A Reading List

Jonathan Strahan’s Best SF and Fantasy of the Year, vol 3 (via, annotated for venue of first publication and online availability):

Exhalation – Ted Chiang (Eclipse 2)
Shoggoths in Bloom – Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s, March; online)
Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel – Peter S. Beagle (Strange Roads)
Fixing Hanover – Jeff VanderMeer (Extraordinary Engines)
The Gambler – Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2; online)
The Dust Assassin – Ian McDonald (The Starry Rift)
Virgin – Holly Black (Magic in the Mirrorstone)
Pride and Prometheus – John Kessel (F&SF, Jan; online in this collection)
The Thought War – Paul McAuley (Postscripts 15)
Beyond the Sea Gates of the Scholar Pirates of Sarskoe – Garth Nix (Fast Ships, Black Sails)
The Small Door – Holly Phillips (Fantasy Magazine, July; online)
Turing’s Apples – Stephen Baxter (Eclipse 2)
The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates – Stephen King (F&SF Oct-Nov)
Five Thrillers – Robert Reed (F&SF, April)
The Magician’s House – Meghan McCarron (Strange Horizons, July; online)
Goblin Music – Joan Aiken (The Serial Garden)
Machine Maid – Margo Lanagan (Extraordinary Engines)
The Art of Alchemy – Ted Kosmatka (F&SF, June)
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss – Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, July 2008; online)
Marrying the Sun – Rachel Swirsky (Fantasy Magazine, June; online)
Crystal Nights – Greg Egan (Interzone 215)
His Master’s Voice – Hannu Rajaniemi (Interzone 218)
Special Economics – Maureen McHugh (The Del Rey Book of SFF)
Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment – M Rickert (F&SF Oct-Nov)
From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled… – Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s, Feb)
If Angels Fight – Rick Bowes (F&SF, Feb)
The Doom of Love in Small Spaces – Ken Scholes (Realms of Fantasy, April)
Pretty Monsters – Kelly Link (Pretty Monsters)

So let’s see: that’s 29 28 stories, of which 14 (50%) are from non-magazine sources. Is that the highest proportion yet for a year’s best? Of those that are from magazines, the clear leader is F&SF with 6 — twice as many stories as its nearest rival, Asimov’s, and a fifth of the entire book. Three stories were first published online, and an additional four are already available online. Given that, of the seven stories on this list I’ve read so far, the only one I question the inclusion of is the King (I’m not as bowled over by “His Master’s Voice” as some, but it’s certainly ambitious), and three are already on my planned Hugo ballot, I will be tracking down as many of the others as I can before nomination time rolls around. Two further notes: 10 11 stories are by women, or 34%, about the same as 39%, slightly up from the two other volumes in this series; and I could be wrong, but I don’t think any of these stories are novellas. Is that the case? And if so, has it just been a weak year for novellas? [I am wrong; “Five Thrillers” and “Pretty Monsters” are novellas.]

11 Responses to “A Reading List”

  1. Jonathan Strahan Says:

    There are two novellas in the book: Kelly Link’s “Pretty Monsters” is the longest story in the book at about 19k, and Robert Reed’s “Five Thrillers” is 17k+. There are 28 stories in the book, 11 by women (which works out at 39.2%, the highest percentage yet). The word count is actually higher, with work by women accounting for just over 40% of the book. In terms of the quality of novellas, there were some great ones (most notably Ian McDonald’s “The Tear” and Ian McLeod’s “The Hob Carpet”) but they were too long for this book (for a variety of reasons). Had I been able to do a year’s best novellas this year, it would have been a very strong book.

  2. Niall Says:

    I fail at counting. Sorry, Jonathan. (Though F&SF did list “Five Thrillers” as a novelet in its contents …)

  3. Liz Says:

    I’ve read seven stories as well, if you count “Five Thrillers” where I gave up after three. I don’t think it’s a bad story, just a protagonist who is very difficult to empathise with, and the rest of the story wasn’t doing enough to keep me reading. The King I also wasn’t keen on, but the other stories range from good to excellent, so I’m looking forward to the collection.

    Now where can I find this McDonald novella I haven’t yet read?

  4. Niall Says:

    Unfortunately, “The Tear” is in one of those SFBC anthologies that Brits can’t buy.

  5. Liz Says:

    That sucks, because if you were designing an anthology to appeal specifically to me then you could hardly do a better job.

  6. Niall Says:

    What, even with the Neal Asher story?

    You might be able to get a copy through the Amazon.com marketplace. I had problems trying to buy the fantagraphics Complete Peanuts volumes that way, but that may have been because they knew the UK editions from Canongate were on the way.

  7. Liz Says:

    Asher had a story in YBSF 25, ‘Alien Archaeology’, and while I didn’t really like any of the characters and found it to be a little too casual about inflicting horrible violence on them, it had some cool spaceships and a decent plot and did something interesting with a Gabbleduck, so I am prepared to believe he could write a decent novella.

    (I can get one through the Amazon.com marketplace but the shipping is a bit more than I want to pay.)

  8. David Moles Says:

    I think it may have been a week year for novellas, if the Nebula prelim ballot is any indication. (Which of course it may not be.)

  9. Rich Horton Says:

    I can’t officially announce my contents yet, as I don’t have approvals back from the authors, but I will say that I hope to include “The Tear”.

    I had “Five Thrillers” listed as a novelet, as did F&SF on the contents page. It is long enough to be eligible by Nebula and Hugo rules in either category.

    (Jonathan in his “Best Short Novels” book used a rough borderline of 15K or so, anyway, right Jonathan? I like that better — actually, I tend to like a reduction to only two short fiction categories (short stories up to say 10K, and novellas beyond that) … and I wouldn’t be averse to some recognition of “short novels”, say stuff from 25K to 50K. (Looked at another way, the sort of things PS Publishing does as chapbooks (though they sometimes do shorter stuff) or that Ace Doubles used to feature.)


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