I’m taking a moment. I’m terrible at taking a moment, but I’m trying. About an hour ago there was a knock at the door. It was a courier with a box, a carton of books. This one contained my contributor’s copies of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12, which is just out from Solaris Books. It contains 29 stories, all published in 2017, that I think represent the very best in science fiction and fantasy at the moment.
I edited my first year’s best annual in 1996 and have been doing at least one a year since 2003. I love doing it and I love reading other editors books too. These are often hard times for books so, if there’s any chance at all this might be your jam, then please consider ordering a copy. While I’m working on the next book in the series, volume 13, your support will help make sure there is a volume 14.
My thanks on this book to cover artist Adam Tredowski and my editors Jonathan Oliver and David Moore.
Oh! And this is my 47th anthology and 75th book editing project overall. I’m signed up for a few more. It’s a joy and a privilege to do.
The announcement that nominations have opened for the Hugo Awards kicks off awards season in earnest. There is a lot of wonderful fiction out there and, having been fairly busy during 2017, I’ve been lucky enough to help what I think are some really excellent works of fiction that I think are worthy of your consideration.
It was a year when I edited two new anthologies, three novellas for Tor.com Publishing, half a dozen stories for Tor.com, appeared on and produced 26 episodes of The Coode Street Podcast episodes, and acted as reviews editor for Locus for the 15th consecutive year.
I find myself dismissing hyperbole when I’m reading reviews and rolling my eyes when I see book cover blurbs filled with wild statements of praise. Something’s always the greatest thing ever in the history of things, and if the review is online it seems inevitably to be followed by an exclamation point or two to encourage readers to click through and make sure the blogger makes the requisite Amazon percentage. And yet sometimes you need a bit of hyperbole in your life.
I first encountered Kelly Robson‘s work two years ago when Tor.com published her fantasy novella, Waters of Versailles, a light, funny and perceptive story of love, plumbing and nixies impressed me enough that I reprinted it in my annual best of the year. It went on to be nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, and was just Kelly’s second published story.
She followed it with a series of smart, interesting and always entertaining science fiction, fantasy and horror stories culminating with two strong stories this year, “A Human Stain” (gothic horror) and “We Who Live in the Heart” SF). I suspect “We Who Live in the Heart” could spawn a much larger work, because who doesn’t want to read about people living in the nasal passages of sky whales! (See? Exclamation point!)
All of this, however, pales beside her forthcoming work, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach, which is coming out from Tor.com Publishing in March (NB: I work for Tor.com but didn’t acquire this story. Feel free to deduct exclamation points if you feel that’s appropriate.) I was lucky enough to get an early copy of this book-length work and I wasn’t sure what it could be. I had no cover, no description, just an oddly titled Word file. But, gee, it turned out to be smart and good.
Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach opens in 2267, and it quickly becomes clear that the intervening 250 years have not treated our world gently. Global climate catastrophe has seen mass extinction events, radical climate change, and people driven underground to survive the harsh new world. Even underground, though, humanity has found a way to thrive. Cities (hells) have been dug out of the rock, people have survived, and culture has evolved. Kelly introduces us to Minh, a biologically modified scientist described as “an old grandmother from the waist up, but instead of [two] legs it had six long octopus legs”, who has spent her life working to restore river ecosystems and to help establish humanity on the surface of the planet.
A skilled scientist and an adept project manager, Minh has had great successes in her long career, and yet surface reclamation projects are going poorly and losing the support from the banking companies that control the world’s finances necessary to for those projects to continue. She fears nothing more than her beloved Calgary will be abandoned and surface reclamation will cease. Her assistant, Kiki, one of the delights of the book, has a different perspective. She’s young, smart, ambitious, at the beginning of her life and career, and is desperate to succeed. When she finds the chance to become involved in a crazy, exciting new project she grabs it with both hands, taking shocking action that I don’t want to spoil, but it’s powerful.
The new project involves mounting a team to map the Tigris and Euphrates river systems, to closely examine them, collect data and use that data as the baseline for restoring the system. To do this, Minh, Kiki, and Minh’s associate Hamid must travel back in time 4500 years to a point when the river systems were largely unaffected by human activity. The explanation Kelly provides for time travel is fairly consistent and logical, though by story’s end I did have a question or two. Those questions matter little though when compared to the rich, engaging story she has told. The three time travellers, and a company tour guide are all convincingly and well-drawn, the story never lets up, and the human and scientific extrapolation is fascinating.
The cover copy talks about merging time travel with climate fiction and historical fantasy, all of which is fair. The story is much more alive, though. Rich, nuanced characters, deeply compelling story, and a powerfully conceived world make Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach one of the best novellas of recent times, one of the highlight books of 2018, and something to look for on awards ballots come 2019. It also removes any doubt about one simple fact. Kelly Robson is one of the best, most exciting and most complete new storytellers working today. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
With the manuscript safely in the hands of my editor in Oxfordshire, I’m happy to announce the final table of contents for The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12. As anthologists always do, I wish I’d had more space to include other stories that I loved published during the year, especially novellas, but I think that these selections are very strong.
“The Mocking Tower”, Daniel Abraham (The Book of Swords)
“Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue”, Charlie Jane Anders (Boston Review)
“Probably Still the Chosen One”, Kelly Barnhill (Lightspeed)
“My English Name”, R. S. Benedict (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
“Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”, Tobias Buckell (Cosmic Powers)
“Though She Be But Little”, C.S.E. Cooney (Uncanny)
“The Moon is Not a Battlefield”, Indrapramit Das (Infinity Wars)
“The Hermit of Houston”, Samuel R. Delany (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
“The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
“Crispin’s Model”, Max Gladstone (Tor.com)
“Come See the Living Dryad”, Theodora Goss (Tor.com)
“Bring Your Own Spoon”, Saad Z. Hossain (The Djinn Falls in Love)
“Babylon”, Dave Hutchison, 2084
“The Faerie Tree”, Kathleen Kayembe (Lightspeed)
“Fairy Tale of Wood Street”, Caitlin R Kiernan (Sirenia Digest)
“The Worshipful Society of Glovers”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny)
“An Evening with Severyn Grimes”, Rich Larson (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
“The Chameleon’s Gloves”, Yoon Ha Lee (Cosmic Powers)
“The Smoke of Gold is Glory”, Scott Lynch (The Book of Swords)
I edit The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year anthology series for Solaris Books. The twelfth volume in the series will be published in April 2018, and the thirteenth volume will appear in March 2019.
I am currently reading for the 2018 volume, and am looking for stories from all branches of science fiction and fantasy: space opera to cyberpunk, fairy tales to the slipstream, or anything else that might qualify. If in doubt, please send it.
This is a reprint anthology. Stories must have been published for the first time between 1 January and 31 December 2018 to be considered.
The submission deadline for this year’s book is:
1 November 2018
Anything sent after this deadline will reach me too late, as I deliver the final book to the publisher in late December. If a magazine, anthology, or collection you are in or you edit is coming out before 31 December 2018 please send galleys or manuscripts so that I can consider the stories in time.
The thirteenth volume of the series is scheduled for publication in March 2019.
Where possible, I prefer to receive book-length works in print (especially anthologies), but this is optional.Books, stories etc can be sent to me via email. I prefer ePub, .mobi, .rtf or .doc files. PDFs are not accepted. I strongly suggest that authors check with their publishers that they are sending review copies out to me, as I don’t have the resources to follow-up every publisher to get material.
When sending material please put “Best SF/F of the Year” on the envelope.
P.O. Box 544
Mt Lawley, WA 6929
Email submissions, recommendations, or information on publications can be sent to me via email at:
jonathan.strahan (at) gmail (dot) com
I am eager to consider work you are publishing. If you produce a magazine, chapbook, collection or anthology with any original stories in it please let me know. I am happy to accept email submissions. The most important thing is to make sure that I get to consider the best science fiction and fantasy published during 2017.
If you are publishing online please email copies of stories to jonathan.strahan (at) gmail (dot) com as early as possible. This is particularly important for stories published between October and December which may otherwise be overlooked.
I do not need to receive manuscripts from authors of stories from venues that it’s likely I already receive regularly (I get Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, Interzone, Black Static, Postscripts etc, but not many of the smaller ‘zines and publications).
Please do not send an SASE. This is not a submission, and I’m unable to return manuscripts or respond directly to stories sent to me.
If I am considering your story for inclusion inThe Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, I will be acquiring non-exclusive World anthology rights in English and foreign languages in print, audio and ebook.