Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, BASFF, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, Shearman/Kelly, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals are announced, they will be combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.
(There will often be information after the story’s place of publication. In the case of stories with multiple selections, the initials of the last names of the editors or editing team who selected it will be present. If a story has “Read,” “HM,” “Rec,” or “YB” after it, it indicates that I’ve read it and, if so, whether it got an honorable mention or a recommendation when I reviewed it, or was a recommendation which made my virtual Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy #2 (2018 Stories). Stories in the last three categories are in bold font.)
You may also be interested in the previous posts in this series which cover 2017 stories and 2016 stories.
This 2018 edition is in remembrance of Gardner Dozois.
Latest change (see Changelog/Credits below for details): 2018-12-29.
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume Thirteen, Strahan, ed.
- “Dreadful Young Ladies”, Kelly Barnhill (Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories)
- “Okay, Glory”, Elizabeth Bear (Twelve Tomorrows)
- The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
- “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again”, Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog)
- “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, P. Djeli Clark (Fireside)
- “Flint and Mirror”, John Crowley (The Book of Magic)
- “An Agent of Utopia”, Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
- “The Bookcase Expedition”, Jeffrey Ford (Robots vs. Fairies)
- “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth”, Daryl Gregory (Tor.com) [YB]
- “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, Alix E. Harrow (Apex) [YB]
- “You Pretend Like You Never Met Me, and I’ll Pretend Like I Never Met You”, Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed) [HM]
- “When We Were Starless”, Simone Heller (Clarkesworld) [read]
- “The Woman Who Destroyed Us”, S. L. Huang (Twelve Tomorrows)
- “Golgotha “, Dave Hutchinson (2001: An Odyssey in Words)
- “The Storyteller’s Replacement”, N. K. Jemisin (How Long Till Black Future Month?)
- “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny) [read]
- “Field Biology of the Wee Fairies”, Naomi Kritzer (Apex) [read]
- “Meat and Salt and Sparks”, Rich Larson (Tor.com) [read]
- “Firelight”, Ursula K. Le Guin (The Paris Review)
- “The Starship and the Temple Cat”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) [HM]
- “Quality Time”, Ken Liu (Robots vs. Fairies)
- “A Brief and Fearful Star”, Carmen Maria Machado (Slate) [read]
- “The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto”, Annalee Newitz (Robots vs. Fairies)
- “The Staff in the Stone”, Garth Nix (The Book of Magic)
- “Blessings”, Naomi Novik (Uncanny) [read]
- “Mother Tongues”, S. Qiouyi Lu (Asimov’s) [read]
- “Intervention”, Kelly Robson (Infinity’s End)
- “Widdam”, Vandana Singh (F&SF) [read]
- “Yard Dog”, Tade Thompson (Fiyah)
- “Olivia’s Table”, Alyssa Wong (A Thousand Beginnings and Endings)
- 2018-12-16: First version of this year’s collation posted after Jonathan Strahan announced the contents of The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume 13 the day before.
- 2018-12-18: Removed the “Firelight” link which went to a teaser instead of the complete story. (Sorry about that.) Thanks to Roger Silverstein for pointing it out.
- 2018-12-29: Added “Mother Tongues” link. Thanks to Laura.
- “The Ten Things She Said While Dying: An Annotation” by Adam-Troy Castro (horror short story)
- “The Island of Beasts” by Carrie Vaughn (fantasy short story)
“Ten Things” is yet another “listory” from “Nightspeed.” In this, a scientist seeking to open a portal for interstellar travel has instead opened a portal in his chest for a Lovecraftian monster-god to burst through—a monster god which makes Alien chestbursters look like fluffy bunnies. His assistant is mortally wounded in her boss’ explosion and she faces a fate worse than a fate worse than death, conditional on the monster’s explication and evaluation of her ten dying utterances, one by one. While this actually has entertaining aspects, the main problem is that the monster is a little too complacently self-satisfied, forgetting that the reader will be judging it as it judges her, and the structure leads to a stilted, essentially static, pace and distanced events.
A female werewolf refuses to accept her supposed place in the world, so is exiled to “The Island of Beasts.” There, she seems to find herself in a situation just like the one she left, except with fewer choices and less room to roam, but still she persists. Werewolves or not, this isn’t even “dark fantasy,” much less horror, but is readable despite having little plot and less climax.
- “Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung” by Usman Malik (horror novelette)
This is an unusual issue of Nightmare in that it has only a single original story (a fairly long novelette) instead of two (usually both short stories unless one is a very short novelette). In the snaky “Dead Lovers,” a Pakistani heroin addict makes his statement to a cop. He describes how he was saved from an overdose by a man who was looking for his lost wife, whom he’d bought when she was a child. With the two men’s lives now entwined, they head off to a sort of mystic religious music concert near a shrine where the husband thinks she may have gone in search of the “Cobra Stone” which fascinates her. When they arrive, the tone and nature of the story becomes much darker and graphically violent and those are only the first steps in the escalation.
The characters are interesting (and become more so in different ways) and the narrative voice, itself, works but the awkward strategy of making this be a person’s long-winded statement to a cop doesn’t help, shown most vividly when the story breaks from first-person narrative to introduce into evidence a key letter written by the missing woman. (On the other hand, one superb element of this story is that you are definitely in Pakistan and there are many unusual or outright unfamiliar words and concepts but it’s lightly done and never obstructive or isolating but invites you in with a strong sense of place and culture.)
The story does a fairly good job of somehow maintaining some interest but over 8000 of the 12000 words are prologue and mainstream prologue at that. When we finally arrive at the climactic section, the narrator’s frozen horror is initially unconvincing. Sure, we’re in an underground cavern a snake has just come out of and some creepy guy is singing weird stuff to the weird friend but either there’s not enough there or it’s not written so that it seems like enough. Then it goes from not enough to too much, jumping straight to a gross-out with a graphic description of viscerally repulsive stuff. The next phase (no spoilers) is actually well done but calls into question whether this is even fantasy at all.
Finally, this seems rich with thematic material and symbolic imagery and could tie together moths and flames, fireflies and snakes, humans and transcendence, along with the obvious intrinsic connections of heroin needles to viper fangs but instead is overly explicit about arbitrary “white queen” stuff instead. It was ultimately interesting but extremely mixed for me, though readers’ reactions will probably run the gamut.
- “The Inheritance” by Joanna Parypinski (horror short story)
- “A Mother’s Love Never Ends” by Halli Villegas (dark fantasy short story)
This issue of Nightmare introduces us to Madeline and Miriam and, while only Miriam observes that a town looks “frozen sometime in the 1950s.” both stories have a little of that in them.
When a disturbing stranger appears on her doorstep talking about an impossible “Inheritance,” unhappy Madeline must decide whether to let him in. The tension of the meeting is done well enough and the nature of the “inheritance” is clever enough, but the woman is characterized too much to be Everyone yet too little and too negatively for much sympathy and the story is slight. In “Mother’s Love,” Miriam is riding the bus with her mother’s ashes and, while on the bus and at the various stops, experiences a surreal swirl of past and present and Never as intimations about her broken home and the games parents play arise and we learn about their effects. While overly disorienting on one hand, it was effectively creepy on the other, with an ending which may resonate for some.
- “House of Small Spiders” by Weston Ochse (novelette)
- “True Crime” by M. Rickert (short story)
“True Crime” is a single, 971-word, non-speculative block of short sentences babbling about how a Women is killed by a Men.
Much more interesting (and therefore, ultimately, disappointing) is “House of Small Spiders.” Susan’s cutting herself in her closet as the story opens and we find out its related to the fact that her mother’s recently stabbed herself to death on top of the washing machine. We later find out that that odd detail is connected to more tragedy. Meanwhile, dad vividly attacks a couple of religious proselytizers and we learn about blood, ideas, and houses with souls and spiders. The bursts of horrific violence were quite effective and there are some nice observations and ambiguities or paradoxes but the villain ultimately comes off as clownish with incongruously pedestrian motives, the “morality” of the “heroine” is hard to take, and the resolution is far too talky.
(There’s another, arguably smaller, problem with the end which is hard to articulate without spoilers. And, while I’m at it, Craftsman was a Sears brand which is now sold at Lowe’s via Stanley Black & Decker, not Home Depot (as far as I know), “condemning them that it is their fault” isn’t good English, and the extra word after the final sentence in my copy isn’t good proof-reading.)
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.
- “Carnival Nine”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
- “Death on Mars“, Madeline Ashby (Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities)*
- “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue”, Charlie Jane Anders (Boston Review)
- “An Evening with Severyn Grimes”, Rich Larson (Asimov’s Science Fiction)*
- “Extracurricular Activities”, Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com)
- “The Hermit of Houston”, Samuel R. Delany (F&SF)
- “The Lamentation of their Women”, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com)
- “The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon“, Finbarr O’Reilly (Clarkesworld)
- “The Martian Obelisk”, Linda Nagata (Tor.com)*
- “The Moon is Not a Battlefield”, Indrapramit Das (Infinity Wars)
- “My English Name”, R. S. Benedict (F&SF)
- “Red Bark and Ambergris“, Kate Marshall (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
- “The Secret Life of Bots”, Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld)
- “A Series of Steaks”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld)*
- “Sidewalks”, Maureen McHugh (Omni)
- “Skins Smooth as Plantain, Hearts Soft as Mango“, Ian Muneshwar (The Dark)
- “Starlight Express”, Michael Swanwick (F&SF)*
- “The Tale of the Alcubierre Horse”, Kathleen Ann Goonan (Extrasolar)
- “Though She Be But Little”, C.S.E. Cooney (Uncanny)*
- “Uncanny Valley“, Greg Egan (Tor.com)*
- “We Who Live in the Heart“, Kelly Robson (Clarkesworld)
- “Winter Timeshare”, Ray Nayler (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
- “The Worldless“, Indrapramit Das (Lightspeed)
- “You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych“, Kathleen Kayembe (Nightmare)*
- “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”, Tobias Buckell (Cosmic Powers)*
- “ZeroS”, Peter Watts (Infinity Wars)*
If you’re not picky about genre, this issue of Black Static is a good one. A third of it is non-fantastic horror dealing with insanity. Oddly, the fantastic stories, while generally very readable, aren’t as good except for the last (fourth overall), which is superb and the best of the issue.
Full review at Tangent: Black Static #64, July/August 2018.
- “The Blockage” by Jack Westlake (non-speculative horror short story)
- “The Monstrosity in Love” by Sam Thompson (dark fantasy short story)
- “Why We Don’t Go Back” by Simon Avery (non-speculative horror novelette)