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The Virtual Best of the Year: 2005

by Rich Horton

For some time now I have been preparing summaries of the short SF I read each year, complete with my choices for the best in each length category. A bit more recently someone suggested I refine those choices into a virtual Best of the Year anthology Table of Contents (TOC). Never able to leave well enough alone, I went ahead and created four: an extended-length list for a general anthology, an SF-only and a Fantasy-only list; and a much more restricted TOC aimed at replicating the length of Terry Carr’s classic 1970 Best of the Year books. In the past these have been ephemeral newsgroup posts, but this year the folks at Black Gate are offering them a more permanent web home.

The Numbers

This year I read a total of 46 novellas, 311 novelettes, and 1400 short stories. The novella and novelette totals are down a great deal from last year. The short story number is up, and is as-ever inflated by the many short-shorts I read. Short-shorts are quite popular in online venues, and reasonably popular in the small press. I read 245 short-shorts last year, up from 2004 and back to the same exact total as 2003. (I consider a short-short to be anything under 1500 words.) The total length of the new short fiction was about 9.5 million words, versus 10 million for 2004 and 9 million the year before. Total stories: 1757. (I estimate there are at least 2500 stories published in some at least vaguely semi-pro form each year, but that’s really just a guess.)

I also computed average lengths of each category (aren’t spreadsheets wonderful?) Novellas averaged just under 24,500 words, novelettes about 10,200, and short stories 3800 words, all pretty similar to last year’s averages.

These come from a total of 39 print magazines, 26 different electronic “sources,” of which about 17 are what I would call regularly publishing “magazines” of some variety or other. Add 30 anthologies, 7 chapbooks, 10 story collections, and a dozen or so more “miscellaneous” sources. The main reason my totals were down from last year was that I read four fewer anthologies, I think.

First I will list my favorites, and presumptive Hugo nominees, in each category. My “Virtual Best of the Year” picks are listed below.

Novellas

The first four listed here will be on my Hugo nomination list, and the order listed is more or less my preference. The fifth will come from the rest of the list, which I have placed in alphabetical order by author.

  • “Magic for Beginners” by Kelly Link (F&SF, September; Magic for Beginners)
  • “Bank Run” by Tom Purdom (Asimov’s, October-November)
  • Burn, by James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon Press)
  • “The Little Goddess” by Ian McDonald (Asimov’s, June)
  • “The Diversification of Its Fancy” by John Barnes (Analog, November)
  • “The Nursemaid’s Suitor” by Charles Coleman Finlay (Black Gate, Summer)
  • The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass, by Vera Nazarian (PS Publishing)
  • “The Gypsies in the Wood” by Kim Newman (The Fair Folk)
  • “Saving Mars” by Jason Stoddard (Interzone, September-October)
  • “Audobon in Atlantis” by Harry Turtledove (Analog, December)

I kept this year’s list at 10, same as last year, and to be honest it could have been two or three shorter. All in all this was a down year for novellas — I saw fewer, and there were fewer really good ones. The very best, however, are outstanding.

I should note that other people have listed at least three of the stories I have under novelettes as novellas: the McCarthy and Beagle stories, and Cory Doctorow’s “Human Readable”.

Novelettes

My current tentative Hugo nomination list, in alphabetical order by author, is the first seven stories. (Yes, I know, I can only nominate five!) The next three are the stories most likely to replace one of those on today’s list.

  • “I, Robot” by Cory Doctorow (Infinite Matrix, February 15)
  • “Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (Asimov’s, September)
  • “The Gist Hunter” by Matthew Hughes (F&SF, June)
  • “The Edge of Nowhere” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, June)
  • “The Policeman’s Daughter” by Wil McCarthy (Analog, June)
  • “CommComm” by George Saunders (The New Yorker, August 1)
  • “The King of Where-I-Go” by Howard Waldrop (Sci Fiction, December 7)
  • “The Calorie Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi (F&SF, October/November)
  • “The Blemmye’s Stratagem” by Bruce Sterling (F&SF, January)
  • “Panacea” by Jason Stoddard (Sci Fiction, September 14)
  • “Two Hearts” by Peter Beagle (F&SF, March)
  • “Wax” by Elizabeth Bear (Interzone, December)
  • “The Perimeter” by Chris Beckett (Asimov’s, December)
  • “Human Readable” by Cory Doctorow (Future Washington)
  • “Turn Up This Crooked Way” by James Enge (Black Gate, Summer)
  • “Elena’s Seclusion” by Linda Fazio-Theys (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, August/September)
  • “Company Secrets” by Kyle Kirkland (Analog, April)
  • “To Live Forever” by Jay Lake (Challenging Destiny)
  • “The Day of the RFIDs” by Edward M. Lerner (Future Washington)
  • “Netpuppets” by Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross (Analog, June)
  • “Written in the Stars” by Ian McDonald (Constellations)
  • “Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre (Sci Fiction, February 23)
  • “Real People Slash” by Nick Mamatas (Son and Foe #1)
  • “Gears Grind Down” by Sean Melican (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #16)
  • “The Summer of the Seven” by Paul Melko (Asimov’s, August)
  • “Dying in the Arms of Jean Harlow” by Paul Meloy (The Third Alternative, Summer)
  • “Fox Tails” by Richard Parks (Realms of Fantasy, June)
  • “Empty Places” by Richard Parks (Realms of Fantasy, December)
  • “Beyond the Aquila Rift” by Alastair Reynolds (Constellations)
  • “Dallas: an Essay” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, April/May)
  • “Search Engine” by Mary Rosenblum (Analog, September)
  • “Amba” by William Sanders (Asimov’s, December)
  • “Winning Mars” by Jason Stoddard (Interzone, January-February)
  • “Girls and Boys Come Out to Play” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s, July)
  • “Acts of Conscience” by Shane Tourtellotte (Analog, March)
  • “The Memory of Breathing” by Lyn Triffit (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, February/March)

36 novelettes, a bit over 10% of the total I read.

Short Stories

First, once again, my current, extremely tentative, Hugo nomination list, in alphabetical order by author. Any of several of the stories on the longer list might sneak onto the nomination list, however. I should also note that “Best New Horror” and “Zima Blue” may well actually be novelette length.

  • “Bliss” by Leah Bobet (On Spec, Winter 2005)
  • “Pip and the Fairies” by Theodora Goss (Strange Horizons, October 3)
  • “Best New Horror” by Joe Hill (Postscripts, Spring; 20th Century Ghosts)
  • “Finished” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, September)
  • “Triceratops Summer” by Michael Swanwick (Amazon Shorts)
  • “Is There Life After Rehab?” by Pat Cadigan (Sci Fiction, August 17)
  • “The Emperor of Gondwanaland” by Paul Di Filippo (Interzone, January-February)
  • “Consensus Building” by Tom Doyle (Futurismic, January)
  • “I Live With You” by Carol Emshwiller, (F&SF, March)
  • “Fancy Bread” by Gregory Feeley (TEL:Stories)
  • “The Real Deal” by Peter Friend (Asimov’s, July)
  • “Sunbird” by Neil Gaiman (Noisy Outlaws)
  • “Moses’ Miracles” by Roberta Gellis (Renaissance Faire)
  • “A Quantum Bit Exists in Two States Simultaneously: Off” by David Gerrold (F&SF, September)
  • “The Belt” by Theodora Goss (Flytrap, May)
  • “The Clockwork Atom-Bomb” by Dominic Green (Interzone, May-June)
  • “Heartwired” by Joe Haldeman (Nature, March 24)
  • “Paul Bunyan and the Photocopier” by Larry Hammer (Say #5)
  • “Five Ways Jane Austen Never Died” by Samantha Henderson (Fortean Bureau, March)
  • “After the Sabines” by Sarah A. Hoyt (Amazing, March)
  • “The Jenna Set” by Daniel Kaysen (Strange Horizons, March 14)
  • “A Coffee Cup/Alien Invasion Story” by Douglas Lain (Strange Horizons, February 7)
  • “Jane” by Marc Laidlaw (Sci Fiction, February 16)
  • “You, by Anonymous” by Stephen Leigh (I, Alien)
  • “Monsters” by Kelly Link (Noisy Outlaws)
  • “The Great Divorce” by Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners)
  • “The Secret of Broken Tickers” by Joe Murphy (Realms of Fantasy, August)
  • “The Fate of Mice” by Susan Palwick (Asimov’s, January)
  • “By the Light of Tomorrow’s Sun” by Holly Phillips (In the Palace of Repose)
  • “Letters of Transit” by Brian Plante (Analog, April)
  • “A Treatise on Fewmets” by Sarah A. Prineas (Lone Star Stories, August)
  • “Disposable Children” by M. Lynx Qualey (Lenox Avenue, March)
  • “Tales of the Chinese Zodiac” by Jenn Reese (Strange Horizons)
  • “Zima Blue” by Alastair Reynolds (Postscripts, Summer)
  • “A Birth” by Carrie Richerson (Asimov’s, August)
  • “Missy Victoria” by Bruce Holland Rogers (www.shortshortshort.com)
  • “Three Urban Folk Tales” by Eric Schaller (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #16)
  • “On the Blindside” by Sonya Taaffe (Flytrap, May)
  • “Invisible” by Steve Rasnic Tem (Sci Fiction March 2)
  • “Hard Time” by Mark Tiedemann (Electric Velocipede, Fall)
  • “The Inn at Mount Either” by James Van Pelt (Analog, May)
  • “Sins of the Fathers” by S. E. Ward (Chiaroscuro, October)
  • “Born-Again” by K. D. Wentworth, (F&SF, May)
  • “Comber” by Gene Wolfe (Postscripts, Spring)

Well, I listed 44 stories, same as last year. That’s just over 3% of the stories I read this year.

The Virtual Best of the Year: 2006

Here I’ll list my (now annual, I guess) Virtual Best of the Year picks. I’ll begin with a Gardner Dozois-size anthology — that is to say, about 350,000 words. I note that Gardner tends to try to pick mostly what he considers true Science Fiction — not Fantasy — though Gardner’s definition (as is mine) is pretty broad. My first list, however, makes no distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy. The ordering is alphabetical by author.

  • “The Calorie Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi (F&SF, October/November) 12700
  • “Wax” by Elizabeth Bear (Interzone, December) 11400
  • “Bliss” by Leah Bobet (On Spec, Winter 2005) 6900
  • “Is There Life After Rehab?” by Pat Cadigan (Sci Fiction, August 17) 6400
  • “The Emperor of Gondwanaland” by Paul Di Filippo (Interzone, January-February) 6200
  • “I, Robot” by Cory Doctorow (Infinite Matrix, February 15) 15000
  • “Consensus Building” by Tom Doyle (Futurismic, January) 4100
  • “Fancy Bread” by Gregory Feeley (TEL:Stories) 4900
  • “Pip and the Fairies” by Theodora Goss (Strange Horizons, October 3) 3000
  • “Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (Asimov’s, September) 8200
  • “Heartwired” by Joe Haldeman (Nature, March 24) 900
  • “Best New Horror” by Joe Hill (Postscripts, Spring; 20th Century Ghosts) 7500
  • “The Jenna Set” by Daniel Kaysen (Strange Horizons, March 14) 5000
  • Burn, by James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon Press) 39800
  • “The Edge of Nowhere” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, June) 9500
  • “A Coffee Cup/Alien Invasion Story” by Douglas Lain (Strange Horizons, February 7) 4700
  • “Jane” by Marc Laidlaw (Sci Fiction, February 16) 3800
  • “You, by Anonymous” by Stephen Leigh (I, Alien) 1300
  • “Magic for Beginners” by Kelly Link (F&SF, September; Magic for Beginners) 18000
  • “The Policeman’s Daughter” by Wil McCarthy (Analog, June) 14700
  • “The Little Goddess” by Ian McDonald (Asimov’s, June) 18300
  • “Written in the Stars” by Ian McDonald (Constellations) 11500
  • “Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre (Sci Fiction, February 23) 12600
  • “The Fate of Mice” by Susan Palwick (Asimov’s, January) 6300
  • “Letters of Transit” by Brian Plante (Analog, April) 5000
  • “Bank Run” by Tom Purdom (Asimov’s, October-November) 20200
  • “Disposable Children” by M. Lynx Qualey (Lenox Avenue, March) 800
  • “Finished” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, September) 7300
  • “Zima Blue” by Alastair Reynolds (Postscripts, Summer) 7500
  • “Missy Victoria” by Bruce Holland Rogers (www.shortshortshort.com) 1000
  • “Amba” by William Sanders (Asimov’s, December) 12500
  • “Three Urban Folk Tales” by Eric Schaller (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #16) 1900
  • “Panacea” by Jason Stoddard (Sci Fiction, September 14) 13800
  • “Triceratops Summer” by Michael Swanwick (Amazon Shorts) 4600
  • “The Memory of Breathing” by Lyn Triffit (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, February/March) 9000
  • “Audobon in Atlantis” by Harry Turtledove (Analog, December) 19700
  • “The King of Where-I-Go” by Howard Waldrop (Sci Fiction, December 7) 8400

Then, SF only:

  • “The Calorie Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi (F&SF, October/November) 12700
  • “Bliss” by Leah Bobet (On Spec, Winter 2004/05) 6900
  • “I, Robot” by Cory Doctorow (Infinite Matrix, February 15) 15000
  • “Consensus Building” by Tom Doyle (Futurismic, January) 4100
  • “The Clockwork Atom-Bomb” by Dominic Green (Interzone, May-June) 7500
  • “Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (Asimov’s, September) 8200
  • “Heartwired” by Joe Haldeman (Nature, March 24) 900
  • “The Jenna Set” by Daniel Kaysen (Strange Horizons, March 14) 5000
  • Burn, by James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon Press) 39800
  • “The Edge of Nowhere” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, June) 9500
  • “A Coffee Cup/Alien Invasion Story” by Douglas Lain (Strange Horizons, February 7) 4700
  • “Jane” by Marc Laidlaw (Sci Fiction, February 16) 3800
  • “You, by Anonymous” by Stephen Leigh (I, Alien) 1300
  • “The Policeman’s Daughter” by Wil McCarthy (Analog, June) 14700
  • “The Little Goddess” by Ian McDonald (Asimov’s, June) 18300
  • “Written in the Stars” by Ian McDonald (Constellations) 11500
  • “Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre (Sci Fiction, February 23) 12600
  • “The Fate of Mice” by Susan Palwick (Asimov’s, January) 6300
  • “Letters of Transit” by Brian Plante (Analog, April) 5000
  • “Disposable Children” by M. Lynx Qualey (Lenox Avenue, March) 800
  • “Zima Blue” by Alastair Reynolds (Postscripts, Summer) 7500
  • “Missy Victoria” by Bruce Holland Rogers (www.shortshortshort.com) 1000
  • “The Blemmye’s Stratagem” by Bruce Sterling (F&SF, January) 13300
  • “Bank Run” by Tom Purdom (Asimov’s, October-November) 20200
  • “Dallas: an Essay” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, April/May) 12400
  • “Finished” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, September) 7300
  • “Beyond the Aquila Rift” by Alastair Reynolds (Constellations) 14000
  • “Search Engine” by Mary Rosenblum (Analog, September) 7500
  • “Amba” by William Sanders (Asimov’s, December) 12500
  • “Panacea” by Jason Stoddard (Sci Fiction, September 14) 13800
  • “Triceratops Summer” by Michael Swanwick (Amazon Shorts) 4600
  • “Hard Time” by Mark W. Tiedeman (Asimov’s, August) 4500
  • “The Memory of Breathing” by Lyn Triffit (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, February/March) 9000
  • “Audobon in Atlantis” by Harry Turtledove (Analog, December) 19700
  • “The Inn at Mount Either” by James Van Pelt (Analog, May) 7200
  • “The King of Where-I-Go” by Howard Waldrop (Sci Fiction, December 7) 8400
  • “Comber” by Gene Wolfe (Postscripts, Spring) 3200

And, Fantasy only:

  • “Two Hearts” by Peter Beagle (F&SF, March) 14900
  • “Wax” by Elizabeth Bear (Interzone, December) 11400
  • “Is There Life After Rehab?” by Pat Cadigan (Sci Fiction, August 17) 6400
  • “Super-Villains” by Michael Canfield (Son and Foe #1) 8100
  • “The Emperor of Gondwanaland” by Paul Di Filippo (Interzone, January-February) 6200
  • “Turn Up This Crooked Way” by James Enge (Black Gate, Summer) 8300
  • “Elena’s Seclusion” by Linda Fazio-Theys (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, August/September) 11000
  • “Fancy Bread” by Gregory Feeley (TEL:Stories) 4900
  • “The Nursemaid’s Suitor” by Charles Coleman Finlay (Black Gate, Summer) 23500
  • “Sunbird” by Neil Gaiman (Noisy Outlaws) 7000
  • “Moses’ Miracles” by Roberta Gellis (Renaissance Faire) 7000
  • “Pip and the Fairies” by Theodora Goss (Strange Horizons, October 3) 3000
  • “The Belt” by Theodora Goss (Flytrap) 3000
  • “Paul Bunyan and the Photocopier” by Larry Hammer (Say #5) 1500
  • “Five Ways Jane Austen Never Died” by Samantha Henderson (Fortean Bureau, March) 4200
  • “Best New Horror” by Joe Hill (Postscripts, Spring; 20th Century Ghosts) 7500
  • “The Gist Hunter” by Matthew Hughes (F&SF, June) 16200
  • “The Word Mermaid Written on an Index Card” by Douglas Lain (The Third Alternative, Summer) 8000
  • “Magic for Beginners” by Kelly Link (F&SF, September; Magic for Beginners) 18000
  • “The Great Divorce” by Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners) (4100)
  • “Real People Slash” by Nick Mamatas (Son and Foe #1) 8200
  • “Gears Grind Down” by Sean Melican (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #16) 10300
  • “Dying in the Arms of Jean Harlow” by Paul Meloy (The Third Alternative, Summer) 13500
  • “The Secret of Broken Tickers” by Joe Murphy (Realms of Fantasy, August) 6400
  • “The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass” by Vera Nazarian (PS Publishing) 38000
  • “The Gypsies in the Wood” by Kim Newman (The Fair Folk) 37000
  • “Fox Tails” by Richard Parks (Realms of Fantasy, June) 10000
  • “Empty Places” by Richard Parks (Realms of Fantasy, December) 10000
  • “By the Light of Tomorrow’s Sun” by Holly Phillips (In the Palace of Repose) 5300
  • “Tales of the Chinese Zodiac” by Jenn Reese (Strange Horizons) 6000
  • “Three Urban Folk Tales” by Eric Schaller (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #16) 1900
  • “On the Blindside” by Sonya Taaffe (Flytrap, May) 3800
  • “Invisible” by Steve Rasnic Tem (Sci Fiction March 2) 6800
  • “Mortegarde” by Liz Williams (Realms of Fantasy, December) 5600

And finally the “Terry Carr-length” book, only 150,000 words:

  • “Bliss” by Leah Bobet (On Spec, Winter 2005) 6900
  • “Is There Life After Rehab?” by Pat Cadigan (Sci Fiction, August 17) 6400
  • “I, Robot” by Cory Doctorow (Infinite Matrix, February 15) 15000
  • “Pip and the Fairies” by Theodora Goss (Strange Horizons, October 3) 3000
  • “Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (Asimov’s, September) 8200
  • “The Gist Hunter” by Matthew Hughes (F&SF, June) 16200
  • “The Edge of Nowhere” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, June) 9500
  • “Magic for Beginners” by Kelly Link (F&SF, September; Magic for Beginners) 18000
  • “The Policeman’s Daughter” by Wil McCarthy (Analog, June) 14700
  • “The Fate of Mice” by Susan Palwick (Asimov’s, January) 6300
  • “Bank Run” by Tom Purdom (Asimov’s, October-November) 20200
  • “Finished” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, September) 7300
  • “Triceratops Summer” by Michael Swanwick (Amazon Shorts) 4600
  • “The King of Where-I-Go” by Howard Waldrop (Sci Fiction, December 7) 8400

Rich Horton’s feature articles exploring the rich history of modern fantasy and science ficion appear in every issue of Black Gate. Special thanks to Jed Hartman for suggesting and arranging the fiction links for this article.
Also read “Building the Fantasy Canon: the Classic Anthologies of Genre Fantasy” by Rich Horton, which originally appeared in Black Gate 2.
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