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New Treasures: The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Four, edited by Neil Clarke

Friday, July 19th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume Four-smallI always look forward to Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year, and Volume Four arrived right on time this week. This one is an important milestone in the series for two reasons.

First, it’s the first one to be available in hardcover. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. It’s a step up in prestige for the series, and it’s great to finally have these books available in a permanent edition. Second, this volume is dedicated to Gardner Dozois, who died last year, and in his thoughtful introduction Neil makes it clear that he will be carrying on Gardner’s tradition of a lengthy annual summation.

I opened this year’s review of short fiction with an important dedication. Few people can be said to have shaped modern science fiction to the degree that Gardner Dozois did over the course of his career. He will most notably be remembered for his time as editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction and The Year’s Best Science Fiction series, but he was also a Nebula Award-winning author. Gardner also won the Hugo Award for Best Editor a record-setting fifteen times and edited dozens of Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning stories. He was also a friend and colleague, working for me as reprint editor of Clarkesworld for the last five years.

On my shelves lies a complete run of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, all thirty-five volumes plus his three Best of the Best volumes, and dozens of other anthologies he edited. While volumes one through three of my series were technically competing with his, he never once made me feel like that was the case. One of the best and more beautiful things most of you don’t know about this field is how collegial it is. Even when the stories were no longer new to me, I always preordered his next volume, simply for his annual summation of the field. For many of us, it was an important history of the field, one that spanned over thirty years and was yet another important part of his legacy.

No one can fill his shoes, but in his honor, I’m going to merge some of the short-fiction-oriented features of Gardner’s introductions into my own. It’s my way of noting that aspect of his work. It’s of personal value to me, and a desire to see that particular torch carried forward.

Neil is as good as his word, and this volume of The Best Science Fiction of the Year contains a lengthy look back at the year in short fiction, broken up into sections such as The Business Side of Things, Magazine Comings and Goings, The 2018 Scorecard — particularly appreciated by stats nerds like me! — The Most Interesting Development for Short Science Fiction, and In Memoriam. I miss Gardner’s idiosyncratic take on the field, of course, but I must say Neil acquits himself very well indeed. His new summation is informative, highly readable, and on-target. I think Gardner would have been proud.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Introduction: A State of the Short SF Field in 2018 by Neil Clarke
“When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld, October 2018)
“Intervention” by Kelly Robson (Infinity’s End, edited by Jonathan Strahan)
“All the Time We’ve Left to Spend” by Alyssa Wong (Robots vs. Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe)
“Domestic Violence” by Madeline Ashby (Slate, March 26, 2018)
“Ten Landscapes of Nili Fossae” by Ian McDonald (2001: An Odyssey in Words, edited by Ian Whates and Tom Hunter)
“Prophet of the Roads” by Naomi Kritzer (Infinity’s End, edited by Jonathan Strahan)
“Traces of Us” by Vanessa Fogg (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2018)
“Theories of Flight” by Linda Nagata (Asimov’s Science Fiction, November/December 2018)
“Lab B-15” by Nick Wolven (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March/April 2018)
“Requiem” by Vandana Singh (Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, Small Beer Press)
“Sour Milk Girls” by Erin Roberts (Clarkesworld, January 2018)
“Mother Tongues” by S. Qiouyi Lu (Asimov’s Science Fiction, January/February 2018)
“Singles’ Day” by Samantha Murray (Interzone, September/October 2018)
“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, September 19, 2018)
“The Buried Giant” by Lavie Tidhar (Robots vs. Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe)
“The Anchorite Wakes” by R.S.A. Garcia (Clarkesworld, August 2018)
“Entropy War” by Yoon Ha Lee (2001: An Odyssey in Words, edited by Ian Whates and Tom Hunter)
“An Equation of State” by Robert Reed (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2018)
“Quantifying Trust” by John Chu (Mother of Invention, edited by Rivqa Rafael and Tansy Rayner Roberts)
“Hard Mary” by Sofia Samatar (Lightspeed, September 2018)
“Freezing Rain, a Chance of Falling” by L.X. Beckett (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2018)
“Okay, Glory” by Elizabeth Bear (Twelve Tomorrows, edited by Wade Roush)
“Heavy Lifting” by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny, September/October 2018)
“Lions and Gazelles” by Hannu Rajaniemi (Slate, September 27, 2018)
“Different Seas” by Alastair Reynolds (Twelve Tomorrows, edited by Wade Roush)
“Among the Water Buffaloes, a Tiger’s Steps” by Aliette de Bodard (Mechanical Animals, edited by Selena Chambers and Jason Heller)
“Byzantine Empathy” by Ken Liu (Twelve Tomorrows, edited by Wade Roush)
“Meat and Salt and Sparks” by Rich Larson (Tor.com, June 6, 2018)
“Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld, February 2018)
2018 Recommended Reading List

There are more Year’s Best volumes due over the next few months, from Rich Horton, John Joseph Adams, Paula Guran, and Ellen Datlow. There will be no volume 36 from Gardner this year, and it will be missed.

The volumes published so far in 2019 include:

The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volume Thirteen, edited by Jonathan Strahan
A Final Gift from Gardner: The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Four was published by Night Shade on July 16, 2019. It is 624 pages, priced at $34.99 in hardcover and $19.99 in trade paperback, and $10.99 in digital format. The cover art, “Behemoth,” is by Mack Sztaba. Get all the details at Neil’s website here.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

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