Cover by Galen Dara
For the fifth volume of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, series editor John Joseph Adams asked Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties) to narrow down 80 contenders from the US and Canada into 20 finalists, 10 fantasy and 10 science fiction. In her introduction, Machado says that to make her selection she ignored the distinction between “literary” and “genre” fiction, instead asking if the stories were a pleasure to read.
Does she succeed? Booklist thinks so (“Among the many and varied pleasures of the collection are stories that share Machado’s love of formal experimentation…this brilliant and beautiful collection is a must-read.”) And Publishers Weekly says,
Standouts include Annalee Newitz’s “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis,” in which a drone befriends both humans and crows to combat inner-city epidemics; LaShawn M. Wanak’s “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good,” an alternate history piece in which singers are pressed into service against deadly spores; Sarah Gailey’s “STET,” which explores grief through the form of a scientific paper; Lesley Nneka Arimah’s “Skinned,” a provocative piece about the role of women in a patriarchal African society; Sofia Samatar’s “Hard Mary,” in which Amish-like girls adopt a broken android; and P. Djèlí Clark’s introspective history piece, “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington.” Despite the “American” label, there’s a decidedly global, multicultural feel to these pieces, which exemplify diversity and representation… In exploring the potential of the genre and challenging expectations, this anthology isn’t for everyone, but it’s a masterful showcase of what’s possible.
Here’s the complete table of contents. 80% of the fiction in this volume was selected from online sources (and none at all from the regular print magazines), so I’ve included links to the online stories so you can see how well the editors succeeded for yourself.
“Variations on a Theme from Turandot” by Ada Hoffmann (Strange Horizons)
“What Gentle Women Dare” by Kelly Robson (Uncanny Magazine)
“The Storyteller’s Replacement” by N.K. Jemisin (How Long ’til Black Future Month?)
“Dead Air” by Nino Cipri (Nightmare Magazine)
“Pitcher Plant” by Adam-Troy Castro (Nightmare Magazine)
“Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” by LaShawn M. Wanak (FIYAH)
“Godmeat” by Martin Cahill (Lightspeed Magazine)
“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine)
“Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women” by Theodore McCombs (Nightmare Magazine)
“Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung” by Usman Malik (Nightmare Magazine)
“The Kite Maker” by Brenda Peynado (Tor.com)
“What Everyone Knows” by Seanan McGuire (Kaiju Rising II)
“Poor Unfortunate Fools” by Silvia Park (The Margins/Transpacific Literary Project)
“Hard Mary” by Sofia Samatar (Lightspeed Magazine)
“On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog” by Adam Shannon (Apex Magazine)
“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com)
“STET” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine)
“When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz (Future Tense Fiction)
“Skinned” by Lesley Nneka Arimah (McSweeney’s)
“Through the Flash” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black)
Our previous coverage of the series includes:
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, edited by Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, edited by Karen Joy Fowler and John Joseph Adams
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, edited by Charles Yu and John Joseph Adams
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 edited by N.K. Jemisin and John Joseph Adams
We’re almost done with Years Best volumes this year, but there are a couple more in the pipeline, including books from Paula Guran, and Ellen Datlow. The ones 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, edited by Neil Clarke
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2019, edited by Rich Horton
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 will be published by Mariner Books on October 1, 2019. It is 411 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital format. The cover is by Galen Dara. Get all the details at Book Table.
See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming fantasy and science fiction here.