Happy Release Day to Mission Critical, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Mission Critical Jonathan Strahan-smallHappy release day to Mission Critical, the brand new anthology from Jonathan Strahan, editor of Engineering Infinity (2010), Drowned Worlds (2016), and thirteen volumes of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year.

In a Facebook post announcing the release today, Jonathan said:

My new book is out in the world! With stories by by Peter F. Hamilton, Yoon Lee, Aliette de Bodard, Greg Egan, Linda Nagata, Gregory Feeley, John Barnes, Tobias Buckell, Jason Fischer & Sean Williams, Carolyn Ives Gilman, John Meaney, Dominica Phetteplace, Allen M. Steele, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Peter Watts, [it’s] a mix of great science fiction adventure all based on the idea that when things go wrong you have to do *something*!

I love the stories in the book and am really proud of it. If you’ve ever enjoyed one of my anthologies, if you liked stories like The Martian, if you just want to keep anthologies coming out, or if you just love good short fiction, consider ordering this one.

I’ll second that notion. Jonathan has become one of the most respected and successful anthologists in the field. Back in 2015 I talked about how his book Meeting Infinity was the Most Successful Anthology of the year, and just last year Todd McAulty (author of The Robots of Gotham) opined about How Science Fiction Was Saved by Solaris and Jonathan Strahan.

Todd’s point was that short fiction is still critically important to the field, and that prestige anthologies like Strahan’s Infinity project are still the most reliable way for readers to discover new authors. It’s a premise that a lot of Black Gate readers agree with.

If you enjoy short fiction, or science fiction at all, supporting books like Mission Critical — and the publishers who produce them — is important. I hope you’ll give it a try. And if you enjoy it, I hope you’ll spread the word far and wide. (And if you don’t, why not shut the hell up about it.)

Mission Critical was published in paperback by Solaris today. Here’s the publisher’s description.

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New Treasures: The Best of R. A. Lafferty, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Sunday, May 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of R. A. Lafferty-small The Best of R. A. Lafferty-back-small

At last! At last! The Best of R. A. Lafferty is available here in the United States.

Back in October of last year, uber-editor Jonathan Strahan made the following terse announcement on his Facebook page, alongside a tantalizing cover reveal.

The Best of R.A. Lafferty will be published by Gollancz in March 2019. The book features 22 classic Lafferty stories along with an introduction by Neil Gaiman and forewords by some of the most important writers and editors working in the field today.

Fabulous! Lafferty is one of my favorite short story writers, and far too much of his work — virtually all of it, really — is either long out of print, or available only in very expensive collector’s editions from Centipede Press. The prospect of a generous collection of his best short fiction in a compact and affordable trade paperback edition (with a cover by Emanuel Santos illustrating one of his finest stories, “Nine Hundred Grandmothers”) seemed too good to be true.

And for a while, it look like it would be. I immediately added the book to my Amazon queue, and impatiently awaited the March release date. It came and went, and Amazon switched the status of the book from “Available for pre-order” to flat-out “Unavailable.” Copies of the book were unavailable through any of my regular sources. Until a few weeks ago, when a handful of sellers finally signaled they had it in stock. I placed an order, and it arrived last week.

And what a book it is. Not only does it include 22 terrific stories, but editor Strahan has also assembled thoughtful and entertaining intros to each by some of the finest writers in the field, including Samuel R. Delany, Robert Silverberg, Michael Swanwick, Michael Bishop, John Scalzi, Jeff VanderMeer, Nancy Kress, Andy Duncan, Gregory Frost, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Jack Dann, Harlan Ellison, Cat Rambo, and many others.

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Future Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volume Thirteen, edited by Jonathan Strahan

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

The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 13-smallThe 2019 Hugo Awards Finalists were announced this week and, as usual, I immediately wanted to track down the short fiction nominees I missed last year (which turns out to be most of ’em, but I won’t let this digress into a cranky rant about the precious little short fiction I get to read these days.) Many of the nominees are online of course, but scattered across numerous sites. So it made me laugh when I saw this tongue-in-cheek post from editor Jonathan Strahan on Facebook this morning:

Hugo Awards nominees? Shortlists? If only there were somewhere you could read a whole bunch of the nominees all in one place, right now. Hmmm.

He’s referring, of course, to his upcoming book The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume Thirteen, arriving from Solaris in two weeks. It contains 30 stories, including a whopping seven Hugo nominees. I know this because Piet Nel conveniently did the counting for me in the comments:

I’d go for a book that had at least four of the Nebula finalists, seven up for the Hugo, and six on the final Sturgeon ballot. If only I knew of such a book…

While I don’t mean to imply that a pure nominee count is the best measure of success for a Year’s Best anthology, you still have to give it up for Strahan. The man has excellent taste, and no mistake.

While it’s great to have a single volume packed with so much Hugo nominee goodness, the arrival of Volume Thirteen is still bittersweet. It is the final book in the series, which has been one of the most rewarding of the Year’s Best in the modern era. This is a book that I have looked forward to each and every year, and it will be much missed.

But when God closes a door, He opens a window, as they say (and what the heck does that even mean?) In any event, without missing a beat Jonathan announced a brand new Year’s Best series with Saga Press, the inaugural volume of which ships next year. In the meantime, we have Volume Thirteen of this series to look forward to, with stories by John Crowley, Jeffrey Ford, N K Jemisin, Naomi Kritzer, Ken Liu, Rich Larson, Garth Nix, Kelly Robson, Tade Thompson, Alyssa Wong, Elizabeth Bear, Daryl Gregory, Maria Dahvana Headley, Andy Duncan, and many others. Here’s the complete table of contents.

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How Science Fiction Was Saved by Solaris and Jonathan Strahan

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018 | Posted by Todd McAulty

Infinity's End edited by Jonathan Strahan-smallA few years ago Black Gate asked “Is the Original SF and Fantasy Paperback Anthology Series Dead?” Those were dark, dark days, and I don’t like to think of them.

They’re over now. Science fiction was rescued from a barren wasteland of paperback sameness by the one publisher who had a decent shot: Solaris. They did it by taking a chance on a paperback anthology series that has become one of the most acclaimed and celebrated of the past few decades: Jonathan Strahan’s Infinity Project, which comes to a triumphant end this month with Infinity’s End, certain to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.

You see, years ago original anthology series like Damon Knight’s Orbit, Terry Carr’s Universe and Robert Silverberg’s New Dimensions were the very centre of science fiction, providing a prestigious and high-paying market for short fiction. They showcased the top names as well as up-and-coming talent. I could plunk down my three bucks at W.H. Smith in Halifax, Nova Scotia, knowing that the slender paperbacks I excitedly carried home would introduce me to half a dozen new writers.

Those books sold well, but publishers were savvy enough to know that it wasn’t just about the bottom line. When I read stories like Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (from New Dimensions 3, 1974), Howard Waldrop’s “The Ugly Chickens” (Universe 10, 1981), or Isaac Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man” (Stellar 2, 1977), I immediately began haunting book store stacks for books by Le Guin, Waldrop, and Asimov. There’s no reader as observant or loyal as a science fiction fan, and paperback anthologies, cheap and plentiful, were the perfect way to get authors in front of hungry new readers.

The economics of publishing gradually changed over the decades, of course, and those changes eventually wiped out the original paperback series. DAW’s long-running “paperback magazine,” the monthly anthology edited by Martin Greenberg and his associates at Tekno Books, was the last of them, and when Marty passed away in 2011, DAW killed it, too. Old timers like me shook their heads, muttering “No one reads short stories any more.” True or false, that grumpy sentiment became conventional wisdom in American publishing. No one would take a chance on something as provably dead as anthologies. That meant fewer readers finding new writers, and fewer sales for those writers. The field slowly withered without a prestige anthology series, and it looked like it would do so forever.

Until Solaris, and Strahan.

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Future Treasures: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Twelve, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Twelve-smallI recently discovered the Coode Street Podcast, hosted by editor Jonathan Strahan and Chicago Tribune critic Gary K. Wolfe, and have been thoroughly enjoying it. They discuss a wide variety of topics of interest to SF and fantasy readers every week — everything from the Hugo nominations, the best debuts of the year, art in science fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin, conventions, upcoming releases, and so much more — and they’re both so articulate and knowledgeable, and so darn enthusiastic, that you can’t help coming away from each hour-long conversation with a lengthy list of brand new books you just have to check out.

I feel the same way about Jonathan Strahan’s annual Best Science Fiction of the Year. The latest volume makes it an even dozen, and each one has helped me discover a handful of delightful new authors. It’s a book I cherish every year, and this one — with stories by Samuel R. Delany, Yoon Ha Lee, Caroline M. Yoachim, Rich Larson, Indrapramit Das, Charlie Jane Anders, Linda Nagata, Theodora Goss, Greg Egan, Mary Robinette Kowal, Scott Lynch, Maureen McHugh, Alastair Reynolds, Karl Schroeder, Kai Ashante Wilson, and our very own C.S.E. Cooney — looks even more stellar than most.

It arrives in trade paperback from Solaris next week. Here’s the Table of Contents.

“The Mocking Tower,” Daniel Abraham (The Book of Swords)
“Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue,” Charlie Jane Anders (Boston Review)
“Probably Still the Chosen One,” Kelly Barnhill (Lightspeed)
“My English Name,” R. S. Benedict (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
“Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance,” Tobias Buckell (Cosmic Powers)
“Though She Be But Little,” C.S.E. Cooney (Uncanny)
“The Moon is Not a Battlefield,” Indrapramit Das (Infinity Wars)
“The Hermit of Houston,” Samuel R. Delany (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
“The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine,” Greg Egan (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
“Crispin’s Model,” Max Gladstone (Tor.com)
“Come See the Living Dryad,” Theodora Goss (Tor.com)

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Future Treasures: Infinity Wars, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Infinity Wars Jonathan Strahan-smallInfinity Wars is the sixth volume in what Jonathan Strahan calls The Infinity Project, a series of science fiction anthologies from Solaris that include Reach For Infinity (2014), Meeting Infinity (2015), and one of the most acclaimed anthologies of last year, Bridging Infinity (2016). Jonathan says he’s “already pushing ahead on the seventh.”

The success of the project is a huge vindication for Solaris, who took a chance on the ambitious series just when it was starting to look like the original SF and fantasy paperback anthology was dead. Infinity Wars arrives in trade paperback next month. Here’s the description.

Conflict is Eternal

We have always fought. Tales of soldiers and war go back to the very roots of our history, to the beginnings of the places we call home. And science and technology have always been inextricably linked with the deadly art of war, whether through Da Vinci’s infamous machineries of war or the Manhattan Project’s world-ending bombs or distant starships fighting unknowable opponents.

Oppenheimer once wrote that “the atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.” But unendurable or not, future always comes. War was integral to science faction at its birth and remains so today, whether on the page or on the screen.

Infinity Wars asks one question: what would Oppenheimer’s different country be like? Who would fight it? Because at the end of it all, it always come down to a soldier alone, risking life and limb to achieve a goal that may never really make sense at all. How would those soldiers feel? What would they experience?

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Future Treasures: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Eleven edited by Jonathan Strahan

Friday, April 7th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Eleven Strahan-smallHoly cats, have we started the Best of the Year season already? How did that sneak up on me?

However it happened, I take great pleasure in cataloging the new additions to some of my favorite anthologies every year. Jonathan Strahan is one of the top editors in the field, and his ongoing Infinity anthology series (Meeting Infinity, Bridging Infinity, etc.) has produced some of the most acclaimed short SF of the past decade. Strahan has been editing The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year for eleven straight years, the first seven with Night Shade, and the last three with Solaris, and he shows no sign of stopping. It’s a book I cherish every year, and Volume 11 — with fiction by Amal El-Mohtar, Paolo Bacigalupi, Aliette de Bodard, N.K. Jemisin, Rich Larson, Yoon Ha Lee, Ken Liu, Ian R. MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Geoff Ryman, Delia Sherman, Lavie Tidhar, Catherynne M Valente, Genevieve Valentine, and many others — is no exception.

It arrives in trade paperback in two weeks. Here’s the Table of Contents.

“Two’s Company,” Joe Abercrombie (Tor.com, Jan 16, 2016)
“The Art of Space Travel,” Nina Allan (Tor.com)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron,” Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood)
“Mika Model,” Paolo Bacigalupi (Slate)
“A Salvaging of Ghosts,” Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 01/03/16)
“Laws of Night and Silk,” Seth Dickinson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 26 May 2016)
“Touring with the Alien,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld 115, 4/16)
“Red as Blood and White as Bone,” Theodora Goss (Tor.com)

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Jonathan Strahan on the Best Short Novels of 2016

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

the-best-story-i-can-manage-robert-shearman-smallJonathan Strahan used to edit a marvelous anthology series for the Science Fiction Book Club called Best Short Novels. He published four volumes, from 2004-2007. On his Coode Street website yesterday, Jonathan published “An Imaginary List” of his picks for a 2016 volume.

I was pondering what I’d put into my old Best Short Novels series, if I was still editing it for someone today. After a bit of reflection I came up with the following list. I wasn’t restricted to Hugo length requirements, so one story is actually a long novelette, but this list would still come close to 200,000 words which is about right for the old series.

Here’s his selections for the ten best short novels of 2016, including five entries from the new Tor.com novella line, two from collections, and one each from Asimov’s SF and F&SF.

The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor)
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor)
Every Heart A Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor)
This Census-taker, China Mieville (Del Rey)
“The Charge and the Storm,” An Owomoyela (Asimov’s)
The Devil You Know, K.J. Parker (Tor)
The Iron Tactician, Alastair Reynolds (Newcon)
The Best Story I Can Manage, Robert Shearman (Five Storeys High)
“The Vanishing Kind,” Lavie Tidhar (F&SF)
A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor)

We discussed Jonathan’s Best Short Novels series in a feature earlier this year, and we covered the latest from Tor.com here.

See Jonthan’s complete post here.

Future Treasures: Bridging Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

bridging-infinity-smallJonathan Strahan’s Infinity books have gradually earned a reputation as the finest ongoing anthology series in the genre — and perhaps, one of the finest in the history of the genre. In my June article The Most Successful Anthology of 2015, I pointed out that over half of the contents of the fourth book in the series had been selected for Year’s Best volumes. If that’s not a record, it has to be close.  In just two weeks the fifth volume in the series, Bridging Infinity, arrives in trade paperback from Solaris, and I am very much looking forward to it.


Sense of wonder is the lifeblood of science fiction. When we encounter something on a truly staggering scale – metal spheres wrapped around stars, planets rebuilt and repurposed, landscapes re-engineered, starships bigger than worlds – the only response we have is reverence, admiration, and possibly fear at something that is grand, sublime, and extremely powerful.

Bridging Infinity puts humanity at the heart of that experience, as builder, as engineer, as adventurer, reimagining and rebuilding the world, the solar system, the galaxy and possibly the entire universe in some of the best science fiction stories you will experience.

Bridging Infinity continues the award-winning Infinity Project series of anthologies with new stories from Alastair Reynolds, Pat Cadigan, Stephen Baxter, Charlie Jane Anders, Tobias S.Buckell, Karen Lord, Karin Lowachee, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Gregory Benford, Larry Liven, Robert Reed, Pamela Sargent, Allen Steele, Pat Murphy, Paul Doherty, An Owomoyela, Thoraiya Dyer and Ken Liu.

The previous volumes in the series are:

Engineering Infinity (2010)
Edge of Infinity (2012)
Reach For Infinity (2014)
Meeting Infinity (2015)

And here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Distinctive Visions of Earth After Climate Change: Drowned Worlds, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Monday, October 10th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

drowned-worlds-front-small drowned-worlds-back-small

Reading reviews frequently helps heighten my anticipation for a book. That’s certainly the case with Jonathan Strahan’s acclaimed new anthology Drowned Worlds, a collection of SF tales which looks at the future of Earth after the full effects of climate change.

The book includes all-new fiction from Ken Liu, Kim Stanley Robinson, Christopher Rowe, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Charlie Jane Anders, Jeffrey Ford, Rachel Swirsky, Lavie Tidhar, Catherynne M. Valente, and many others. It’s been getting some terrific reviews, from places like Tor.com, Locus Online, and other fine institutions. Here’s a few samples, starting with author James Lovegrove in the Financial Times.

Taking its cue — as well as its title — from JG Ballard’s 1962 debut novel The Drowned World, the book offers 15 memorable, distinctive visions of Earth after climate change has exerted its grip. Sea levels have risen, and deserts have spread. People live aboard rafts, amid ruins, on other planets. The Anthropocene era has done its apocalyptic worst. There is nevertheless, a thin silvery thread of hope — humankind, through its adaptability and ingenuity, endures.

And here a snippet from Gary K. Wolfe’s lengthy review at Locus Online.

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