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Short Fiction Beat: Making Lists

Saturday, December 26th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

It’s the end of another year which means everybody’s thinking up “best of lists.” Partially, that’s a marketing thing — and it apparently works because I’ve just finished ordering a couple of albums that were on various critics “best of list” that I hadn’t heard. As a DJ for a local radio station, I’m supposed to be up on these things. Also as a DJ, I was supposed to have submitted my own “best of list,” but haven’t. Maybe as the short fiction guy hereabouts, I’m also supposed to come up with a list of top short stories. But, I won’t. I just have a hard time with this exercise. There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve found interesting, but whether that qualifies as “best of” I’m not sure. And, then, whatever I come up with will invariably leave out stuff that I simply didn’t get to, or didn’t even know existed, which doesn’t seem fair.

Worse, as the end of a decade, there’s also these best of the decade lists. Again, this is largely to fill traditionally slow periods in the news cycle, but it is a conversation starter, which can be fun. I’m not going to provide a list (mainly because I just don’t want to spend the time thinking about it; I’d rather catch up on my to-be-read and to-listen pile), but here’s one by Jonathan Strahan that caught my eye. I like to think I’m fairly well-read and stay on top of these things, but of the ten “best of the decade” short fiction collections cited by Strahan, I’ve only actually read two, though I own two others that I never got around to (yet, I hope). At least, I’ve read all these authors, even if I haven’t made it through all the collections. If you haven’t already jumped, here’s Strahan’s list:

  1. Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, Andy Duncan (2000)
  2. Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang (2002)
  3. Black Juice, Margo Lanagan (2005)
  4. 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill (2005)
  5. Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link (2005)
  6. The Empire of Ice Cream, Jeffrey Ford (2006)
  7. Map of Dreams, M. Rickert (2006)
  8. Pump Six and Other Stories, Paolo Bacigalupi (2008)
  9. Oceanic, Greg Egan (2009)
  10. Cyberabad Days, Ian McDonald (2009)


  1. Hey Dave,

    Thanks for passing this along. What a great list.

    And you think you’re bad? At least you’ve read two. I have NINE of the books on the list, and I’ve read precisely zero. I suck.

    You don’t, though. Keep up the great work, and have a great 2010!

    – John

    Comment by John ONeill - December 26, 2009 8:54 pm

  2. I’ve read the Chiang, Hill, and Ford — and they are all indeed fantastic. Own a few others . . . hopefully I’ll get to them before the next best of the decade list comes out.

    Comment by Bill Ward - December 27, 2009 5:29 pm

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