The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021 (Mariner Books, October 2021). Cover uncredited
John Joseph Adams was my editor on my first novel, The Robots of Gotham, so naturally I assume he is the leading editor in the field (you should too.) For the past seven years he has been editing The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy with a strong line-up of annual co-editors, including Karen Joy Fowler, N.K. Jemisin, and Carmen Maria Machado. This year Veronica Roth joins him at the podium, the bestselling author of The Divergent series and Chosen Ones.
The 10 fantasy tales in this year’s volume are by Kate Elliott, Ken Liu, Yohanca Delgado (with two stories), and others; the ten SF stories are from Daryl Gregory, Ted Kosmatka, Karen Lord, Tochi Onyebuchi, Yoon Ha Lee, and others. Also within are Celeste Rita Baker’s World Fantasy Award Winner “Glass Bottle Dancer,” Meg Elison’s Locus Award winner “The Pill,” and Sarah Pinsker’s Nebula winner “Two Truths and a Lie.” Here’s a look at some recent reviews.
Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying in part:
In “The Pill,” Meg Elison imagines that Big Pharma has developed a medication that can eliminate obesity and thoughtfully examines the dystopian effects of a society where choosing to remain overweight becomes a liability — and what happens to those whose lives aren’t really changed by the drug. Karin Lowachee’s “Survival Guide” explores what happens to students taught by an A.I. neural network that seems to improve comprehension but may be turning them into docile sheep in the process. And a devastating disease tests medical ethics in Karen Lord’s timely “The Plague Doctors.” The high point of the extraterrestrial entries, meanwhile, is Gene Doucette’s “Schrödinger’s Catastrophe,” in which a spaceship wanders into a section of the universe governed by different laws of physics. With these phenomenal selections, Roth nimbly demonstrates the genre’s continued potential for rich ideas.
For brevity though, you can’t beat Alan’s (mostly) one-sentence reviews of each tale at Goodreads. Here’s a few samples:
“Tiger’s Feast,” by KT Bryski — A surreal and terrifying escape from some heartbreakingly mundane schoolyard bullying.
“Crawfather,” by Mel Kassel — A great story about how family traditions can end up being toxic. Oh, and about a monster crayfish in a Minnie-soda lake.
“Our Language,” by Yohanca Delgado — The legend of the cigualpa, of women transformed, becoming smaller yet more powerful, invites comparison with James Tiptree, Jr..
“The Long Walk,” by Kate Elliott — Welcome to an exotic fantasy land (here there be dragons!) where women… still serve men, in all the usual ways. But not inevitably. A long story, as well as a long walk, but worth it in the end.
“One Time, a Reluctant Traveler,” by A. T. Greenblatt — A graceful and disturbing post-apocalyptic tale of a trek up a mountain to the impossible ocean at its summit.
Here’s the complete Table of Contents.
Foreword by John Joseph Adams
Introduction by Veronica Roth
“Glass Bottle Dancer” by Celeste Rita Baker (Lightspeed, April 2020) — World Fantasy Award Winner
“The Long Walk” by Kate Elliott (The Book of Dragons, 2020)
“The Cleaners” by Ken Liu (Faraway Collection, December 2020)
“Tiger’s Feast” by KT Bryski (Nightmare, November 2020)
“Crawfather” by Mel Kassel (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2020)
“Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com, June 17, 2020) — Hugo, Stoker, Locus nominee, Nebula Award Winner
“Let’s Play Dead” by Senaa Ahmad (The Paris Review, Spring 2020)
“And This is How to Stay Alive” by Shingai Njeri Kagunda (Fantasy Magazine, November 2020)
“Our Language” by Yohanca Delgado (A Public Space No 29, 2020)
“The Rat” by Yohanca Delgado (One Story, October 2020)
“One Time, a Reluctant Traveler” by A. T. Greenblatt (Clarkesworld, July 2020)
“Skipping Stones in the Dark” by Amman Sabet (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2020)
“Brother Rifle” by Daryl Gregory (Made to Order, 2020)
“Schrodinger’s Catastrophe” by Gene Doucette (Lightspeed, November 2020)
“The Plague Doctors” by Karen Lord (Take Us to a Better Place: Stories, 2020)
“Survival Guide” by Karin Lowachee (Burn the Ashes, 2020)
“The Pill” by Meg Elison (Big Girl Plus, 2020) — Hugo and Nebula nominee, Locus Award winner
“The Beast Adjoins” by Ted Kosmatka (Asimov’s Science Fiction, July-August 2020)
“How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary” by Tochi Onyebuchi (Slate, August 29, 2020)
“Beyond the Dragon’s Gate” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, May 20, 2020)
Other Notable Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories of 2020
The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2 (2021), edited by Jonathan Strahan (Saga)
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six (2021) edited by Neil Clarke (Night Shade)
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy (2020), edited by Rich Horton (Prime)
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy (2021) edited by John Joseph Adams & Veronica Roth (Mariner)
The Year’s Best of Dark Fantasy & Horror, Volume 2 (2021), edited by Paula Guran (Prime)
The Best Horror of the Year Volume Thirteen (2021) edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade)
The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021), edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
The pandemic era has played havoc with the usually-reliable release schedules for Year’s Best books. Rich Horton’s volume arrived in August — but it covers 2020, and his 2021 volume isn’t even scheduled yet. Neil Clarke’s book has been pushed out to January.
Worse is the rumors circulating that Strahan’s Saga book — and one of my favorites — has been canceled after just two volumes. If true, that’s terrible news. I hope the pandemic doesn’t claim any other publishing victims.
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021 was published by Mariner Books on October 12, 2021. It is 426 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback, $9.99 digital, and $25.99 in audio formats.
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