By James Wallace Harris, Sunday, July 31, 2016
Ever since The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949, edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty, there have been annual collections of the best short science fiction. For many decades now, there have been two or three. For some reason, in 2016 we have at least six big anthologies looking back at the short work of the previous year. There will be at least one more, because the Nebula Showcase that covers 2015 stories hasn’t come out yet.
Links below are to Amazon, where you can buy, preview the table of contents, and maybe read the introductions in the Look Inside feature. I’ve already bought one ebook and one audio edition to read or listen on my iPhone. I might buy another in print. I’d buy them all if they were available on audio.
- The Best Science Fiction of the Year (v1), edited by Neil Clarke
- The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (v10), edit by Jonathan Strahan
- The Year’s Best Science Fiction (v33), edited by Gardner Dozois
- The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 (v8), edited by Rich Horton
- The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2016 (v2), edited by Paula Guran
- The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 (v2), edited by Fowler/Adams (October 2016)
I’m the most excited about the Neil Clarke collection, because it’s also available on audio at Audible.com. I’ve been wishing for years that the Dozois, Strahan or Horton volumes would show up at Audible. Allan Kaster has been my only source of annual best short science fiction on audio, via his series The Year’s Top-Ten Tales of Science fiction (v1-7) and The Year’s Top Short SF Novels (v1-5), Kaster’s collections were never as giant as the Dozois or Strahen volumes. I wonder if Kaster has stopped his series, because his collections only cover through 2014 stories. I hope not.
Does this wealth of anthologized short science fiction represent increased interest in reading short science fiction? For decades the print magazines have struggled to survive with dwindling subscribers. Decades ago some SF magazines had over 100,000 subscribers. Now the major print magazines have only 7,500-20,000 paying readers and that’s declining. Has the internet changed the way we read?
Is the internet increasing readership of short SF? I love being able to read on my phone whenever I have a free moment, or listen to a short story while I walk or do dishes, or even have Alexa on my Amazon Echo play a story for me in the middle of night when I can’t sleep.
These stories are being collected from a much more diverse collection of sources. We’re moving away from print to digital. Here are some of the periodicals that publish science fiction short stories. Some magazines still print their issues, but my guess is buying and reading short stories on paper is going the way of the land line.
- Abyss & Apex
- Andromeda Spaceways
- Apex Magazine
- Asimov’s Science Fiction
- Fantasy & Science Fiction
- Galaxy’s Edge
- InterGalactic Medicine Show
- Lightspeed Science Fiction & Fantasy
- On Spec
- Strange Horizons
Many of these year’s best stories came from original anthologies.
- The End Has Come edited by John Joseph Adams
- Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft
- The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk edited by Sean Wallace
- Meeting Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan
- Mission Tomorrow edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
- Old Venus edited by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
- Stories for Chip edited by Nisi Shawl & Bill Campbell
- Twelve Tomorrows edited by MIT Technology Review
I wish I had the time and patience to put all these short stories into a database and see which ones were most reprinted. For example, I noticed that “Capitalism in the 22nd Century or A.I.r.” by Geoff Ryman, is in the Clarke, Dozois and Strahan volumes.
It would also be wonderful if I could read all these stories and grok the nature of current science fiction. That probably won’t happen. Even though I’m retired, and have all my time free, I never have enough time for all the projects I want to pursue. But it sure would be fun to gorge myself on 2015 science fiction, then gorge myself on 1950s science fiction short stories, and after all that mass-consumption of short stories, write a comparison of how science fiction has evolved and changed.
I can’t imagine how these editors read so much. I wish Dozois would write a book about editing science fiction. And he could write a wonderful history of the evolution of the science fiction short story.