2018 Best of the Best: 2017 Stories Selected for Multiple Year’s Bests

This doesn’t contain any information not already in “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links)” but, because that list might look dauntingly large and a little busy, here’s a list of the twenty-six stories which appear in two or more of the nine “Year’s Bests.” (Twenty of these stories are available online.) For clarity, they’re just alphabetized by title with no distinction beyond an asterisk which indicates I’ve noted them to one degree or another on this blog.


Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links)

By request, this is an expanded edition of “Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!).” That post collates and links to the stories selected by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan. This adds Afsharirad, Datlow, Guran, Jemisin (BASFF), and Shearman/Kelly. (As in the other list, I’ve also noted whether I’ve read them and, if so, whether they got an honorable mention, a recommendation, or were recommendations which made my Web’s Best Science Fiction or Web’s Best Fantasy.)

After more than eight months since the post of the original, this expanded version is finally, fundamentally done, though it will continue to be updated if I find links to more stories or if wonderful people tell me about them. (See the end of the post for the full ChangeLog/Credits.)

Latest change: 2019-04-03: Added link to “The Dragon That Flew Out of the Sun.”

Four Annuals: Afsharirad, Clarke, Horton, Strahan

Four Annuals: Clarke, Dozois, Horton, Strahan

Four Annuals: Clarke, Dozois, Jemisin, Strahan

Three Annuals: Clarke, Dozois, Strahan

Three Annuals: Clarke, Horton, Jemisin

  • ZeroS”, Peter Watts (Infinity Wars) [recommended]

Three Annuals: Dozois, Horton,  Strahan

  • Sidewalks”, Maureen McHugh (Omni) [read late]

Three Annuals: Horton, Jemisin, Strahan

Two Annuals: Clarke, Dozois

Two Annuals: Clarke, Horton

  • “The Tale of the Alcubierre Horse”, Kathleen Ann Goonan (Extrasolar)
  • Extracurricular Activities”, Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com) [read]

Two Annuals: Dozois, Horton

  • “Winter Timeshare”, Ray Nayler (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [read]
  • “Starlight Express”, Michael Swanwick (F&SF) [recommended]

Two Annuals: Dozois, Strahan

  • “My English Name”, R. S. Benedict (F&SF)
  • “The Moon is Not a Battlefield”, Indrapramit Das (Infinity Wars) [read]

Two Annuals: Guran, Horton

Two Annuals: Guran, Shearman/Kelly

Two Annuals: Guran, Strahan

Two Annuals: Horton, Strahan

Two Annuals: Jemisin, Shearman/Kelly

Two Annuals: Jemisin, Strahan

  • Carnival Nine”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) [read]

One Annual: The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF, Volume 4, Afsharirad, ed.

  • “Hope Springs”, Lindsay Buroker (Beyond the Stars)
  • “Lovers”, Tony Daniel (Forged in Blood)
  • “Family Over Blood”, Kacey Ezell (Forged in Blood)
  • “A Man They Didn’t Know”, David Hardy (Rocket’s Red Glare)
  • SWARM“, Sean Patrick Hazlett (Terraform) [read]
  • The Ghost Ship Anastasia”, Rich Larson (Clarkesworld) [recommended]
  • The Snatchers”, Edward McDermott (Analog)
  • “You Can Always Change The Past”, George Nikolopoulos (Galaxy’s Edge)
  • “By The Red Giant’s Light”, Larry Niven (F&SF)
  • “Imperium Imposter”, Jody Lynn Nye (Infinite Stars)
  • “A Hamal In Hollywood”, Martin L. Shoemaker (Rocket’s Red Glare)
  • “Orphans Of Aries”, Brad R. Torgersen (Rocket’s Red Glare)
  • “A Thousand Deaths Through Flesh And Stone”, Brian Trent (F&SF)
  • “Our Sacred Honor”, David Weber (Infinite Stars)

One Annual: The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3, Clarke, ed.

  • “Shadows of Eternity”, Gregory Benford (Extrasolar)
  • In Everlasting Wisdom”, Aliette de Bodard (Infinity Wars) [recommended]
  • “Belly Up”, Maggie Clark (Analog)
  • “Every Hour of Light and Dark”, Nancy Kress (Omni)
  • The Last Novelist, or a Dead Lizard in the Yard”, Matthew Kressel (Tor.com) [recommended]
  • “Meridian”, Karin Lowachee (Where the Stars Rise)
  • Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship”, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Diabolical Plots) [read]
  • Wind Will Rove”, Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [read late]
  • The Speed of Belief”, Robert Reed (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [recommended]
  • “Holdfast”, Alastair Reynolds (Extrasolar)
  • Focus”, Gord Sellar (Analog)
  • Shikasta”, Vandana Singh (Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities) [read late]
  • “A Catalogue of Sunlight at the End of the World”, A.C. Wise (Sunvault)

One Annual: The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten, Datlow, ed.

  • “Liquid Air”, Inna Effress (Nightscript III)
  • “The Starry Crown”, Marc E. Fitch (Horror Library: Volume 6)
  • “Fail-Safe”, Philip Fracassi (Behold the Void)
  • “Shepherd’s Business”, Stephen Gallagher (New Fears)
  • “You Can Stay All Day”, Mira Grant (Nights of the Living Dead)
  • “The Granfalloon”, Orrin Grey (Darker Companions)
  • “West of Matamoros, North of Hell”, Brian Hodge (Dark Screams: Volume Seven)
  • “Better You Believe”, Carole Johnstone (Horror Library: Volume 6)
  • “Lost in the Dark”, John Langan (Haunted Nights)
  • Dark Warm Heart“, Rich Larson (Tor.com) [read]
  • “Where’s the Harm?”, Rebecca Lloyd (Seven Strange Stories)
  • “There and Back Again”, Carmen Maria Machado (Mixed Up)
  • “Eqalussuaq”, Tim Major (Not One of Us)
  • “Alligator Point”, S. P. Miskowski (Looming Low: Volume I)
  • “Holiday Romance”, Mark Morris (Black Static)
  • “Whatever Comes After Calcutta”, David Erik Nelson (F&SF)
  • “Endoskeletal”, Sarah Read (Black Static)
  • A Human Stain“, Kelly Robson (Tor.com) [honorable mention]
  • “Furtherest”, Kaaron Warren (Dark Screams: Volume Seven)
  • Harvest Song, Gathering Song“, A. C. Wise (The Dark)
  • The Stories We Tell about Ghosts“, A. C. Wise (Looming Low: Volume I)

One Annual: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: ThirtyFifth Annual Collection, Dozois, ed.

  • “Mines”, Eleanor Arnason (Infinity Wars) [read]
  • Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics“, Jessica Barber and Sara Saab (Clarkesworld) [read]
  • The Dragon That Flew Out of the Sun“, Aliette de Bodard (Cosmic Powers)
  • The Hunger After You’re Fed“, James S.A. Corey (Wired) [read late]
  • The Martian Job, Jaine Fenn
  • Nexus“, Michael F. Flynn (Analog)
  • “The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs”, Kelly Jennings (F&SF)
  • “Whending My Way Back Home”, Bill Johnson (Analog) [honorable mention]
  • “Canoe”, Nancy Kress (Extrasolar)
  • “Dear Sarah”, Nancy Kress (Infinity Wars) [read]
  • Waiting Out the End of the World in Patty’s Place Cafe“, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld) [read]
  • “There Used to Be Olive Trees”, Rich Larson (F&SF)
  • “Triceratops”, Ian McHugh (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
  • “The Influence Machine”, Sean McMullen (Interzone)
  • Prime Meridian, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • “The Proving Ground”, Alec Nevala-Lee (Analog) [read]
  • Number Thirty-Nine Skink“, Suzanne Palmer (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
  • “The Residue of Fire”, Robert Reed (Extrasolar)
  • “Night Passage”, Alastair Reynolds (Infinite Stars)
  • Vanguard 2.0“, Carter Scholz (Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities) [read late]
  • Assassins“, Jack Skillingstead and Burt Courtier (Clarkesworld) [read]
  • “Elephant on Table”, Bruce Sterling (Chasing Shadows)
  • “The Road to the Sea”, Lavie Tidhar (Sunvault)
  • “Zigeuner”, Harry Turtledove (Asimov’s Science Fiction)

One Annual: Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2018, Guran, ed.

  • “Sunflower Junction”, Simon Avery (Black Static) [recommended]
  • “Swift to Chase”, Laird Barron (Adam’s Ladder: An Anthology of Dark Science Fiction)
  • Fallow“, Ashley Blooms (Shimmer) [honorable mention]
  • Children of Thorns, Children of Water“, Aliette de Bodard (exclusive for The House of Binding Thorns preorders/Uncanny)
  • “On Highway 18”, Rebecca Campbell (F&SF) [read]
  • “Witch Hazel”, Jeffrey Ford (Haunted Nights)
  • “The Bride in Sea-Green Velvet”, Robin Furth (F&SF)
  • Little Digs“, Lisa L. Hannett (The Dark)
  • The Thule Stowaway“, Maria Dahvana Headley (Uncanny) [honorable mention]
  • “The Eyes Are White and Quiet”, Carole Johnstone (New Fears)
  • Mapping the Interior, Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Don’t Turn on the Lights“, Cassandra Khaw (Nightmare)
  • “The Dinosaur Tourist”, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Sirenia Digest)
  • “Survival Strategies”, Helen Marshall (Black Static)
  • “Everything Beautiful Is Terrifying”, M. Rickert (Shadows and Tall Trees, Vol. 7)
  • Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™“, Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex) [read]
  • “Graverobbing Negress Seeks Employment”, Eden Royce (Fiyah)
  • “Moon Blood-Red, Tide Turning”, Mark Samuels (Terror Tales of Cornwall)
  • The Crow Palace“, Priya Sharma (Black Feathers)
  • “The Swimming Pool Party”, Robert Shearman (Shadows and Tall Trees, Vol. 7)
  • “The Little Mermaid, in Passing”, Angela Slatter (Review of Australian Fiction)
  • Secret Keeper“, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Nightmare)
  • “The Long Fade into Evening”, Steve Rasnic Tem (Darker Companions)
  • “Moon and Memory and Muchness”, Katherine Vaz (Mad Hatters and March Hares)
  • “Exceeding Bitter”, Kaaron Warren (Evil Is a Matter of Perspective)
  • “Succulents”, Conrad Williams (New Fears)

One Annual: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition, Horton, ed.

One Annual: Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, Jemisin, ed.

One Annual: Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume Five, Shearman/Kelly, eds.

  • “Live Through This”, Nadia Bulkin (Looming Low: Volume I)
  • “Flotsam”, Daniel Carpenter (The Shadow Booth)
  • The Narrow Escape of Zipper-Girl“, Adam-Troy Castro (Nightmare) )
  • “The Unwish”, Claire Dean (The Unwish)
  • “Worship Only What She Bleeds”, Kristi DeMeester (Everything That’s Underneath)
  • “The Second Door”, Brian Evenson (Looming Low: Volume I)
  • When Words Change the Molecular Composition of Water“, Jenni Fagan (Somesuch Stories)
  • “The Convexity of Our Youth”, Kurt Fawver (Looming Low: Volume I)
  • Corzo“, Brenna Gomez (Prairie Schooner)
  • “The Mouse Queen”, Camilla Grudova (The Doll’s Alphabet)
  • The Anteater“, Joshua King (The Matador Review)
  • “Curb Day”, Rebecca Kuder (Shadows And Tall Trees 7)
  • “The Entertainment Arrives”, Alison Littlewood (Darker Companions)
  • The Rock Eater“, Ben Loory (Taste)
  • Eight Bites“, Carmen Maria Machado (Gulf Coast)
  • “The Way She Is with Strangers”, Helen Marshall (Dark Cities)
  • “The Possession”, Michael Mirolla (The Photographer in Search of Death)
  • “House of Abjection”, David Peak (Nightscript III)
  • “Disappearer”, K. L. Pereira (A Dream Between Two Rivers)
  • Red Hood“, Eric Schaller (Nightmare) [read]
  • “Something About Birds”, Paul Tremblay (Black Feathers)
  • “Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street”, Chavisa Woods (Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country and Other Stories)

One Annual: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Volume 12, Strahan, ed.

  • “The Mocking Tower”, Daniel Abraham (The Book of Swords)
  • Probably Still the Chosen One”, Kelly Barnhill (Lightspeed) [honorable mention]
  • The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [recommended late]
  • Crispin’s Model”, Max Gladstone (Tor.com) [honorable mention]
  • Come See the Living Dryad”, Theodora Goss (Tor.com) [recommended]
  • “Bring Your Own Spoon”, Saad Z. Hossain (The Djinn Falls in Love)
  • “Babylon”, Dave Hutchison, 2084
  • The Faerie Tree”, Kathleen Kayembe (Lightspeed) [honorable mention]
  • “Fairy Tale of Wood Street”, Caitlin R Kiernan (Sirenia Digest)
  • The Worshipful Society of Glovers”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny) [read]
  • “The Chameleon’s Gloves”, Yoon Ha Lee (Cosmic Powers)
  • “The Smoke of Gold is Glory”, Scott Lynch (The Book of Swords)
  • Concessions”, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Strange Horizons) [read]
  • “Belladonna Nights”, Alastair Reynolds (The Weight of Words)
  • “Eminence”, Karl Schroeder (Chasing Shadows)
  • Confessions of a Con Girl”, Nick Wolven (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [read late]


  • 2017-12-15: Jonathan Strahan announced the contents of The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Volume 12. (Thanks to dolphintornsea at the F&SF forums.)
  • 2017-12-16: found and added links to the stories from Boston Review and Omni.
  • 2017-12-24 (updated the 26th): Gardner Dozois announced the contents of The Year’s Best Science Fiction: ThirtyFifth Annual Collection. Thanks to Roger Silverstein for the tip and Lavie Tidhar for posting it for the Facebook-challenged and showing up in the search engine.
  • 2018-01-23: Neil Clarke announced the contents of The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3.
  • 2018-02-01: added link to Buckell’s “Zen” reprint.
  • 2018-02-07: moved this stuff to the bottom in a Changelog because it was pushing the stories down too far. 😉
  • 2018-02-07: added links to four Asimov’s stories (“Grimes,” “Wind,” “Turing,” “Confessions”). Thanks to RSR.
  • 2018-02-09: added contents of Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition. Thanks to dolphintornsea at the F&SF forums for alerting me and to Horton for posting the full contents.
  • 2018-02-10: added neglected link to Fowler’s Asimov’s story. (Thanks to Laura.)
  • 2018-02-14: added link to Watts’ “ZeroS.” (Thanks to Laura, and a belated thanks to Roger Silverstein, whose tip I missed.)
  • 2018-02-16: added link to Samatar’s “Account.” (Thanks to Laura.)
  • 2018-02-22: Added Datlow’s table of contents for The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten. Thanks to C. C. Finlay at the F&SF forum for linking to Datlow’s announcement (all titles unique).
  • 2018-02-23: Added links to “Soulmates.com,” “Number Thirty-Nine Skink,” and “The Speed of Belief” from the Asimov’s Reader’s Awards finalists, Thanks to File 770.
  • 2018-03-02: Added links to “Focus,” “Nexus,” and “Time Travel Is Only for the Poor” from the Analog Reader’s Award finalists. Thanks to Laura.
  • 2018-05-20: Added Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume Five, Shearman/Kelly, eds. Thanks to File 770 for the titles (all unique).
  • 2018-05-22: Added source for the Pereira story. Thanks to Roger Silverstein.
  • 2018-05-27: Added The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF, Volume 4, Afsharirad, ed. Thanks to Black Gate for the titles (all unique except for “Bots”).
  • 2018-07-11: Added Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2018, Guran, ed. Thanks to paulaguran.com.
  • 2018-08-17: Added link to “The Stories We Tell About Ghosts.” Thanks to Roger Silverstein.
  • 2018-08-21: Added Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, Jemisin, ed. (Thanks to johnjosephadams.com.) Also removed all references to “unread” stories, making everything consistently “unread unless otherwise noted.”
  • 2018-10-01: Added link to “In Everlasting Wisdom.”

Review of Recently Read “Year’s Best” Stories

At this point, fourteen stories listed in the collated contents of the big “year’s bests” have annotations saying the evaluation was “late.” This was because the stories were initially unavailable on the web or came from odd venues. I’m reviewing them now, expanding on the brief “read,” “honorable mention,” or “recommended” labels.

For reviews of the Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities stories, please see this post.

I read “Charges,” “Hunger,” and “Sidewalks” in mid-/late-December without thinking to actually review them, but simply jotted down my usual notes, so what follows on them are just belated restatements of those notes.

I felt that “Charges” (about an attempt to “cure” transgender people in the near future by torturing them and transferring them into non-transgender corpses) was extremely dated (transposing past treatment of homosexuals into an exaggerated future) and plain silly “science” fiction. It had a sort of horror movie intensity but that’s about all that could be said for it. “Hunger” addresses the potential ennui of (relative) wealth which, while not completely invalid in some nuances, is suitable for 1% propaganda generally. More importantly in fictional terms, the protagonist talks about “the romance of death by adventure” and notes that “I faced a less newsworthy ordeal.” Which made for a less interesting story as this was a boring grocery list of “actions” and, as said, largely unconvincing thoughts. In “Sidewalks,” a speech pathologist meets a woman from an alternate reality who speaks a form of Old English and comes from California, though she’s initially taken to be a gibberish-speaking nut. The details of this make little sense and, generally, this sort of story has been done many times before and much better.

Moving on to recent reads, “Persephone” is an initially interesting slipstream/dark fantasy which has quite a few strong images and ideas and an interestingly shifty narrative technique as it describes a pseudo-orphaned lost girl but seems underwhelming given the wind-up. “Confessions” describes the perfect storm of higher education, corporate rule, and social media, through a narrator who’s modded down from a “Pro” member of society to a “Con.” Unfortunately, most of this is already here and isn’t science fictional at all. It’s also unfortunate that it doesn’t make for the perfect story as it’s rather dull and unpleasant but not in a compelling, effective way. Perhaps it’s to the point but the narrator protagonist was hard to engage with and, while it did go for an emotional ending, it didn’t quite work for me. It’s not bad, but not remarkable. “Wind“—in which a fiddle player and history teacher on a generation starship tries to explain to her resistant kids why even broken history (and music and tradition and creation) is necessary—is a story with nice ideas and decent characters and most everything else needed for an excellent story but basically forgot the plot or, more specifically, the drama. It’s a mostly good but dull story and I’m someone who loves starships and history and music so I imagine it’d be worse for those who don’t. The zestier “Monkey” is somewhat clever with its structure of a fragment of history interlarded with scholarly notes which depict some gorilla warfare, so to speak, in which the meek will inherit the earth if they jujitsu for it and the most striking thing was the very isolated elements of humor or discordant notes delivered with a perfectly straight face in the course of a generally serious tale. This story doesn’t do much wrong aside from the contrivance of not having the religious order’s noncombatants expelled along with the royal family and I think it merits an honorable mention (I’ve waffled a bit) but it didn’t overwhelm me.

Buckell has two stories in the annuals, both of which seem more like honorable mentions to me. “Shoggoths” is a reasonably clever science fantasy about GPS and automated vehicles being used to try to summon monster monsters. The vehicle for conveying this concept is a tale of a couple of tow truck operators stealing a drug dealer’s stolen car in order to return it to the original drug dealer for a reward. This is a fun read but doesn’t strike me as especially significant. The more problematic “Zen” has a cardboard villain representing tradition and inflexibility start and lose a starship fight with the modern, flexible good guys. When he survives and sneaks aboard the victorious starship, he and a mind uploaded into the form of a maintenance bot vie for supremacy, with the bot’s programmed lack of freewill complicating the struggle. This has a gosh-wow-sensawunda suitable for both old and new space opera and homages several things from previous SF but its simplistic ethos is discordant in a new space opera. Further, the wondrous setting being mostly a clever plot contrivance is bothersome. Still, the story’s pace and imagery are noteworthy.

The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine” is an unusually funny story for Egan (not saying that it’s an outright comedy, but it definitely has its lighter, stranger moments). When the protagonist unceremoniously loses his job and he and both his immediate and extended family go through some financial troubles, some discussion with a tin-hat brother-in-law and an attempt to debunk his theories lead to pondering the nature of economies and emergent systems. This description doesn’t do it justice as it doesn’t convey the calm, confidently unhurried but efficient pacing, the tangibility of the characters and their plight, or Egan’s usual thoughtful angle on things. While I still prefer “Uncanny Valley,” both novelettes are great reads.

And wow: “An Evening with Severyn Grimes” is a date you don’t want to miss. The idea of mind uploads placed in borrowed bodies and the religious/ideological people who oppose this is a bit familiar (and not completely dissimilar from “Zen”) and the hackery of one of the characters is a bit magical, but this tale—of a woman, for reasons of her own, infiltrating a cult which wants to seize a rich guy currently in such a borrowed body so they can kill him painfully and publicly—is sheer brilliance. The old mind in the young body is constantly seeking thrills to make him feel alive again and that’s just what this short story does for the reader. This needs to be the basis for a slightly expanded movie or something. Further, it does something “Zen” does not do in that it has complex characters working at complex cross-purposes who can sometimes align just enough to make things really interesting. Very enthusiastically recommended.

Review: Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities

Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures
edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich


Date: 2017(-12)
Format: PDF, available in other formats including Print-on-Demand
ISBN: 978-0-9995902-2-5
Pages: 347
Price: $0.00
Publisher: Center for Science and the Imagination, Arizona State University

Original Fiction:

  • “Vanguard 2.0” by Carter Scholz
  • “Mozart on the Kalahari” by Steven Barnes
  • “The Baker of Mars” by Karl Schroeder
  • “Death on Mars” by Madeline Ashby
  • “The Use of Things ” by Ramez Naam
  • “Night Shift” by Eileen Gunn
  • “Shikasta” by Vandana Singh

(Apologies for the odd style and lateness of this review—I didn’t originally intend to cover this at all and then the coverage took place in several confused and expanding chunks of reading and writing over a long period of time.)

This book includes seven stories, with pairs set in low earth orbit, Mars, and the asteroids, ending with a single indirectly interstellar story. Each story has a beautifully done illustration and is followed by one or two essays by other authors (nine essays, plus an opening pair and closing trio) which I’m not going to get into much beyond saying that, unlike the art and unusually for me and science non-fiction, I didn’t feel they added much value. None really address the quality of the fiction as fiction, simply taking the stories as given unless some implausibility is pointed out. They aren’t intended to be literary critiques, but it undercuts the connection of the essay to the story and sometimes brings to mind people insisting the emperor, in fact, has clothes, undercutting a sense of credibility. Further, few even address the science (physics, chemistry, etc.) of the stories, which I would think was to the point, but are more interested in the social aspects. Perhaps most strikingly, while not speaking with one voice and being ostensibly created through the efforts of Arizona State University with a grant from NASA (that is, you, the taxpayer), they mostly promulgate a pro-corporate “higher education as vo-tech,” “NASA as free corporate R&D” view to the point that I wondered if this was sponsored by a university or by corporations through a university as a form of “idea-laundering,” though hopefully that’s an unjustified suspicion.

“Vanguard 2.0” by Carter Scholz

The protagonist is sent out by his corporate overlord to steal a small, old satellite, which the plutocrat really does want, but the job is primarily a way to clear witnesses away from his weaponizing of space. How the protagonist reacts is supposed to be the crux of the drama but, as written, there is no drama in this essentially plotless, albeit idea-filled, story. Despite being chosen for a “year’s best,” I wasn’t particularly impressed by this, aside from its researched, thought-out, hard SF nature.

“Mozart on the Kalahari” by Steven Barnes

Michael “Meek” Prouder is a smart kid with an interest in gene modding plants but lacks the resources and social infrastructure to maximize his talents. This has left him with a shady past, a bizarre condition, and difficulty trying to realize his dream of going to space. He hopes things may start going better for him when he learns of a contest with a prize that would get him to space but things become complicated when he actually enters it.

This seems to be partly a homage to Arthur C. Clarke’s Islands in the Sky and is mostly very effective at portraying the main character and addressing his plight in a way that will resonate for some readers (including this one, in ways). My only real problems with the story are that the character seems too smart to be so dense or vice versa and the plot seems a little too coincidental (both issues making the fiction as strange as truth), and that the big reveal may be too telegraphed and involves an element that has been done before, though I can’t recall the story (or stories) that did it. That was mostly outweighed by how engaged I was with the character and the story and how rewarding they were.

“The Baker of Mars” by Karl Schroeder

A woman who is feeding a bunch of time-displaced “Martians” comes up with an idea to transform the human race’s economy, method of governing itself, and its expansion into space, so heads off to the U.N. to explain it to the Powers That Be. The setup for this is that some humans who are among the legions of unemployed have begun “prospecting” on Mars, creating the infrastructure of a colony remotely by VR (we’re assured the time-lag isn’t a problem). But this is only due to the “no claims” space treaty and the corporate sponsors are really just waiting for all this to fail so the treaty can be torn up and the real gold rush can begin.

The colonization-by-VR feels fairly novel but it probably hasn’t been used much because it isn’t very workable. The “Martian Timeslip” or “Sliced-Crosswise Only-On-Tuesday World” isn’t so fresh, nor is the way it makes interplanetary colonization dull and mundane and mires it all in a socio-politico-economic treatise thinly wrapped in fiction. Schroeder’s fiction is generally very wonky but in a very cool way and is much better than this particular example.

“Death on Mars” by Madeline Ashby

Part of the rationale for an all-female crew on a proto-colonization mission to Mars includes a social-bonding experiment and that bonding is stressed when it is revealed that one of the women has known she’s dying and lied about it. It is further tested when a man is shipped in (alone) on an emergency flight to help with some problems.

This story is very nearly crippled by a serious early flaw and a milder later flaw, but manages to barely survive both. The first is that almost any human will be sympathetic to almost any depiction of death but the specific agonies of the dying woman and her distraught crew are not things we can actually share because, for example, this paragraph—

Donna was dying. Donna, who had calmly helped her slide the rods into the sleeves as they pitched tents in Alberta one dark night while the wolves howled and the thermometer dropped to 30 below. Donna, who had said, “Of course you can do it. That’s not the question,” when Khalidah reached between the cots during isolation week and asked Donna if the older woman thought she was really tough enough to do the job. Donna, without whom Khalidah might have quit at any time.

—comes in the middle of the story, rather than at the beginning. We don’t know Donna or Khalidah or the others when Donna’s imminent death is revealed and the emoting begins. The second problem is that, once we are up to speed and emotionally involved in the tale, it has many valid insights and feelings (such as how one death seems to raise all previous deaths a person has experienced right back to the present) and seems genuine but then pushes it a hair too far, giving a taste of saccharine sentimentality. (A third minor problem is that I don’t feel the sub-story of Khalidah and dad and the baseball is ever really “finished.”) All that said, this is another researched, hard SF tale whose character interactions eventually ring mostly true and which conveys some truths, such as how badly some things can be wanted and how badly they need to be wanted and what costs this can have. This has also been selected (twice) as a “Year’s Best” and, while I doubt it would have actually made that cut for me, I still recommend it.

“The Use of Things ” by Ramez Naam

A lone man working on an asteroid finds himself in a life and death situation when an inexplicable explosion breaks his tether and hurls him away.

This tries to be a good old-fashioned problem story but its “manned or unmanned” theme is too blatant, the idea that an unmanned mission would be retrofitted as a manned one at the last minute (for “PR”—to have a “face of the mission”) is virtually impossible and this is the second story I’ve read recently of a panicking astronaut, not to mention one who entertains for an instant the idea that a thrown roll of tape could counteract the force of an explosion that ripped a tether and his suit apart. Finally, the astronaut’s fate has nothing to do with his character. I did find this bit funny (in a sense), though:

The data center of the future would have just one man in it, Jimmy said, and one dog.

The man’s job was to feed the dog.

The dog’s job was to make sure the man didn’t touch anything.

“Night Shift” by Eileen Gunn

A woman is working the “Night Shift,” monitoring an AI as it deploys the nanobots that will transform an asteroid into its valuable components. She reminds me of Ghostbusters‘ Egon (who “collects spores, molds, and fungus”) except that her thing is just slime molds which, with her hacking skills, she parlays into nanobots. Things get a little complicated when, due to her anthropomorphizing of “Seth,” she is initially unaware that “he” has disabled the killswitch which prevents uncontrolled replication.

This is a winning first-person narration and touches on “remote colonization” like “The Baker of Mars,” but more convincingly and handles the “is it human or Memorex?” quandary of “Shikasta” in a far superior way… at first. But then the story reaches a very mild and trivially solved crisis point, makes a little speech, and just stops. “That’s it?” is never a good reaction on turning the page and not finding any more story.

“Shikasta” by Vandana Singh

A handful of good people (one of whom has been killed by bad people) did or do work on a crowd-funded starship mission to send an AI to the eponymous system where it interacts with a variation on the Horta of Star Trek‘s “The Devil in the Dark”—this one is a sort of magnetic wind creature.

This radically over-long, dull, and implausible story is inelegantly exposed and is the worst sort of clumsy combo of “the Two Cultures” with a lot of subjective navel-gazing combined with hard SF infodumps. Also, speaking of two cultures, if this were written in the same way by a Westerner about Eastern cultures, it would be roundly condemned. All that said, it’s in a “year’s best” so I may well be in the minority here.

Edit (2018-05-26): rearranged and added to the bibliographical information.

Annual Summation: 2017

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

Zines, Readings, and Recs

In 2017, Featured Futures covered these fifteen webzines:

  1. Apex Magazine
  2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  3. Clarkesworld Magazine
  4. Compelling Science Fiction
  5. Diabolical Plots
  6. Fantastic Stories of the Imagination (defunct)
  7. Flash Fiction Online
  8. Grievous Angel
  9. Lightspeed
  10. Nature (Futures)
  11. Nightmare
  12. Strange Horizons
  13. Terraform
  14. Tor.com
  15. Uncanny

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I read 509 stories of 2.1 million words from those sources (including a handful of stories from other webzines). Of those 509 stories, 100 received either an honorable mention (50, including two from those others) or a recommendation (50, 26 of which are also noted for having appeared in the “Web’s Best” posts which are linked to in the “Popular Posts” section below). (That there were exactly 100 of 50 and 50 is a bizarre fluke.) The breakdown of total stories, recommendations, and honorable mentions by zines (along with a column of “Web’s Best” selections) was:

          Zine    TS     R    HM  R+HM      R%     HM%   R+HM% | WB
          Apex    36     3     1     4   8.33%   2.78%  11.11% |  3
           BCS    53     6     2     8  11.32%   3.77%  15.09% |  2
  Clarkesworld    46     5     2     7  10.87%   4.35%  15.22% |  3
    Compelling    31     4     7    11  12.90%  22.58%  35.48% |  1
            DP    20     0     0     0   0.00%   0.00%   0.00% |  0
     Fantastic     2     0     0     0   0.00%   0.00%   0.00% |  0
           FFO    32     4     4     8  12.50%  12.50%  25.00% |  2
            GA    29     3     1     4  10.34%   3.45%  13.79% |  0
    Lightspeed    43     5     9    14  11.63%  20.93%  32.56% |  5
        Nature    51     5     7    12   9.80%  13.73%  23.53% |  2
     Nightmare    20     1     2     3   5.00%  10.00%  15.00% |  1
            SH    35     2     1     3   5.71%   2.86%   8.57% |  1
     Terraform    23     1     2     3   4.35%   8.70%  13.04% |  0
       Tor.com    47     7     6    13  14.89%  12.77%  27.66% |  4
       Uncanny    34     4     4     8  11.76%  11.76%  23.53% |  2
         TOTAL   502    50    48    98   9.96%   9.56%  19.52% | 26
         Other     7     0     2     2   0.00%  28.57%  28.57% |  0

The following is the complete list of those noted stories. The alphabet soup at the end indicates the category in the first chunk (SS=short story, NE=novelette, NA=novella), the genre in the second chunk (SF=science fiction, F=fantasy, H=horror, M=mainstream and the tilde (~) indicates my category differs from the webzine’s) and the third chunk is its status (HM=honorable mention, R=recommendation, WB=”Web’s Best” selection, which is a “recommendation plus”). Stories are supposed to be alphabetized by author and then title.

Popular (and Less Popular) Posts and Stories

The top five posts (plus one from the few days this blog was live last year) were:

  1. Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories)
  2. Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!)
  3. Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories)
  4. Summation of Online Fiction: January 2017
  5. Links to Stories the Big SF/F Editors Picked As Their Favorites of 2016
  6. Summation of Online Fiction: August 2017

Even more popular than any post is, of course, the very user-friendly home page (which also throws any individual post stats into question) and the second most popular thing is the List of Webzines page. Even folks who have no interest in this site can make use of it, so that’s not surprising. One thing I’d like to point out, though, is that the relatively new page, List of Professional SF/F/H Magazines (which includes the pro webzines), so far has not been visited like the webzine list but is also generally useful and will be more relevant to this site’s coverage in 2018. Aside from that, I don’t feel like trying to drum up traffic for any overlooked posts/pages but the actual point of this site is to promote good short speculative fiction so I thought paying attention to the story hits would be a good thing to do. The top five visited stories (not clicks on my recommendation posts but clicks out to the stories themselves) were:

  1. Little /^^^\&-” by Eric Schwitzgebel, Clarkesworld #132, September 2017, SF short story
  2. Cease and Desist” by Tyler Young, Nature, 2017-01-18, SF short story
  3. Uncanny Valley” by Greg Egan, Tor.com, 2017-08-09, SF novelette
  4. A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Clarkesworld #124, January 2017, SF novelette
  5. This Is for You” by Bruce McAllister, Lightspeed #84, May 2017, SF short story/

All of those were in the Web’s Best Science Fiction which received a relatively massive influx of visitors (hi, Facebook!) and a similar flood of clicks. Particularly glad to see the clicks on the Egan and Prasad which I chose as the bookends because they were the longest, strongest stories and both of which need to win some kind of award for novelette.

I do want to draw attention to some selections from the relatively “underclicked” stories. It’s quite possible that vast numbers of people have seen these stories without Featured Futures being a factor and I just don’t see the clicks here but, relatively speaking, I’d have liked to see them get more hits.

  • Sweetlings” by Lucy Taylor, Tor.com, 2017-05-03, SF novelette
  • The Garbage Doll” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Nightmare #53, February 2017, horror short story
  • The Dead Father Cookbook” by Ashley Blooms, Strange Horizons, 2017-07-17, fantasy short story
  • Penelope Waits” by Dennis Danvers, Apex #101, October 2017, science fiction short story
  • The Black Clover Equation” by Zach Shephard, Flash Fiction Online, April 2017, fantasy short story

“The Black Clover Equation” is a hilarious apocalypse and takes a comical scientific method into a world of leprechauns and luck, so is fundamentally fantasy. “Sweetlings” takes a horror sensibility into a world of punctuated equilibrium and climate change so, even if compressed and exaggerated to the point of fantasy, is rhetorically science fiction. “The Garbage Doll” is very dark fantasy or actual horror and “The Dead Father Cookbook,” while just plain damn weird, is also kind of a horrific tale if you look at it a certain way. So I’m not generally a fan of genre-fuzz and am not the biggest horror fan and maybe Featured Futures readers aren’t either, but I thought these were all remarkable tales. I have no theory for “Penelope Waits.” It is a fairly conventional SF tale in many ways but is so well done that it seems like it should win some readers. Except for it and “Sweetlings” (which both made the Web’s Best Science Fiction), all of these made Web’s Best Fantasy which was a very popular post but was overwhelmed by the popularity of Web’s Best Science Fiction.

Tangent(ial) Note

The Other 2017 Recommendations post mostly covers this, but I wanted to update it here because I did a late review of Weirdbook #37. That brings the total up to twenty-two reviews for Tangent, thirteen of which weren’t of webzines. The total non-webzine stories read for Tangent is 95 (bringing the overall total to 604 stories). I don’t know the word count but using the average word count of webzine stories (4,198, which is low because printzines, anthologies, and especially chapbook novellas generally have greater average word counts) it’s at least another 400K (bringing the total to over 2.5 million words).

One thing that can be derived from this is that, if fifteen professional webzines and a few Tangent reviews amount to that, and there are dozens of other webzines and dozens or hundreds of other Tangent reviews (and even all that wouldn’t grab every single story), I think it’s safe to say the speculative short fiction market is very healthy – maybe too healthy. And, as there were a handful of significant zines of broad appeal in the 60s-90s along with a few dominant broadcast channels that reached almost everyone, now there’s a cable-ization of short speculative fiction with dozens of markets being read by perhaps niche readerships. This has its good and bad effects but it certainly makes for interesting times and many millions of words a year to read.

Tangent’s 2017 Recommended List Is Up

Twenty-two reviewers combine forces to bring you a massive list of great reading.

Congrats again to the authors, editors (including Tangent‘s own, Dave Truesdale), reviewers, readers, and all those who make it possible. I hope folks check it out and enjoy it.

Tangent Online 2017 Recommended Reading List


(I apologize to everyone as I was somewhat random with my zero-to-one stars and thought I’d fix it eventually but, by the time I’d got my re-reading done and made my “Web’s Best” selections, it was too late. Suffice to say, at least those stories in the “Web’s Bests” should have at least a star. (And, as always, zero or one stars from me might as well be read as two or three stars.))

Summation of Online Fiction: December 2017

Thinking about this month’s noted stories, I’m reminded of the rational Isaac Asimov’s comments on how numerology “works” because you can find patterns in anything. In this 12th month (1+2=3), threes and twos (and thus ones) are a recurring motif. This month, I recommend three SF stories (two of which come from Compelling – though the one from Nature really can’t be missed) and three fantasy stories (two of which come from Grievous Angel) and honorably mention three fantasy stories (two of which come from Uncanny). Which is, again, three sets: two of recommendations and just one of honorable mentions. Meaningless, but I’ll admit it is a weird coincidence. These nine tales were chosen, not from 32 stories of 123K words, but from forty December webzine stories of 162K words.

As this year ends, before getting to the list I’ll mention (as I’ve mentioned earlier) that 2018 will bring changes to Featured Futures, which include broader coverage and a different review method. Change has actually already begun, since I’ve reviewed the January/February F&SF (a print zine) and that and all December reviews were an experiment in full Tangent-style reviews for everything. However, as I suspected I would,  I’ve decided to move to a happy medium between the original bare “recs” method and the December method. I’ll feel my way towards the precise details over time.

Continuing the theme, a change to note in the webzine world is that Compelling is unfortunately moving from bi-monthly to semi-annual with this month’s issue (but for good reasons rather than bad: the editor and his wife are having a baby).

Now, on with the list.


Science Fiction

  • Fifteen Minutes” by Alex Shvartsman, Nature, December 13, 2017, short story
  • Museum Piece” by J. D. Popham, Compelling #10, Winter 2017, short story
  • Redo” by Larry Hodges, Compelling #10, Winter 2017, short story


Note: “The Wind’s Departure” is a conditional recommendation, as I say in the relevant Wrap-Up, because it’s part of a series and, in my opinion, doesn’t entirely stand on its own. I do recommend this if you’ve already read some of the series but don’t recommend starting here.

Also, both of the Grievous Angel stories’ links go to the same post so just pick’n’click the title you like best or something. 😉

Honorable Mentions:


Reviews of the Above:

(Since I’ve done complete reviews this month, there’s no need to discuss honorable mentions here as I’ve done before, or to link to the recommendations individually, so there are just links to the reviews which discuss the good stuff.)