Awhile ago, I went to the library book sale. This year’s selection of speculative fiction was not as good as last year’s and, again, I ended up getting proportionally more fantasy and horror than I’d ideally aim for (though it is hard to find science fiction I do want and don’t have—in several cases, in both SF/F/H and other categories, I got replacement copies rather than outright new books). The lack of SF did allow me to devote a little more time to looking through some other subjects. On a general note, there was a good crowd which put a few drops into the county’s bucket.
- “Ally” by Nalo Hopkinson (fantasy short story)
- “Bride Before You” by Stephanie Malia Morris (horror short story)
In “Ally,” Sally used to be friends with Pete when she was Jack but that change put a strain on their relationship. Nonetheless, she’s at the funeral of Pete’s husband, Iqbal, and Pete wants to go for a drink afterward. He then tells her the true story of his upbringing as a foster-child by an initially evil woman and the initially abusive relationship he and Iqbal had. Then a breakthrough both occurred and occurs.
You might think this is Pete’s story but it’s not: it’s all about Sally, with Pete’s trauma being a vehicle for Sally’s all-important validation. That’s really all that needs to be said but, for a couple of minor points, I don’t know why it was necessary to dump a dozen names on us in an early paragraph when this story has only two characters (or one) and I also don’t see how the fantasy element of this is dark, much less horrific (except in the very background regarding the evil foster-mother and only from her point of view).
“Bride Before You,” on the other hand, is very much horror and much more effectively about its narrator. Before the story opens, an upper-class black woman had gone to the conjure woman to find out how to become magically pregnant as part of a plan to get herself out of the “South” of Washington and back to New York but had gotten carried away and produced two children: a beautiful boy and his elder sister… a black spider. Her plan misfired in terms of moving, as well. The narrator spider, who can only creep about in the dark as an outcast, believes in the class-tradition of the eldest marrying first, so takes a dim view of the brother’s fiancees.
This can probably be read in a lot of ways and it’s obviously some extreme sibling rivalry but I can’t help but also think of a rich and poor divide that says, “Don’t ignore me or leave me behind or think you’re better.” The narrator’s speech rings almost perfectly right in the abstract but it could be seen as a problem that a spider that grew up in such a high-falutin’ house would have it unless it has symbolic/thematic purposes. A more serious problem is that the ending seems a little shaky, not in content but in narrative approach, after having such a focused point of view and strong voice. Speaking of that personality, it may just be me because I have a sometimes strange sense of humor but, while this was a very dark and horrific story, a couple of moments seemed almost funny in a demented way. Despite some questions or quibbles, this was a stimulating and fascinating story.
- “Early Morning Service” by Irette Y. Patterson, Strange Horizons, February 19, 2018 (fantasy short story)
- “A Rossum’s Best Friend” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Nature, February 21, 2018 (science fiction short story)
- “Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice” by Emily B. Cataneo, Nightmare #65, February , 2018 (dark fantasy short story)
- “You Know How the Story Goes” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Tor.com, February 21, 2018 (horror short story)
- “Five Tangibles and One” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires, Terraform, February 23, 2018 (science fiction short story)
This week I’m covering two robot stories, two horror stories, and a fantasy.
“Rossum” is a short-short which, rather than being about a girl and her robot, is about a robot and its girl. The robots think having a biological sort of playmate is good for a growing robot but they think the budding poet has imprinted a bit too thoroughly. One of several stories that addresses the nice idea of robot learning and maturation but this example was underwhelming. “Tangibles” (2K) should maybe have been called “Botnip” and shows many signs of ESL and a lack of editing but is about a couple trying not to fall out of love, using a robot companion to spice things up (or something) but, when it doesn’t really work and they try adding a second robot who turns out to be a kudzu junkie, the story shifts to the robots’ intangibles. Also underwhelming.
“Steps” is about an ugly girl going to a witch to become pretty enough to snare a nobleman and make herself special but she learns other things from the witch. I doubt anyone will be surprised. The longest story of the week, “Story” (7K) is also the most frustrating. It’s too conscious of its own mechanics and has too many unnecessary parts to work cleanly. It’s too prosaic, yet bizarre, so the logical centers are engaged and it makes the brain puzzled more than scared. Most importantly, the protagonist, with his “deets” and his not wanting “to come across as out-and-out superficial” is a simple, brightly colored cartoon. All this serves as a complete antidote to what are a lot of genuinely dark and creepy elements, images, and ideas in a tale of a hitchhiker being picked up by a dead woman with an affinity for telling bizarre stories of rot and death before crashing cars. Readers who aren’t bothered by the things that bothered me may find this an effective spooky tale.
(“Story” is internally self-conscious of its “storyness” by talking about it itself. “Tangibles” is externally self-conscious by being done by the numbers. “Steps” is both.)
Finally, while not especially noteworthy beyond being more surely and effectively executed than the rest of this week’s tales, “Service” is a good story of a magic church lady whose powers are on the wane and a dapper man who enjoys this, with both being more than they seem. The “charging of spiritual powers” isn’t new, but this is an interesting version.
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 will add at least Afsharirad, Best American SF&F, Datlow, and Guran. (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.)
This post will be updated as more editors make their announcements and will continue to be updated if I find links to more stories or wonderful people tell me about them. (See the end of the post for the full ChangeLog/Credits.)
Latest changes: 2018-05-20: Added Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume Five. Thanks to File 770 for the titles; 2018-05-22: Added source for the Pereira story. Thanks to Roger Silverstein.
Four Annuals: Clarke, Dozois, Horton, Strahan
- “The Martian Obelisk”, Linda Nagata (Tor.com) [Web’s Best Science Fiction]
Three Annuals: Clarke, Dozois, Strahan
- “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”, Tobias Buckell (Cosmic Powers) [honorable mention late]
- “An Evening with Severyn Grimes”, Rich Larson (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [recommended late]
- “A Series of Steaks”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld) [Web’s Best Science Fiction]
Three Annuals: Clarke, Horton, Strahan
- “The Secret Life of Bots”, Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld) [read]
Three Annuals: Dozois, Horton, Strahan
- “Sidewalks”, Maureen McHugh (Omni) [read late]
Two Annuals: Clarke, Dozois
- “Death on Mars“, Madeline Ashby (Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities) [recommended late]
- “The Worldless“, Indrapramit Das (Lightspeed) [read]
- “Uncanny Valley“, Greg Egan (Tor.com) [Web’s Best Science Fiction]
- “The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon“, Finbarr O’Reilly (Clarkesworld) [read]
- “We Who Live in the Heart“, Kelly Robson (Clarkesworld) [read]
Two Annuals: Clarke, Horton
- “The Tale of the Alcubierre Horse”, Kathleen Ann Goonan (Extrasolar) [unread]
- “Extracurricular Activities”, Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com) [read]
- “ZeroS”, Peter Watts (Infinity Wars) [recommended]
Two Annuals: Dozois, Horton
- “Winter Timeshare”, Ray Nayler (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [read]
- “Starlight Express”, Michael Swanwick (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [recommended]
Two Annuals: Dozois, Strahan
- “My English Name”, R. S. Benedict (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [unread]
- “The Moon is Not a Battlefield”, Indrapramit Das (Infinity Wars) [read]
Two Annuals: Horton, Strahan
- “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue”, Charlie Jane Anders (Boston Review) [read late]
- “Though She Be But Little”, C.S.E. Cooney (Uncanny) [Web’s Best Fantasy]
- “The Hermit of Houston”, Samuel R. Delany (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [read]
One Annual: The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3, Clarke, ed.
- “Shadows of Eternity”, Gregory Benford (Extrasolar) [unread]
- “In Everlasting Wisdom”, Aliette de Bodard (Infinity Wars) [recommended]
- “Belly Up”, Maggie Clark (Analog) [unread]
- “Every Hour of Light and Dark”, Nancy Kress (Omni) [unread]
- “The Last Novelist, or a Dead Lizard in the Yard”, Matthew Kressel (Tor.com) [recommended]
- “Meridian”, Karin Lowachee (Where the Stars Rise) [unread]
- “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) [unread]
- “Focus”, Gord Sellar (Analog) [unread]
- “Shikasta”, Vandana Singh (Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities) [read late]
- “A Catalogue of Sunlight at the End of the World”, A.C. Wise (Sunvault) [unread]
One Annual: The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten, Datlow, ed. [unread unless otherwise noted]
- “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 (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
- “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: Thirty–Fifth 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) [unread]
- “The Hunger After You’re Fed“, James S.A. Corey (Wired) [read late]
- The Martian Job, Jaine Fenn [unread]
- “Nexus“, Michael F. Flynn (Analog) [unread]
- “The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs”, Kelly Jennings (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [unread]
- “Whending My Way Back Home”, Bill Johnson (Analog) [honorable mention]
- “Canoe”, Nancy Kress (Extrasolar) [unread]
- “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 (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) [unread]
- “Triceratops”, Ian McHugh (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [unread]
- “The Influence Machine”, Sean McMullen (Interzone) [unread]
- Prime Meridian, Silvia Moreno-Garcia [unread]
- “The Proving Ground”, Alec Nevala-Lee (Analog) [read]
- “Number Thirty-Nine Skink“, Suzanne Palmer (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [unread]
- “The Residue of Fire”, Robert Reed (Extrasolar) [unread]
- “Night Passage”, Alastair Reynolds (Infinite Stars) [unread]
- “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) [unread]
- “The Road to the Sea”, Lavie Tidhar (Sunvault) [unread]
- “Zigeuner”, Harry Turtledove (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [unread]
One Annual: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition, Horton, ed.
- “Shoggoths in Traffic“, Tobias S. Buckell (Patreon) [honorable mention late]
- “Marley and Marley”, J. R. Dawson (F&SF) [unread]
- “Ugo“, Giovanni de Feo (Lightspeed) [honorable mention]
- “Persephone of the Crows“, Karen Joy Fowler (Asimov’s) [read late]
- “Rings”, Nina Kiriki Hoffman (F&SF) [unread]
- “Time Travel is Only for the Poor“, S. L. Huang (Analog) [unread]
- “The Fisherman and the Pig“, Kameron Hurley (Patreon) [read]
- “The Sacrifice of the Hanged Monkey“, Minsoo Kang (Fantastic) [honorable mention late]
- “One Hour, Every Seven Years”, Alice Sola Kim (McSweeney’s) [unread]
- “Love Engine Optimization“, Matthew Kressel (Lightspeed) [read]
- “Cupido”, Rich Larson (Asimov’s) [unread]
- “Red Bark and Ambergris“, Kate Marshall (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) [read]
- “This Is for You“, Bruce McAllister (Lightspeed) [Web’s Best Science Fiction]
- “Soulmates.com“, Will McIntosh (Asimov’s) [unread]
- “And Then There Were (N-One)“, Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny) [read]
- “Fandom for Robots“, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny) [recommended]
- “Emergency Protocol”, Lettie Prell (Analog) [unread]
- “Montreal, 2014”, Madeline Ray (Mothership Zeta) [unread]
- “The Significance of Significance“, Robert Reed (Clarkesworld) [honorable mention]
- “Whatever Knight Comes“, Ryan Row (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) [read]
- “An Account of the Land of Witches“, Sofia Samatar (Tender) [unread]
- “Hexagrammaton“, Hanus Seiner (Tor.com) [unread]
- “Utopia LOL?”, Jamie Wahls (Strange Horizons) [honorable mention]
One Annual: Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume Five, Shearman/Kelly, eds. [unread unless otherwise noted]
- “Live Through This” by Nadia Bulkin (Looming Low: Volume I)
- “Flotsam” by Daniel Carpenter (The Shadow Booth)
- “The Narrow Escape of Zipper-Girl” by Adam-Troy Castro (Nightmare) )
- “The Unwish” by Claire Dean (The Unwish)
- “Worship Only What She Bleeds” by Kristi DeMeester (Everything That’s Underneath)
- “The Second Door” by Brian Evenson (Looming Low: Volume I)
- “When Words Change the Molecular Composition of Water” by Jenni Fagan (Somesuch Stories)
- “The Convexity of Our Youth” by Kurt Fawver (Looming Low: Volume I)
- “Corzo” by Brenna Gomez (Prairie Schooner)
- “The Mouse Queen” by Camilla Grudova (The Doll’s Alphabet)
- “You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych” by Kathleen Kayembe (Nightmare) [honorable mention]
- “The Anteater” by Joshua King (The Matador Review)
- “Curb Day” by Rebecca Kuder (Shadows And Tall Trees 7)
- “The Entertainment Arrives” by Alison Littlewood (Darker Companions)
- “The Rock Eater” by Ben Loory (Taste)
- “Eight Bites” by Carmen Maria Machado (Gulf Coast)
- “The Way She Is with Strangers” by Helen Marshall (Dark Cities)
- “The Possession” by Michael Mirolla (The Photographer in Search of Death)
- “Skins Smooth as Plantain, Hearts Soft as Mango” by Ian Muneshwar (The Dark)
- “House of Abjection” by David Peak (Nightscript III)
- “Disappearer” by K. L. Pereira (A Dream Between Two Rivers)
- “Red Hood” by Eric Schaller (Nightmare) [read]
- “Something About Birds” by Paul Tremblay (Black Feathers)
- “Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street” by 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) [unread]
- “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) [unread]
- “Babylon”, Dave Hutchison, 2084 [unread]
- “The Faerie Tree”, Kathleen Kayembe (Lightspeed) [honorable mention]
- “Fairy Tale of Wood Street”, Caitlin R Kiernan (Sirenia Digest) [unread]
- “The Worshipful Society of Glovers”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny) [read]
- “The Chameleon’s Gloves”, Yoon Ha Lee (Cosmic Powers) [unread]
- “The Smoke of Gold is Glory”, Scott Lynch (The Book of Swords) [unread]
- “Concessions”, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Strange Horizons) [read]
- “Belladonna Nights”, Alastair Reynolds (The Weight of Words) [unread]
- “Eminence”, Karl Schroeder (Chasing Shadows) [unread]
- “The Lamentation of their Women”, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com) [read]
- “Confessions of a Con Girl”, Nick Wolven (Asimov’s Science Fiction) [read late]
- “Carnival Nine”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) [read]
- 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: Thirty–Fifth 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.
- 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.
The thirty-seventh issue of Weirdbook is chock full of twenty science fiction, fantasy, horror, and even mainstream tales. While I can’t fully recommend any individually due to various technical problems, many of them (the Rozakis, Glasger, Harewood, Beal, Canfield, Hood, James, Casey, etc.) have at least an idea or image or motif of some kind that has great power. The issue as a whole has some pulpy fun and I wish more technically polished stories in other venues would be more like these in that regard….
Full review at Tangent: Weirdbook #37, November 2017
As they say. I think. I hope…
My public library had its somewhat annual booksale recently. Since it puts all its literature (including poetry!) in General Fiction, its philosophy in General Non-Fiction, and considers books about raising dogs, cats, birds, etc., to be “Science,” I came away a bit deficient in those categories – even more so than usual, for some reason. But I did manage some science. The “Biography & History” is no more granular than its description implies but I did manage some of that and some Reference, too. And there is, at least, an SF/F/H section which is actually SF/F/H. Almost everything I got came from there and, perhaps due to the selection, much more of that was fantasy and horror than usual. I also got some replacements for books I had in poor condition or even gave some books I used to have a second chance, so it wasn’t as cost-effective as it might have been if they’d all been new to me but it was still pretty good.
It was also nice, on a library/social level, to see that the sale was quite busy and that the SF section was among the busiest, even if, on a personal level, it might have resulted in stuff I’d have liked to get disappearing faster.
So: pics, or it didn’t happen! Here are a couple of spine pics followed by five of full frontal bookity.
(Click to embiggen. And sorry about the bad glare and blur and slight truncation – one of these days I may actually learn to use the camera.)
I got all this in two trips but the sum was 104 volumes with 118 titles for $115 (I got overcharged $8 on one trip). Way too many dollars spent (good thing it only happens about once a year) but a pretty good deal at $1.11 a volume/$0.98 a title.
“The Garbage Doll” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, February 2017 Nightmare, horror short story
Okay, this is kind of weird. Horror is not my forte (if I know one thing about horror I probably know three things about fantasy and thirty about SF, though I’ve taken some preliminary steps to try to fix that) and I’m not even sure if I’m recommending this. All I know is that it made me think of David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. with all the stylish sexiness utterly removed. Still, this story – about a woman who seems to be dying in an ambulance and, not only having her life flash before her eyes, but going back to live in it in a weird no-funhouse way – was very intriguing. I’m not even sure if it’s not “dark fantasy” rather than horror but it seems horrific enough to me.
So consider this an “if you’re also intrigued, then it’s a rec; if not, not” sort of thing. Certainly an extra-honorable mention, though.