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

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