Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Year’s Best SF 14: Summation

Those who’ve followed this blog know that I’ve been discussing the anthology Year’s Best SF 14, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, posting about every story as I read it. Now, it’s time to look back:

The cream of the crop were:
“Pump Six” by Paolo Bacigalupi (SF Strangelove’s mini-review).
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (SF Strangelove’s mini-review).
“The Scarecrow’s Boy” by Michael Swanwick (SF Strangelove’s mini-review).

The next-best tier of stories were:
“Memory Dog” by Kathleen Ann Goonan (SF Strangelove’s mini-review).
“Oblivion: A Journey” by Vandana Singh (SF Strangelove’s mini-review).
“Fixing Hanover” by Jeff VanderMeer (SF Strangelove’s mini-review).

The remaining stories had their impact reduced due to flaws or overly familiar treatments. See links to the discussion of each story below.

As the editors made clear in their introduction, Year’s Best SF 14 is not just a compilation of the best stories of the year (2008) in the genre, it is also a survey of different kinds of science fiction. To give some sense of the range of stories, here are a few general categories:

Near future: “Orange,” “The House Left Empty,” “Glass,” “Cheats,” “Mitigation.”
Far future: “Oblivion: A Journey,” “Fury.”

On Earth: “The Egg Man,” “Mitigation,” “Pump Six”
Off Earth: “Arkfall,” “Boojum,” “Spiders”

Utopian: “Fury”
Dystopian: “The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away”

There are a variety of modes -- humor: “Message Found in a Gravity Wave,” planetary romance: “Arkfall,” thriller: “Mitigation,” revenge: “Oblivion: A Journey,” feverishly emotional: “Memory Dog,” and coolly intellectual: “Exhalation.”

Several scientific fields are invoked -- neuroscience: “Glass” and “Memory Dog,” astrophysics: “Message Found in a Gravity Wave,” biology and botany: “Spiders” and “Arkfall,” and computer science: “The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away” and “Cheats.”

Eight of the 21 stories are by women authors. There are nine women authors, since two share the byline for “Boojum.”

Two stories reference cultures outside of the usual Western Culture -- Hindu: “Oblivion: A Journey,” and Japanese: “Arkfall.”

One weakness I feel it is important to point out: There is little here to represent fiction from international sources. I would like to see more.

Here again is the Year’s Best SF 14 table of contents with links to each SF Strangelove mini-review:

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