Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories)
Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 is a “virtual anthology” of 70,000 words of the best science fiction the professional webzines published in 2017*. Web’s Best Fantasy will cover the fantasy stories. The stories for both “volumes” were chosen from fifteen markets: Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld Magazine, Compelling Science Fiction, Diabolical Plots, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Flash Fiction Online, Grievous Angel, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny**.
When Gardner Dozois took over the editorship of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year from Lester del Rey with the Sixth Annual Collection, he wrote an introduction to that volume which said “Best” volumes “should really be called ‘Gardner Dozois Picks the Stories He Liked Best This Year’ or ‘Terry Carr Really Enjoyed These Stories,’ or some such.” He went on to say that his principles include selecting “only those stories that honestly and forcibly struck me as being the best published during that year, with no consideration for log-rolling, friendship, fashion, politics, or any other kind of outside influence.” Similarly, these are the stories I liked best this year. I liked them for their science fictional qualities and tried to separate those as much as I could from any other consideration beyond that of attempting to create an actual reading experience with this virtual anthology. The main significance of that is that having variety also plays a small role in the selection process. For instance, I would not be likely to include two stories from the same author or too many stories with strikingly similar elements. In addition to the selection, the sequencing of the stories also aims to produce a good and varied reading experience if the reader chooses to read straight through.
While I would have liked to have found more great upbeat, science-focused, and/or space-based stories than I did, I think these stories (even at their darkest and loosest) show that the state of the art in the upper echelon of Sturgeon’s Law is good. I hope folks have enjoyed or will enjoy these as much as I did.
* Most of the title of this “book” is a play on the title of Donald Wollheim and Terry Carr’s World’s Best Science Fiction series of annuals from 1965-71, along with Carr’s numbering practice from his own subsequent The Best Science Fiction of the Year series (though he didn’t number the first volume). The length is a homage to Isaac Asimov’s ideal length for a book, as explained in the introduction to his 70,000 word essay collection, Science, Numbers, and I. Akin to a “fiscal year,” this “fictional year” covers January 1st-December 10th. (The first ten days produced twenty-four stories and the remaining three weeks should produce fifteen at most. Those later stories will be considered for #2.)
** For clarity, while fifteen markets were covered, only eleven are represented in the Web’s Bests. Among the most significant happenings in the 2017 webzine market: Compelling Science Fiction became SFWA-qualified but dropped from bimonthly to biannual at the end of this year; Fantastic Stories of the Imagination died at the beginning of the year; Grievous Angel became SFWA-qualified; Terraform disappeared for awhile in the middle of the year but returned as an SFWA-qualified market; Tor.com has been faltering near the end of the year. The rest of the market was relatively stable.
“Uncanny Valley“ * Greg Egan
Tor.com, August 9, 2017
“Little /^^^\&-“ * Eric Schwitzgebel
Clarkesworld #132, September 2017
“Rising Star“ * Stephen Graham Jones
Uncanny #15, March/April 2017
“Tav“ * Dustin Kennedy
Compelling #5, February/March 2017
“Seven Permutations of My Daughter“ * Lina Rather
Lightspeed #83, April 2017
“Cease and Desist“ * Tyler Young
Nature, January 18, 2017
“Sweetlings“ * Lucy Taylor
Tor.com, May 3, 2017
“Legale“ * Vernor Vinge
Nature, August 9, 2017
“Penelope Waits“ * Dennis Danvers
Apex #101, October 2017
“Fool’s Cap“ * Andy Dudak
Clarkesworld #129, June 2017
“This Is for You“ * Bruce McAllister
Lightspeed #84, May 2017
“The Martian Obelisk“ * Linda Nagata
Tor.com, July 19, 2017
“A Series of Steaks“ * Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Clarkesworld #124, January 2017