Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Four: Introduction

Jonathan Strahan's introduction to The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Four, is brief, unlike the thorough year in review that Gardner Dozois provides in his annual year's best science fiction anthology. He notes the current trends in science fiction toward zombie stories and what he calls the "retro-futurism" of steampunk. Strahan sees a more significant trend in how we consume books, with a surge in popularity for electronic book readers such as the Kindle and the nook. Since he is writing in 2009 about 2009, and can be forgiven for not seeing the future, he cannot mention the big debut for the Apple iPad, which has, for now, stolen the thunder from the other electronic readers.

In the publishing world the year was one of new efficiencies, cutbacks, and hard economic choices, especially in the short fiction markets. Print magazines were published in new formats or reduced to bimonthly schedules. Realms of Fantasy ceased publication and was later revived by another publisher. Online, the changes came even more quickly, with sites closing or cutting back, and newer sites ( and Clarkesworld Magazine) quickly establishing themselves as sources of excellent short fiction. 

Strahan mentions the most interesting anthologies of 2009, including The New Space Opera 2 edited by Dozois and Strahan, Eclipse 3 edited by Strahan, Other Earths edited by Nick Gevers and Jay Lake, The Solaris Book of Science Fiction, Volume 3, edited by George Mann, and Firebirds Soaring edited by Sharyn November.

The best single-author short story collections of 2009 he lists as Ian McDonald's Cyberabad Days, Greg Egan's Oceanic, Gwyneth Jones's Grazing the Long Acre, Charles Stross's Wireless, and Peter S. Beagle's We Never Talk About My Brother. He also cites excellent career retrospective collections: The Best of Gene Wolfe, The Best of Michael Moorcock, Trips by Robert Silverberg, the first two volumes of The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, and the staggering six-volume Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny.

Strahan ends his introduction with a tribute to Charles N. Brown, the co-founder of publisher Locus, who died in 2009. "He was, I think, science fiction's best and truest advocate. His passion for the field was deep, profound, and perspicacious. He influence me greatly but he influenced the field he loved far more." Clearly, Brown was an important figure in the field for the past 40 years or more, and Locus is the best evidence, but I think many stories have not been told about his career advice to writers and his work on unpublished manuscripts. Someday I hope those stories will be told as well.

Related post: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Four, table of contents

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Four

I'll be writing briefly about each story in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Four, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books, 2010). Items on the table of contents below will be updated with links to each review as it is posted.

  • Introduction -- Jonathan Strahan
  • It Takes Two -- Nicola Griffith
  • Three Twilight Tales -- Jo Walton
  • The Night Cache -- Andy Duncan
  • The Island -- Peter Watts
  • Ferryman -- Margo Lanagan
  • "A Wild and Wicked Youth" -- Ellen Kushner
  • The Pelican Bar -- Karen Joy Fowler
  • Spar -- Kij Johnson
  • Going Deep -- James Patrick Kelly
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown -- Holly Black
  • Zeppelin City -- Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn
  • Dragon's Teeth -- Alex Irvine
  • This Wind Blowing, and This Tide -- Damien Broderick
  • By Moonlight -- Peter S. Beagle
  • Black Swan -- Bruce Sterling
  • As Women Fight -- Sara Genge
  • The Cinderella Game -- Kelly Link
  • Formidable Caress -- Stephen Baxter
  • Blocked -- Geoff Ryman
  • Truth and Bone -- Pat Cadigan
  • Eros, Philia, Agape -- Rachel Swirsky
  • The Motorman's Coat -- John Kessel
  • Mongoose -- Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
  • Echoes of Aurora -- Ellen Klages
  • Before My Last Breath -- Robert Reed
  • JoBoy -- Diana Wynne Jones
  • Utriusque Cosmi -- Robert Charles Wilson
  • A Delicate Architecture -- Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles -- Kij Johnson

Friday, May 28, 2010

Back from the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico
I have just returned home to California after a wonderful week of vacation in New Mexico, aka the Land of Enchantment. I'll post more pictures as time permits. Click the photo above for a larger view.

Recently read
I have read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor Books, 2009) and The Sorcerer's House by Gene Wolfe (Tor Books, 2010) and I will have something to say about each book soon. Boneshaker is a Hugo finalist (voting deadline is 31 July 2010), it is on the Locus Awards short list, and it was a Nebula Award finalist (won earlier this month by The Windup Girl).

Currently reading
I am reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2010), the author's first novel, and The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4 edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books, 2010), which I may review on a story-by-story basis as I did for Year's Best SF 14.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Of Nebulas and Cities

Nebula Awards announced May 15
Novel: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books, Sept. 2009)
Novella: The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, June 2009)
Novelette: “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster (Interzone, Feb. 2009)
Short Story: “Spar” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct. 2009)
Ray Bradbury Award: District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug. 2009)
Andre Norton Award: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, June 2009)

I’m pleased that Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl won. For the SF Strangelove review follow here. I’ve read half the nominated novels so far and this would have been my choice. The remaining winners seem pretty strong, at least those that I have read. The one clear disappointment here is that District 9 beat Moon for the screenwriting award. District 9 had some good ideas, then when it should have taken those concepts to the next level it devolved into a trite action movie. Moon continued to explore its ideas for the length of the film and was much more satisfying. SF Strangelove reviews of District 9 and Moon.

Notes from Coode Street Podcasts
I have been enjoying the first few Notes from Coode Street Podcasts from Jonathan Strahan. These are much like listening to a really good discussion panel at a science fiction convention. The two conversations, so far, with Gary K. Wolfe are wonderful, covering topics such as what it’s like to work for Locus and how decisions are made about which books to review, canon formation, the work of Joanna Russ, what books they are excited about reading at the moment, and what books they are looking forward to in the near future. The latest podcast features a conversation with Graham Sleight that is quite good, where they discuss Joanna Russ’ short fiction and the Gollancz Masterworks reprint series. These are bright, articulate people talking about what is best in science fiction. (Get the podcast direct from Notes from Coode Street or syndicated through iTunes.)

Would Borges have been a fan of Wikipedia?
A short item at the Los Angeles Times blog quotes Jorge Luis Borges in 1977 pondering a vast, all-encompassing encyclopedia where everything is linked. (LA Times article.)

John Clute turns his attention to Michal Ajvaz
Astute SF critic John Clute writes about two Michal Ajvaz novels, The Other City and The Golden Age, drawing lines of comparison to H.P. Lovecraft and China Miéville. (SF Strangelove review of Ajvaz's The Other City.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lost in the Writers’ Room

The television show Lost has -- through the course of several seasons -- gone from promising, to mangled and confusing, to just plain ridiculous. Sometime around the end of the first season I started calling the show “Lost in the Writers’ Room.” If the show’s writers ever drew a map of the story at the outset -- based on the evidence I doubt there was any such advanced planning -- I picture that map up on the wall in the writers’ room, and the writers are blindfolded and given pins, as if in playing out a demented game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Each week, whatever plot points the writers stick pins into is what they have to write about for the next episode in this misshapen donkey of a tale.

The Gashlycrumb Losties
Many will know Edward Gorey, especially his not-at-all-for-kids send-up of a children’s alphabet book, Gashlycrumb Tinies: "A is for Amy who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil assaulted by bears. C is for Clara who wasted away. D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh." Every line accompanied by a macabre, Victorian-era illustration of each child’s mishap. (Gashlycrumb Tinies at Amazon.)

Jason Henninger at brings us a wonderful crossover, The Gashlycrumb Losties: “A is for Arzt who was blown up sky high, B is for Boone who bled out through his thigh, C is for Charlie, courageously drowned, D is for Danielle, left dead on the ground …” It finds humor in the outrageous body-count of the show, and its stunning disregard for story continuity (“Q is for Questions left dead in the plot”). Read the whole poem at

Oh, by the way, I can’t wait to watch the upcoming final episode. My expectation is that it will be embarrassingly, hilariously bad.

Related post: Lost: A Look Back

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Link, a Dink, and a Nod

Philip K. Dick's Exegesis
According to The New York Times, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish a two-volume "consolidated" Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, edited by Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson. Volume one is due 2011, followed by volume two in 2012.

“The title he gave it, ‘Exegesis,’ alludes to the fact that what it really was, was a personal laboratory for philosophical inquiry,” Lethem said. “It’s not even a single manuscript, in a sense – it’s an amassing or a compilation of late-night all-night sessions of him taking on the universe, mano-a-mano, with the tools of the English language and his own paranoiac investigations.” (The New York Times article.)

The City & The City by China Miéville wins Clarke Award
The Arthur C. Clarke Award winner was announced: The City & The City by China Miéville. A respectable result and an interesting book, although here at the Strangelove for Science Fiction blog we likely would have voted for one of the other finalists: Gwyneth Jones’ Spirit,  Kim Stanley Robinson’s Galileo’s Dream, Adam Roberts’ Yellow Blue Tibia, Chris Wooding’s Retribution Falls, or Marcel Theroux’s Far North. We will have to duck the question of which one we would have picked, since we are still reading the finalists. Follow here for the SF Strangelove review of The City & The City. Torque Control has an interesting analysis of the finalists and a report and context regarding the winner.

Adam Roberts goes 'round and 'round with The Wheel of Time
Reading the multi-volume and popular and as yet unfinished Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan can be described as an epic undertaking. Adam Roberts has bravely shouldered the task. So far, he has reported, in witty detail, on volumes one, two, three, four, five, six and seven.