and BEST SHORT NOVELS for The Science Fiction Book Club. The Night Shade books are the first volumes in two new series that will make their debut in March 2007, while the BEST SHORT NOVELS volume will be the fourth in the continuing series, and should appear in June 2007.

I am reading for all three anthologies at the moment, and am looking for stories from all branches of science fiction and fantasy: space opera to slipstream, fairy tales to infernokrusher, or anything else that might qualify. If in doubt, send it. Please note: These are reprint anthologies so I am only reading material published in or about to be published during the year 2006.

Continue reading Best of the Year 2006

Best Short Novels: 2006 Preview

I’ve just finished proofreading the manuscript of the third volume of my year’s best novellas anthology series. It’s set to be published by the Science Fiction Book Club in June of this year, but I thought readers of this blog might like some kind of advance sampler to see what they’ll get before they hand over their hard earned dollars.

While my budget is limited, there’s a surprising amount of stuff you can find out on the web already that will give you an advance taste of the final book. Stories have been published online for awards’ consideration, podcast, sneak peeked or whatever, so…

  • The Little Goddess, Ian McDonald
    Ian McDonald’s story of faith and fate in a near future India is once of the most celebrated stories of the year. Read it online at Asimov’s.
  • The Gist Hunter, Matthew Hughes
    Hughes is establishing himself as one of the best writers of science fantasy working today. This story sees investigator Hengis Hapthorn hoist by his own petard on the cusp between science and magic. You can’t read or sample this one online, but you can get a feel for it by reading some of the fiction published on Matt’s website.
  • Human Readable, Cory Doctorow
    Emergent networks, insect intelligences, politics in Washington, and a life and death emergency at Jewish funeral near the beach. What more could you want from a story? Cory has podcast his story from Future Washington on his website. You can subscribe to his podcast, or download it in seven parts.
    Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 |
  • Audubon in Atlantis, Harry Turtledove
    An ageing John James Audubon, America’s most famous naturalist, travels to an unlikely land to catch his last great glimpse of nature (and kill it). You can read an excerpt at Analog.
  • Magic For Beginners, Kelly Link
    You can read Kelly’s strange and lovely story about a tv show that you wished existed over at the F&SF website.
  • Fishin’ With Grandma Matchie, Steven Erikson
    This one’s not online at all. You can order a lovely edition of this strange post-modern SFnal tale from publisher PS Publishing.
  • The Policeman’s Daughter, Wil McCarthy
    You can read an excerpt from Wil McCarthy’s novella of murder and intrigue in his Wellstone universe at Analog.
  • Inside Job, Connie Willis
    You can read Connie Willis’s story of love, superstition and H.L. Mencken over at Asimov’s
  • Mysterious ninth story
    And there’s still the mysterious ninth story.
  • Online bonus
    Year’s best editors often complain that, if they just had a little more space, they would have added this or that story to their book. If I could have added just one more story to my already overstuff book, it would have been James Patrick Kelly’s extraordinary short novel, Burn. While you can order it from the publisher or Amazon.com, you can also listen to it as a sixteen part podcast. Or if that doesn’t suit, it’ll be in Gardner Dozois’s next year’s best SF. It’s very cool.

I hope to be writing more about my year’s bests over at www.yearsbests.com. Until then, you can always check out the official SFBC website.

Year’s Best Short Review 1 – Peter S. Beagle’s “Salt Wine”

There are any number of new short fiction outlets out there. They appear, and disappear, so quickly that it is almost impossible for a dedicated reader with specialist knowledge to keep track of them all, never mind someone who is more casual about it.Following the lead of Cemetery Dance, several small presses have launched their own magazines, either to promote their authors or to simply celebrate great short fiction. While Peter Crowther’s Postscripts is possibly the best of these, there has been some impressive work in Bill Schafer’s Subterranean and in Fantasy Magazine.

Edited by Sean Wallace, the energetic force behind Prime Books, Fantasy Magazine debuted in November 2005 with an issue that featured good short fantasies by Jeffrey Ford, Jeff VanderMeer, Holly Phillips, and others. While the first issues understandably depended on many of the writers that Wallace publishes through Prime, he has begun to cast his net wider. The most interesting example of this is “Salt Wine”, a good new novelette by Peter S. Beagle that is set to appear in the third issue of Fantasy Magazine.

The fate of Ben Hazeltine and Henry Lee, two Welsh seamen seems intertwined from their earliest days at sea. Shipping out of Cardiff together, their paths cross on one or other dubious trading vessel or other over the years, sometimes working closely together, and sometimes not seeing one another for extended periods. But when they are both stranded on the Isle of Pines, just off Cuba, left to live off the land until some passing ship’s captain decides to offer one or other of them a berth, their fates become inextricably intertwined. While looking for a suitable breakfast one morning, Lee spots a merrow (or ‘merman’) trapped by a tiger shark in shallow waters near a reef. Without thinking, Lee charges in and rescues the merrow who is bound to give Lee his greatest treasure as reward. This turns out to be the recipe for salt wine, a rare and surprisingly tasty drink that Lee decides to go into business to manufacture, and he wants Hazeltine to help him market it.

Any story has more to it than simply that, though. The story is related by Hazeltine, long after events have passed and sometime after Lee has died. From the outset its clear that this is a story that will combine mild magics with powerful emotion, in what is a rather beautiful romantic fantasy.

Peter Beagle hasn’t been the most prolific of writers, only producing a couple collections worth of short stories in addition to his more celebrated novels, but over the last year or two he has published a couple of lovely pieces like the novelettes “Two Hearts” and “Quarry”. “Salt Wine” is not quite as strong as either of those stories. I couldn’t escape the feeling that Beagle was struggling a little to hold the voice of the story – it’s all related in the first person by Hazeltine – but his storytelling skills are too strong to produce anything other than a rewarding tale.

And if this isn’t the story of the year, it does underscore that Fantasy Magazine is a magazine that is worth checking out. After just three issues, it’s very much still establishing it’s own voice, but is already featuring some excellent fiction. I look forward to the coming issues with real interest.

The Locus Press Bests

I’ve been tardy about posting this information, but following a reminder from Jed, here are the revised tables of contents for the two anthologies that are now being published by Locus Press.

FANTASY: THE VERY BEST OF 2005
1. Two Hearts, Peter S. Beagle
2. Snowball’s Chance, Charles Stross
3. Sunbird, Neil Gaiman
4. A Knot of Toads, Jane Yolen
5. Boatman’s Holiday, Jeffrey Ford
6. The Language of Moths, Christopher Barzak
7. Anyway, M Rickert
8. The Emperor of Gondwanaland, Paul Di Filippo
9. The Pirate’s True Love, Seana Graham
10. Intelligent Design, Ellen Klages
11. Pip and the Fairies, Theodora Goss
12. Leviathan, Simon Brown
13. The Denial, Bruce Sterling
14. The Farmer’s Cat, Jeff VanderMeer
15. There’s a Hole in the City, Richard Bowes
16. Monster, Kelly Link

SCIENCE FICTION: THE VERY BEST OF 2005
1. Triceratops Summer, Michael Swanwick
2. Little Faces, Vonda N. McIntyre
3. The Second Coming of Charles Darwin, James Morrow
4. Is There Life After Rehab?, Pat Cadigan
5. Understanding Space and Time, Alastair Reynolds
6. The Fulcrum, Gwyneth Jones
7. The Blemmye’s Dilemma, Bruce Sterling
8. They Will Raise You in a Box, Wil McCarthy
9. Finished, Robert Reed
10. The King of Where-I-Go, Howard Waldrop
11. The Calorie Man, Paolo Bacigalupi
12. The Fate of Mice, Susan Palwick
13. I Robot, Cory Doctorow
14. The Little Goddess, Ian McDonald

I hope to have cover and ordering information up here shortly. Many thanks to all of the contributors again for going along with this, to CHARLES for the idea and the support, and to Liza, who has worked incredibly hard on making this project a reality.

Scalzi’s Android

I haven’t read a lot of novels of late, but I did just recently finish John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades, both of which I enjoyed and recommend (especially if you like the new old science fiction kind of thing). I want to thank Patrick for sending me copies. I bought a copy of Old Man’s War in Brisbane, which I’ve now passed on to someone else, who I think is headed off to buy The Ghost Brigades. So works the word of mouth. I note from John’s blog that his new novel, The Android’s Dream, is wending its way towards publication. While galleys must surely be available soon, he posts the cover for the new book, which pictures an android dreaming of sheep. I don’t see any evidence of the sheep being plugged in, but is this a move away from the more overtly Heinleinesque territory of his first two novels? I’ll be curious to see.