Over at SF Signal they held a Mind Meld asking sixteen of their favorite SF fans and writers to assemble their own anthologies of personally favorite science fiction short stories. This produced several hundred short stories with annotations and commentaries to think about reading. Strangely, there is damn little overlap. Just from eyeballing the list without using any kind of tallies, “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny got the most recommendations, with three. I think the participants consciously tried to avoid the obvious classics.
Science fiction is at its purist in the shorter lengths of fiction where ideas dominate. Reading any good science fiction anthology should showcase the true potential of science fiction, and any recent anthology of the best SF will show the furthest edge of the speculative universe.
Robert Sabella did pick my all-time favorite SF novella, “The Star Pit” by Samuel R. Delany, and he picked several other of my favorite stories so I need to check out his unfamiliar selections. Tinkoo Valia, whose web site Variety SF is devoted to short SF produced a rather novel list that shows he reads far and wide. Jason Sanford made a nice selection of Then and Now stories, and since I remember fondly many of his Then stories, I figure I better go after his Now stories. Before seeing his list this morning, I read his number 19 choice last night, “Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky, a rather tender story about a woman and child in love with a robot.
Since Nancy Jane Moore picked “Empire Star” another all-time favorite that I reread regularly, I’ll need to track down the stories on her list too. And I’d definitely have to check out Rick Klaw’s quirky anthology of ape stories – his list comes with a nice enticing historical introduction.
The trouble will be finding all of these great stories. Lucky for us many are reprinted on the Internet just waiting for readers, like “The Man Who Lost the Sea” by Theodore Sturgeon. Other stories like “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” by Samuel R. Delany require a visit to ISFDB to find which books have reprinted the story over the years. Of course you can jump over to Free Speculative Fiction Online and check there. Quite often its possible to put the title and author in Google and if you’re lucky, the actual story will be in the top search returns.
But what I really wish for is a totally different way to find these stories. What if science fiction writers could load their stories into a database at Amazon.com, and Amazon allow their customers to build their own Kindle anthologies at bargain rates – maybe 24 stories for $9.99 (the latest Dozois The Years’s Best Science Fiction has 32 stories for that price).
Readers could build their own anthologies to order, or the contributors of the Mind Meld could have assembled their lists with links to Amazon with their collections pre-assembled for purchase. Amazon could also keep tabs on the most popular stories to help Kindle users easily build new collections, and maybe even offer a voting system. And it would be fantastic if Amazon offered Kindle editions of all the classic past SF anthologies, like Adventures of Time and Space, or Before the Golden Age, or reprint all the Judith Merrill, Donald Wollheim, Terry Carr past annual best of anthologies.
This would be a good time to also recommend to Amazon that they redesign the Kindle with folders, so I could have a Science Fiction Short Story folder, and within it have something like playlists, or virtual folders so I could organize my short story collection by publication year, author and theme.
JWH – 10/19/10