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Future Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction Thirty-Second Annual Collection-smallThere are roughly ten Year’s Best volumes currently being published in the speculative fiction market, but they all bow before Gardner Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction. The Thirty-Second volume in this venerable series will be published in July.

Now, believe it or not, there were Year’s Best series before Gardner. Everett F Bleiler and T.E Dikty edited the first volume of The Best Science Fiction Stories way back in 1949 (I know, right? Who knew there was good science fiction in those days!) Judith Merril edited twelve volumes of The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1956-1967), while Donald Wollheim, Terry Carr, Lin Carter, Arthur Saha, Harry Harrison and Brian Aldis, and Lester del Rey all tried their hand at it for a while, with varying success. Gardner Dozois edited the Del Rey series, taking over from Lester del Rey, from 1977-81, until starting over again with The Year’s Best Science Fiction: First Annual Collection in 1984 (There’s a nice summary of all this history in Scott Laz’s review of that very first volume here.)

Gardner’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction was exceptional right from the very beginning. For one thing, most prior books — even market leaders like Terry Carr’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year — were slender paperback originals. With his first volume Gardner delivered a massive 575-page hardcover, packed with 25 stories — including a couple of novellas, like Dan Simmons’ knockout “Carrion Comfort.”

He also began what quickly became one of the most-read columns in the entire industry: his lengthy, frank, and often highly opinionated annual summation, covering news, magazines, anthologies, movies, deaths, awards, the birth and growth of fan websites, podcasts, and much more. His first one in 1984 was a thin 17 pages, but over the decades Gardner’s comprehensive report card on the field grew to nearly 100 pages. I, for one, read them cover-to-cover.

To read Gardner’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction every year is to get the pulse of the entire industry. All the new writers, literary movements, shake-ups, and happenings in the field — it’s all there at your fingertips.

Full disclosure: I always geek out a little bit when I get The Year’s Best Science Fiction, and this year was no exception. I was listed in the Acknowledgements, as I have been for many years now, and Gardner gave a nice shout-out to Black Gate, with the usual paragraph about our goings-on for the year. Gardner was also one of the very first editors to acknowledge SF Site when I was struggling to get it recognized nearly 20 years ago. So I’m kind of a fanboy.

With that out of the way, here’s a quick peek at the blurb on the back:

The multiple Locus Award-winning annual compilation of the year’s best science fiction stories

In the new millennium, what secrets lay beyond the far reaches of the universe? What mysteries belie the truths we once held to be self evident? The world of science fiction has long been a porthole into the realities of tomorrow blurring the line between life and art. Now, in The Year’s Best Science Fiction Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection the very best SF authors explore ideas of a new world. This venerable collection brings together award winning authors and masters of the field such as Nancy Kress, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, Ian McDonald, Michael Swanwick, Lauren Beukes, Peter Watts, Alastair Reynolds, and Ken Liu. And with an extensive recommended reading guide and a summation of the year in science fiction, this annual compilation has become the definitive must read anthology for all science fiction fans and readers interested in breaking into the genre.

There’s some fabulous science fiction in this volume and, as usual, we’ll get to watch as awards season rolls around and see how many of the stories Gardner champions make it onto the major award ballots.

Except, whoops, no we won’t, because this year the Hugo ballot was commandeered by a bunch of nitwits.

Gardner’s volume may be your best best to help you find the short fiction the Hugo ballot normally would have turned you on to. This year, it’s even more essential than usual. And that’s saying something.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection will be published by St. Martin’s Griffin on July 7, 2015. It is 704 pages, priced at $40 in hardcover, $22.99 in trade paperback, and $10.99 for the digital version.

See all of our reports on upcoming books of note here.

8 Comments »

  1. I was thinking the same thing: this is the place to look for the top short SF that might have been listed elsewhere had it not been for…&act. Plus there’s a lot more of it. This is the kind of post that makes me wish I had all 24 lined up on the shelf, waiting for this to join them. Not so, though I do have some of them, and will be adding this.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - April 6, 2015 5:02 pm

  2. ” we’ll get to watch as awards season rolls around and see how many of the stories Gardner champions make it onto the major award ballots. Except, whoops, no we won’t, because this year the Hugo ballot was commandeered by a bunch of nitwits. Gardner’s volume may be your best best to help you find the short fiction the Hugo ballot normally would have turned you on to.”

    Actually, a volume that doesn’t come out until July is not going to influence the Hugo balloting. Nor, based on last year, does it even overlap much with the Hugo nominations, let alone the ballot.

    Of the work included in Gargner’s last volume, here’s how they fared in nominations:

    Novella: Precious Mental 3.7%

    Novelette: Waiting Stars (finalist), Queen of Night’s Aria 3.4%

    Short Story: The Best We Can 3.8%

    So, don’t blame the “nitwits.” Of all the stories nominated in those three catagories, only 4 were chosen by Gardner as the “best.” Frankly I will agree that Gardner’s picks are likely of higher quality than the Hugo nominated works. But the “nitwits” are not to blame…

    Comment by LostSailor - April 6, 2015 5:59 pm

  3. > This is the kind of post that makes me wish I had all 24 lined up on the shelf, waiting for this to join them.

    R.K,

    Actually, there are 31 previous volumes, plus two additional anthologies: THE BEST OF THE BEST, and THE BEST OF THE BEST, VOLUME 2 (which collects novellas).

    Comment by John ONeill - April 6, 2015 6:08 pm

  4. > Actually, a volume that doesn’t come out until July is not going to influence the Hugo balloting.

    Lost,

    That’s not actually true. I’ve had my copy for a while now, as have about 120 other reviewers, bloggers, etc — the people who talk about and promote short fiction. And the list of contents has been available for even longer.

    The publishers (St. Martins) are pretty smart about getting this book out to the folks who generate award buzz just at the right time.

    > Of the work included in Gargner’s last volume, here’s how they fared in nominations

    I’m not sure citing Gardner’s success in the first year Sad Puppies influenced the Hugo ballot does much to make your point — or really, citing any single year.

    I’d be more interested in seeing Gardner’s batting average. Based on my experience reading his book and following the awards over the past 30 years, he’s done pretty well.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 6, 2015 6:31 pm

  5. The table of contents includes Rachel Swirsky, she of “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love”, whom the Sad Puppies seem to bear special enmity to.

    I’m excited to read this. I’ve never encountered Gardner before as I’m a newbie to contemporary sci-fi– it’s a blast to read contemporary short sci-fi of late, since my previous collections were mainly Ellison’s Dangerous Visions and Bova’s Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

    Comment by learnedfoote - April 6, 2015 9:15 pm

  6. > The table of contents includes Rachel Swirsky, she of “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love”, whom the Sad Puppies seem to bear special enmity to.

    Right you are! I’ll have to check it out.

    > I’m excited to read this. I’ve never encountered Gardner before as I’m a newbie to contemporary sci-fi– it’s a blast
    > to read contemporary short sci-fi of late, since my previous collections were mainly Ellison’s Dangerous Visions and Bova’s Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

    Whew… those were two pretty good introductions to the field! You won’t find many anthologies that reach those heights.

    Have you read THE HUGO WINNERS, Volume 1 and 2? I found those just about the best SF collections I’ve ever read.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 7, 2015 12:38 am

  7. @John I’m not a “buzz generator” just a reader and I couldn’t find a TOC online for it, not even at the St. Martin site. I, too, will be interested to see where Gardner’s picks and the Hugo nominations fall and how many made (or would have potentially made sans SP) the 5%-rule cut.

    But if Gardner chose “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” then I’m suspect. Of course it did win a Nebula, so he’s on safe ground choosing it for just that reason. But I’m suspect because it is plainly not SF or even F on it’s face. If just imagining a person transforming into a dinosaur to exact murderous revenge doesn’t cut it (though it does seem that wishing violent bloody death is okay if the victims are the “right” people). If that is what makes award-winning SF, then the genre is broken. I don’t believe the genre is broken, I believe the gatekeepers are what’s breaking the awards. Time will tell.

    Comment by LostSailor - April 7, 2015 12:01 pm

  8. I haven’t read The Hugo Winners, but I will have to check it out for sure.

    Comment by learnedfoote - April 7, 2015 12:15 pm


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