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A Final Gift from Gardner: The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Very Best of the Best 35 Years of The Year's Best Science Fiction-small The Very Best of the Best 35 Years of The Year's Best Science Fiction-back-small

We lost Gardner Dozois, one of the greatest editors the SF field has ever seen, in May of last year. As devastating as that was, many of us took some solace in the fact that he had a handful of very exciting books still in the pipeline, and we’d have the opportunity to celebrate and remember him a few times yet.

The first of those, the 35th and final volume in his legendary Year’s Best anthology series, was published last July, and the monumental The Book of Magic (companion to The Book of Swords) arrived in October. The third and final book from Gardner, The Very Best of the Best, was published by St. Martins’ in February. It’s a massive tome, with a Hwarhath novella by Eleanor Arnason, an India 2047 novella by Ian McDonald, a Mars novella from Kage Baker, a novella by Robert Reed, a Quiet War novelette by Paul J. McAuley, and stories by Yoon Ha Lee, Peter Watts, Nancy Kress, Rich Larson, Maureen F. McHugh, Charles Stross, Eleanor Arnason, Michael Swanwick, Carrie Vaughn, Lavie Tidhar, James S. A. Corey, Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, and many others.

While the subtitle is 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, implying that the stories are selected from all 35 years of Gardner’s Year’s Best, that’s not true. The earliest tale is from 2002, and the most recent from 2017, meaning it’s really a retrospective looking back at the fifteen years between 2002-2017. It’s a rather idiosyncratic book, neglecting many of the most acclaimed stories from those years in favor of the authors and tales that Gardner loved best. Nonetheless, it is one final gift from Gardner, and if this truly is his final book, it’s a magnificent capstone to his career.

I owe a pretty big debt to Gardner — and not just because (for reasons unknown to me) he included me in the acknowledgments of his Year’s Best anthologies for over a decade. He edited some of the best science fiction I’ve ever read, and discovered, promoted and championed many of my favorite writers — and helped me discover many, many more.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents for The Very Best of the Best.

[Click the images for Gardner-sized versions.]

“The Potter of Bones” by Eleanor Arnason (Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2002)
“Rogue Farm” by Charles Stross (Live Without a Net, 2003)
“The Little Goddess” by Ian McDonald (Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2005)
“Dead Men Walking” by Paul J. McAuley (Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2006)
“Tin Marsh” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Science Fiction, August 2006)
“Good Mountain” by Robert Reed (One Million A.D., 2005)
“Where the Golden Apples Grow” by Kage Baker (Escape from Earth: New Adventures in Space, 2006)
“The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter” by Alastair Reynolds (Interzone #209, April 2007)
“Glory” by Greg Egan (The New Space Opera, 2007)
“Finisterra” by David Moles (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 2007)
“The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm” by Daryl Gregory (Eclipse Two: New Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2008)
“Utriusque Cosmi” by Robert Charles Wilson (The New Space Opera 2, 2009)
“Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance” by John Kessel (The New Space Opera 2, 2009)
“Useless Things” by Maureen F. McHugh (Apex Magazine, February 2012)
“Mongoose” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette (Lovecraft Unbound: Twenty Stories, 2009)
“Hair” by Adam Roberts (When It Changed: Science Into Fiction, 2009)
“The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld Magazine, January 2010)
“The Emperor of Mars” by Allen Steele (Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2010)
“Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain” by Yoon Ha Lee (Lightspeed, September 2010)
“Martian Heart” by John Barnes (Life on Mars: Tales from the New Frontier, 2011)
“The Invasion of Venus” by Stephen Baxter (Engineering Infinity, 2010)
“Weep for Day” by Indrapramit Das (Asimov’s Science Fiction, August 2012)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, 2012)
“The Memcordist” by Lavie Tidhar (Eclipse Online, December 24, 2012)
“The Best We Can” by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, July 17, 2013)
“The Discovered Country” by Ian R. MacLeod (Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2013)
“Pathways” by Nancy Kress (Twelve Tomorrows, 2013)
“The Hand Is Quicker” by Elizabeth Bear (The Book of Silverberg: Stories in Honor of Robert Silverberg, 2014)
“Someday” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Science Fiction, April-May 2014)
“The Long Haul, from The Annals of Transportation, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009” by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld #98, November 2014)
“Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld #100, January 2015)
“Calved” by Sam J. Miller (Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2015)
“Emergence” by Gwyneth Jones (Meeting Infinity, 2015)
“Rates of Change” by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck [as by James S. A. Corey] (Meeting Infinity, 2015)
“Jonas and the Fox” by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld #116, May 2016)
“KIT: Some Assembly Required” by Kathe Koja and Carter Scholz (Asimov’s Science Fiction, August 2016)
“Winter Timeshare” by Ray Nayler (Asimov’s Science Fiction, January-February 2017)
“My English Name” by R. S. Benedict (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May-June 2017)

The Best of the Best 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction-small The Best of the Best, Volume 2 20 Years of the Best Short Science Fiction Novels-small

Why does The Very Best of the Best cover only the last 15 years? Because in truth this volume is a companion book to the two previous compilations Gardner produced last decade, covering those early years.

The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction (2005)
The Best of the Best Volume 2: 20 Years of the Best Short Science Fiction Novels (2007)

The first gathered short stories, and the second novellas. Both are still in print and make fine reading.

Is The Very Best of the Best Gardner’s final book? I expect there will be additional collections of his own work assembled in future years by other editors, but this is almost certainly his final anthology. Gardner was working on at least one additional book before his death that will never see the light of day. Matthew Hughes posted this intriguing tidbit on Facebook yesterday:

Got up this morning and was surprised to find a Paypal payment from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for “The Last Legend.” That was relatively quick.

The story was originally written for the anthology, The Book of Legends, that Gardner Dozois was assembling when he died.

The Book of Swords Gardner Dozois-smallOur previous coverage of Gardner’s many books and articles includes:

The Book of Magic
Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois’ 40-Volume Reprint Library
The Book of Swords
A Book That Makes You Yearn to be Stranded on a Desert Island: Modern Classics of Fantasy
The End of an Era: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois on the New Sword & Sorcery
Worldmakers and Supermen
Explorers and The Furthest Horizon
The Good Stuff
Multiverse: Exploring the Worlds of Poul Anderson, edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois
Gardner Dozois on the 2013 Hugo Nominations

Gardner also produced a number of massive best-selling anthologies co-edited with George R.R. Martin. They include:

Old Venus
Old Mars
Rogues
Warriors, reviewed by Jason M. Waltz
Songs of the Dying Earth

The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction was published by St. Martin’s Griffin on February 26, 2019. It is 686 pages, priced at $39.99 in hardcover, $23.99 in trade paperback, and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover, a montage of ten previous cover images in his Best of the Year volumes, was designed by Jim Burns.

See all our recent coverage of Gardner’s work here.

4 Comments »

  1. Amen. Blessings and peace. Gardner, you are fondly missed and eternally remembered.

    Comment by WillW - July 4, 2019 8:48 am

  2. Thanks, Will.

    Here’s a pic I found that I meant to include in the article. It shows all 35 volumes of Gardner’s Year’s Best, published from 1984-2018. It may be the single most comprehensive library of the best in modern science fiction.

    Gardner Dozois Years Best Anthologies-small

    Except for the early volumes, all these books are easy to find. You can find the most recent half-dozen remaindered for under $10 each here:

    https://bookoutlet.com/Store/Search?qf=All&q=Dozois

    Comment by John ONeill - July 4, 2019 10:23 am

  3. If wishes were horses, I’d ride to the bookstore and buy this one, and the other two. Instead, I’ll have to be satisfied with the older ones I happen to have.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - July 4, 2019 12:56 pm

  4. I’ve been contacted by one of the individuals invited to submit to The Book of Legends, and this person agreed to let me share the following:

    “Since you’re interested: Gardner had sent out invitations for The Book of Legends and had received, I think, four stories when he died. That included mine, because I tended to drop everything and write when Gardner wanted something. So he’d bought (and paid for) mine, when he suddenly died of that damned infection.

    His son, Chris Casper, looked at keeping the project alive, but from the few emails I saw, I gather that some of the invitees didn’t want to go on without Gardner at the helm. Things were up in the air for a while, then the project ran out of steam. Finally, we heard that Bantam had canceled it.”

    Comment by John ONeill - July 5, 2019 3:09 pm


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