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Authors: Jonathan Strahan

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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year-Volume Three

BOOK: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year-Volume Three
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THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION
AND FANTASY OF THE YEAR:
VOLUME THREE
Jonathan Strahan

This edition of
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Three
© 2009 by Night Shade Books
 
Cover art © 2009 by Fred Gambino
Cover design by Eugene Wang
Interior layout and design by Ross E. Lockhart
 
Introduction, story notes and arrangement © 2009 by Jonathan Strahan.
First Edition
 
ISBN: 978-1-59780-149-2
 
Night Shade Books
Please visit us on the web at
www.nightshadebooks.com

Copyright Acknowledgments

"Exhalation," by Ted Chiang. © 2008 Ted Chiang. Originally published in
Eclipse Two
(Night Shade Books). Reprinted by permission of the author and the Virginia Kidd Agency.
 
"Shoggoths in Bloom," by Elizabeth Bear. © 2008 Elizabeth Bear. Originally published in
Asimov's Science Fiction
, March 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel," by Peter S. Beagle. © 2008 Peter S. Beagle. Originally published in
Strange Roads
(Dreamhaven Books). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Fixing Hanover," by Jeff VanderMeer. © 2008 Jeff VanderMeer. Originally published in
Extraordinary Engines
(Solaris Books). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"The Gambler," by Paolo Bacigalupi. © 2008 Paolo Bacigalupi. Originally published in
Fast Forward 2
(Pyr Books). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"The Dust Assassin," by Ian McDonald. © 2008 Ian McDonald. Originally published in
The Starry Rift
(Viking). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Virgin," by Holly Black. © 2008 Holly Black. Originally published in
Magic in the Mirrorstone
(Mirrorstone). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Pride and Prometheus," by John Kessel. © 2008 John Kessel. Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
, January 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"The Thought War," by Paul McAuley. © 2008 Paul McAuley. Originally published in
Postscripts 15
, September 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Beyond the Sea Gates of the Scholar Pirates of Sarsköe," by Garth Nix. © 2008 Garth Nix. Originally published in
Fast Ships, Black Sails
(Night Shade Books). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"The Small Door," by Holly Phillips. © 2008 Holly Phillips. Originally published in
Fantasy Magazine
, May 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Turing's Apples," by Stephen Baxter. © 2008 Stephen Baxter. Originally published in
Eclipse Two
(Night Shade Books). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"
The New York Times
at Special Bargain Rates," by Stephen King. © 2008 Stephen King. Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
, October/November 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Five Thrillers," by Robert Reed. © 2008 Robert Reed. Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
, April 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"The Magician's House," by Meghan McCarron. © 2008 Meghan McCarron. Originally published in
Strange Horizons
, July 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Goblin Music," by Joan Aiken. © 2008 The Estate of Joan Aiken. Originally published in
The Serial Garden
. Reprinted by permission of the author's agent.
 
"Machine Maid," by Margo Lanagan. © 2008 Margo Lanagan. Originally published in
Extraordinary Engines
(Solaris Books). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"The Art of Alchemy," by Ted Kosmatka. © 2008 Ted Kosmatka. Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
, June 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss," by Kij Johnson. © 2008 Kij Johnson. Originally published in
Asimov's Science Fiction
, July 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Marry the Sun," by Rachel Swirsky. © 2008 Rachel Swirsky. Originally published in
Fantasy Magazine
, June 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Crystal Nights," by Greg Egan. © 2008 Greg Egan. Originally published in
Interzone
, April 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"His Master's Voice," by Hannu Rajaniemi. © 2008 Hannu Rajaniemi. Originally published in
Interzone
, October 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Special Economics," by Maureen F. McHugh. © 2008 Maureen F. McHugh. Originally published in
The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy
(Del Rey). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment," by M. Rickert. © 2008 M. Rickert. Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
, October/November 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled . . . ," by Michael Swanwick. © 2008 Michael Swanwick. Originally published in
Asimov's Science Fiction
, February 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"If Angels Fight," by Richard Bowes. © 2008 Richard Bowes. Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
, February 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"The Doom of Love in Small Spaces," by Ken Scholes. © 2008 Ken Scholes. Originally published in
Realms of Fantasy
, April 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
"Pretty Monsters," by Kelly Link. © 2008 Kelly Link. Originally published in
Pretty Monsters: Stories
(Viking). Reprinted by permission of the author.
 

For Robin Pen, a dear and constant friend
over these many years, with thanks.
Acknowledgements

Each year the list of people who need to be thanked for their support in producing this preposterously complicated book grows and grows. This year I'm going to try to keep it as tight as possible. I'd especially like to thank Alicia Krasnostein, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts from
Not If You Were the Last Short Story on Earth
who acted as readers for this book. Their honesty and support contributed inestimably to the book you now hold, and kept me honest when my spirits flagged at the sheer volume of fiction to be read and considered. I'd also like to thank Gary K. Wolfe and Charles N. Brown, for sharing their friendship and wisdom while I was assembling this book; and of course Howard Morhaim; Justin Ackroyd; Jack Dann; Brian Bieniowski; and Gordon Van Gelder. Thanks also to the following good friends and colleagues without whom this book would have been much poorer, and much less fun to do: Lou Anders, Deborah Biancotti, Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois, Sean Williams, and all of the book's contributors.

 

As always, my biggest thanks go to Marianne, Jessica, and Sophie. Every moment spent working on this book was a moment stolen from them. I only hope I can repay them.

 

Introduction
Jonathan Strahan

The webgnomes who labor hard in the fields of
Wikipedia
define "genre" as:

 
"vague categories with no fixed boundaries, they are formed by sets of conventions, and many works cross into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions."
 

The book you are now holding is concerned with two such genres—science fiction and fantasy—and one form, short fiction.

Readers of science fiction have long argued, rather fruitlessly, over how SF should be defined. Whichever definition you choose, and most definitions have some merit, the important thing is that almost all of those readers would be able to agree on what science fiction
is
, what its conventions, tropes, etc. are, and how they combine to make a science fiction story. This is arguably less true of fantasy, which is much more of a "fuzzy set" with vaguer boundaries, broader conventions, and more varied tropes and memes. Both genres, however, are inextricably linked. There's something in the DNA of story that keeps them closely connected to one another, with SF at times appearing to be a subset of fantasy, and at other times appearing to be some kind of close cousin, with its own distinct features.

When, back in the summer of 2003, I stopped reading short fiction for casual interest and began to actively seek out every story I could find so that I could consider it for inclusion in books like this one, I felt that SF and fantasy were quite distinct, or at least at a point in their ever-evolving relationship where they appeared to be quite distinct from one another. Over the past five years and something like 10,000 or more stories my opinion on this has changed. I've come to feel that the boundaries between SF and fantasy, which have always been permeable, are perhaps as open to cross-pollination as they have ever been.

I'm very hesitant to make a suggestion as to
why
this is, and I don't want to oversimplify, but while writers have always borrowed from the many toolkits of genre, they seem even more willing to do so now than they have in the past. You can see this most explicitly in science fiction stories like Ted Chiang's brilliant "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" from last year, which used the poetry of fantasy to frame his science fictional tale or in Daniel Abraham's "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics," which similarly used the logical rigor we typically associate with SF to structure his powerful fantasy.

It's almost impossible to say exactly which factors are at play that are driving this willful borrowing, other than to point out that it's perhaps more complex than it might appear. It is, however, why the
Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year
anthology series exists. It's my intention to plot as best I can in a book of restricted length, and allowing for the practicalities of anthology making, the trends and developments of
both
science fiction and fantasy, while also carefully attempting to present a selection of stories that transgress boundaries in interesting ways, all the while bearing in mind that these should be the
best
stories of the year, not simply interesting experiments. I will almost always avoid stories written by mainstream writers and which appear in mainstream venues, not because of snobbery, but because I believe those writers are doing something altogether different, dressing what are essentially mainstream stories in the clothing of genre, without every really attempting to come to grips with what genre is and what it means for the stories they are creating. I think what they're doing is valid and worthwhile, but it's not what this book is about.

Which brings us to the late fall of 2008, when I'm writing this introduction. Over the past twelve months I have searched for every science fiction and fantasy story that I could find, wherever and however it was published. During that time I have read, or started to read, more than three thousand short stories, novelettes, and novellas. They've appeared in or on magazines, anthologies, short story collections, chapbooks, and websites of almost every stripe. They've been used as advertising, as the main event, and as part of collectible publications. And, for all of that, I've only seen and considered a healthy sampling of the stories published during the year. No one knows exactly how many new stories appear every year, but I'd guess somewhere around six or seven thousand. There's no way one person can find, never mind consider, all of those stories. All any reader can do is to make, as I have, an honest effort to read and consider as many stories as possible. I've also been assisted this year by four readers—Alicia Krasnostein, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts who collectively read and blog about short fiction at
Not If You Were the Last Short Story on Earth
—who were incredibly helpful, and who helped to keep me focused and honest when I temporarily flagged. Even with their help, though, I'd be the first to admit that this book can only be what it was always going to be: a selection of the very best stories published during the year as read and selected by one reader. I can only hope you'll find them as rewarding and worthwhile as I have.

In amongst all of that reading I've noticed a handful of trends, some of interest, some not. The most obvious one is the sudden rise of original anthologies, themed and unthemed, which seem to be going through a period of remarkable success. Without any real attempt to be rigorous, I easily located close to one hundred original anthologies that were published during 2008. I was surprised to find that most of these anthologies, and certainly the best of them, were science fiction. Setting aside my own
The Starry Rift
and
Eclipse Two
, which I leave others to comment on, I thought the best SF anthology of the year was Gardner Dozois's
Galactic Empires
, a collection of six themed SF novellas dominated by Ian McDonald's superb "The Tear," which sadly was too long for this volume. I was also very impressed by Lou Anders's
Fast Forward 2
, Nick Gevers's
Extraordinary Engines
, and George Mann's
The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction: Volume Two
. A strong competitor for the title of best general anthology of the year was Ellen Datlow's very fine
The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy
, which contained excellent stories by Maureen F. McHugh, Pat Cadigan, and others. In what was a much less interesting year for fantasy anthologies, Marvin Kaye's terrific
A Book of Wizards
and Steve Berman's
Magic in the Mirrorstone
were the standouts. While it's far too early to declare this some kind of Golden Age of anthologies, it's clearly a very successful time. I've not heard any convincing argument as to why this is the case—certainly the idea that the increase in success of anthologies is in some way tied to the failure of the professional genre magazine market—doesn't convince. However, having looked at publishing schedules for 2009, it's certainly going to continue for at least another year (and probably several more).

BOOK: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year-Volume Three
10.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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