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The Virtual Best of the Year: 2006

by Rich Horton

This year so far I have read a total of 65 novellas, 315 novelettes, and 1580 short stories. The novella and short story totals are up a great deal from last year. The novelette total is almost the same. Of the short stories, 227 were short shorts. (I consider a short-short to be anything under 1500 words.) The total length of the new short fiction I read last year was about 10.8 million words, versus a final total of between 9 and 10 million each of the last three years. Total stories: 1951. (I estimate there are at least 2500 stories published in some at least vaguely semipro form each year, but that’s really just a guess.) When the last magazines are in, I should be close to 2000 total stories and 11,000,000 words.

I also computed average lengths of each category (aren’t spreadsheets wonderful?) Novellas averaged just under 23,600 words, novelettes about 10,200 words, and short stories average 3800 words, all pretty similar to last year’s averages (the novella average a bit lower).

These come from a total of 36 print magazines, 27 different electronic “sources,” of which about 22 are what I would call regularly publishing “magazines” of some variety or other. Add 40 anthologies, 9 chapbooks, 20 story collections, and a dozen or so more “miscellaneous” sources.

I’ll begin with my Tables of Contents for my Year’s Best books — I note that these are not so “Virtual” any more. Sean Wallace at Prime Books noticed this selection last year and offered to make these books “real,” and the first three listed will be published by Prime. The fourth, Best Online SF/Fantasy, is still “virtual,” however.

I will follow with a more complete list, by category, of my favorite stories of the year, which will serve as a “recommended reading” list of sorts, analogous to the list of stories Gardner Dozois publishes every year in his book.

Science Fiction: The Best of the Year 2007 Edition

  • “Another Word for Map is Faith,” Christopher Rowe (F&SF, August 2006)
  • “Okanoggan Falls,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (F&SF, August 2006)
  • “Saving for a Sunny Day,” Ian Watson (Asimov’s, October/November 2006)
  • “The Cartesian Theater,” Robert Charles Wilson (Futureshocks)
  • “Hesperia and Glory,” Ann Leckie (Subterranean #4)
  • “Incarnation Day,” Walter Jon Williams (Escape From Earth)
  • “Exit Before Saving,” Ruth Nestvold (Futurismic, August 2006)
  • “Inclination,” William Shunn (Asimov’s, April/May 2006)
  • “Life on the Preservation,” Jack Skillingstead (Asimov’s, June 2006)
  • “Me-Topia,” Adam Roberts (Forbidden Planets, edited by Peter Crowther, DAW)
  • “The House Beyond Your Sky,” Benjamin Rosenbaum (Strange Horizons, September 4, 2006)
  • “A Billion Eves,” Robert Reed (Asimov’s, October/November 2006)

Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2007 Edition

  • “Journey Into the Kingdom,” M. Rickert (F&SF, May 2006)
  • “The Water Poet and the Four Seasons,” by David J. Schwartz (Strange Horizons, May 1, 2006)
  • “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy),” Geoff Ryman (F&SF, October/November 2006)
  • “The Osteomancer’s Son,” Greg van Eekhout (Asimov’s, April/May 2006)
  • “Salt Wine,” Peter Beagle (Fantasy Magazine #3)
  • “The Original Word for Rain,” Peter Higgins (Zahir, Spring 2006)
  • “The Lineaments of Gratified Desire,” Ysabeau Wilce (F&SF, July 2006)
  • “Journey to Gantica,” by Matthew Corradi (F&SF, January)
  • “Irregular Verbs” by Matthew Johnson (Fantasy Magazine #4)
  • “A Fish Story,” Sarah Totton (Realms of Fantasy, October 2006)
  • “The Night Whiskey,” Jeffrey Ford (Salon Fantastique)
  • “A Fine Magic” by Margo Lanagan (Eidolon 1)
  • “Naturally” by Daniel Handler (Zoetrope All-Story, Spring)
  • “Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge,” Richard Parks (Realms of Fantasy, April 2006)
  • “Citrine: A Fable,” Elise Moser (Room of One’s Own, July)
  • “A Siege of Cranes,” Benjamin Rosenbaum (Twenty Epics)

Space Opera 2007 Edition

  • “Have You Any Wool,” Alan De Niro (Twenty Epics)
  • “Lehr, Rex,” Jay Lake (Forbidden Planets)
  • “Lady Be Good,” John G. Hemry (Analog, April 2006)
  • “Kansas, She Says, is the Name of the Star,” R. Garcia y Robertson (F&SF)
  • “Every Hole is Outlined,” John Barnes (Baen’s Universe, October 2006)
  • “The Plurality of Worlds,” Brian Stableford (Asimov’s, August 2006)
  • “Dead Men Walking,” Paul J. McAuley (Asimov’s, March 2006)
  • “The Muse of Empires Lost,” Paul Berger (Twenty Epics)
  • “Catastrophe Baker and the Cold Equations,” Mike Resnick (Golden Age SF)
  • “Thousandth Night,” Alastair Reynolds (One Million A.D.)

Best Online SF/F 2007

This needs some explanation — Sean Wallace and I discussed the idea of doing a “Best Online” book, but in the end it didn’t seem it would work. (Basically, it wasn’t clear it would sell.) But here’s the 100,000 words I had selected, in a preliminary cut — and I still think it would make a fine book.

  • “The Ile of Dogges,” Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette (Aeon)
  • “The Los Angeles Women’s Auxiliary Superhero League,” Elana Frink (Strange Horizons)
  • “Poga,” John Barnes (Baen’s Universe)
  • “New Spectacles,” Will McIntosh (Abyss and Apex)
  • “The Perfect Man,” Lauren McLaughlin (Salon)
  • “The Old Woman in the Young Woman,” Gene Wolfe (Baen’s Universe)
  • “Emmett, Joey and the Beelz,” Ralph Sevush (Abyss and Apex)
  • “Real City,” Carrie Vaughn (Futurismic)
  • “Wolf Night,” Martha Wells (Lone Star)
  • “Dream Engine,” Tim Pratt (Intergalactic Medicine Show)
  • “Tonino and the Incubus,” Peg Robinson (Helix)
  • “Mayfly,” Heather Lindsley (Strange Horizons)
  • “The Anabe Girls,” A. R. Morlan (Challenging Destiny)
  • “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth,” Cory Doctorow (Baen’s Universe)
  • “Heroic Measures,” Matthew Johnson (Strange Horizons)

Now to list my favorites, and presumptive Hugo nominees, in each category.

Novellas

I’m listing these in alphabetical order, which reveals a remarkable quantity of work by people with last names starting with R or S. I’ll follow by listing my top five, or Hugo nominee probables.

  • “The Maid on the Shore,” Kage Baker (Dark Mondays)
  • “No Place Like Home,” Julie E. Czerneda (Forbidden Planets, edited by Marvin Kaye, SFBC)
  • “The Walls of the Universe,” Paul Melko (Asimov’s, April/May 2006)
  • “A Billion Eves,” Robert Reed (Asimov’s, October/November 2006)
  • “Good Mountain,” Robert Reed (One Million A.D.)
  • “Rococo,” Robert Reed (Forbidden Planets (Kaye))
  • Flavors of My Genius, Robert Reed (PS Publishing)
  • “Thousandth Night,” Alastair Reynolds (One Million A.D.)
  • The Voyage of Night Shining White, Chris Roberson (PS Publishing)
  • “Missile Gap,” Charles Stross (One Million A.D.)
  • “Inclination,” William Shunn (Asimov’s, April/May 2006)
  • “Incident on a Small Colony,” Kristine Smith (Baen’s Universe, December 2006)
  • “The Plurality of Worlds,” Brian Stableford (Asimov’s, August 2006)
  • “The Lineaments of Gratified Desire,” Ysabeau Wilce (F&SF, July 2006)
  • Julian: A Christmas Story, Robert Charles Wilson (PS Publishing)

15 stories, about 23% of the novellas I read. Stories by M. Rickert, Jeffrey Ford, Jan Wildt, and a few more by Alastair Reynolds were close to making this list.

My “top four,” in very rough order:

  • Julian: A Christmas Story, Wilson
  • Missile Gap,” Stross
  • “A Billion Eves,” Reed
  • “Inclination,” Shunn

with the Melko, Wilce, and Reynolds stories vying for the fifth spot on my Hugo nomination list.

Novelettes

Again, in alphabetical order by author:

  • “Every Hole is Outlined,” John Barnes (Baen’s Universe, October 2006)
  • “Poga,” John Barnes (Baen’s Universe, June 2006)
  • “Salt Wine,” Peter Beagle (Fantasy Magazine #3)
  • “Wane,” Elizabeth Bear (Interzone, February 2006)
  • “Bow Shock,” Gregory Benford (Baen’s Universe, June 2006)
  • “A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange,” Beth Bernobich (Asimov’s, June 2006)
  • “The Muse of Empires Lost,” Paul Berger (Twenty Epics)
  • “Farmers in the Sky,” Rob Chilson
  • “The Kewlest Thing of All,” David Ira Cleary (Asimov’s, March 2006)
  • “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth,” Cory Doctorow (Baen’s Universe)
  • “The Night Whiskey,” Jeffrey Ford (Salon Fantastique)
  • “Kansas, She Said, is the Name of the Star,” R. Garcia y Robertson (F&SF, July 2006)
  • “Okanoggan Falls,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (F&SF, August 2006)
  • “Lessons With Miss Gray,” Theodora Goss (Fantasy Magazine #2)
  • “Halfway House,” Frances Hardinge (Alchemy #3)
  • “Lady Be Good,” John G. Hemry (Analog, April 2006)
  • “Lehr, Rex,” Jay Lake (Forbidden Planets (Crowther))
  • “The Big Ice,” Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold (Baen’s Universe, December 2006)
  • “Frankie on Zanzibar,” David Mace (Interzone, December 2006)
  • “Dead Men Walking,” Paul J. McAuley (Asimov’s, March 2006)
  • “The Djinn’s Wife,” Ian McDonald (Asimov’s, July 2006)
  • “Amante Doree,” Sarah Monette (Paradox, Winter 2006)
  • “Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge,” Richard Parks (Realms of Fantasy, April 2006)
  • “Dream Engine,” Tim Pratt (Intergalactic Medicine Show, October 2006)
  • “Journey Into the Kingdom,” M. Rickert (F&SF, May 2006)
  • “Tonino and the Incubus,” Peg Robinson (Helix, December)
  • “Home Movies,” Mary Rosenblum (Asimov’s, April/May 2006)
  • “Me-Topia,” Adam Roberts (Forbidden Planets (Crowther))
  • “A Siege of Cranes,” Benjamin Rosenbaum (Twenty Epics)
  • “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy),” Geoff Ryman (F&SF, October/November 2006)
  • “Emmet, Joey, and the Beelz,” Ralph Sevush (Abyss and Apex, Second Quarter 2006)
  • “The Bordello in Faerie,” Michael Swanwick (Postscripts, Autumn 2006)
  • “The After-Life,” Jan Wildt (Flytrap #6)
  • “Incarnation Day,” Walter Jon Williams (Escape From Earth)
  • “Penultima Thule,” Chris Willrich (F&SF, August 2006)
  • “The Cartesian Theater,” Robert Charles Wilson (Futureshocks)

That’s 35 stories, just over 11% of the novelettes I saw. Stories by Simon Brown, Paul di Filippo, Daniel Hood, Robert J. Howe, Nick Mamatas, Ellen Klages, Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia A. McKillip, Carrie Vaughn, Mel Odom, M. Rickert again, Brian Stableford, Michael Constance, Justin Courter, and Zoran Zivkovic were close to making the list.

My current “top five”:

  • “Journey Into the Kingdom,” Rickert
  • “Salt Wine,” Beagle”A Siege of Cranes,” Rosenbaum
  • “The Cartesian Theater,” Wilson
  • “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy),” Ryman

with Barnes’s “Every Hole is Outlined” and Williams’s “Incarnation Day” knocking on the door.

Short Stories

Again, the long list, in alphabetical order, then tentative Hugo nomination thoughts.

  • “The Ile of Dogges,” Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette (Aeon Seven)
  • “The Machine,” Joey Comeau (Strange Horizons, January 16, 2006)
  • “Journey to Gantica,” by Matthew Corradi (F&SF, January)
  • “The Fisherman of Northholt,” Ian Creasey (Postscripts, Summer 2006)
  • “Have You Any Wool,” Alan De Niro (Twenty Epics)
  • “Change,” Julian Flood (Analog, January-February 2006)
  • “The Door That Does Not Close,” Carl Frederick (Analog, June 2006)
  • “The Los Angeles Women’s Auxiliary Superhero League,” Elana Frink (Strange Horizons, April 3,
  • 006)
  • “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” Neil Gaiman (Fragile Things, F&SF, January 2007)
  • “We Are Never Where We Are,” Gavin J. Grant (Strange Horizons, May 8, 2006)
  • “Naturally,” Daniel Handler (Zoetrope, Spring 2006)
  • “The Original Word for Rain,” Peter Higgins (Zahir, Spring 2006)
  • “Total Loss,” James Hosek (Analog, July-August)
  • “False Dawn of Parrots,” Rhys Hughes (Postscripts, Summer 2006)
  • “Heroic Measures,” Matthew Johnson (Strange Horizons, December 18, 2006)
  • “Irregular Verbs” by Matthew Johnson (Fantasy Magazine #4)
  • “A Fine Magic” by Margo Lanagan (Eidolon 1)
  • “Hesperia and Glory,” Ann Leckie (Subterranean #4)
  • “Mayfly,” Heather Lindsley (Strange Horizons, September 25, 2006)
  • “Fourth Avenue Interlude,” Richard Lupoff (Weird Tales, August/September 2006)
  • “New Spectacles,” Will McIntosh (Abyss and Apex, Third Quarter 2006)
  • “The Perfect Man,” Lauren McLaughlin (Salon, May 30, 2006)
  • “Kin,” Bruce McAllister (Asimov’s, February 2006)
  • “Wildlife,” Henry Melton (Analog, March 2006)
  • “The Book Collector,” Sarah Micklem (Sex in the System)
  • “The Anabe Girls,” A. R. Morlan (Challenging Destiny)
  • “Citrine: A Fable,” Elise Moser (Room of One’s Own, July)
  • “Exit Before Saving,” Ruth Nestvold (Futurismic, August 2006)
  • “Dog Person,” Scott Nicholson (Cemetery Dance, #56)
  • “The Legend of Greatmother June,” Alastair Ong (Eidolon 1)
  • “Impossible Dreams,” Tim Pratt (Asimov’s, July 2006)
  • “Eight Episodes,” Robert Reed (Asimov’s)
  • “Catastrophe Baker and the Cold Equations,” Mike Resnick (Golden Age SF)
  • “The House Beyond Your Sky,” Benjamin Rosenbaum (Strange Horizons, September 4, 2006)
  • “Another Word for Map is Faith,” Christopher Rowe (F&SF, August 2006)
  • “Uncle Vernon’s Lie,” Patrick Samphire (Realms of Fantasy, February 2006)
  • “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery,” John Schoffstahl (Strange Horizons, June 5, 2006)
  • “Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise,” Ken Scholes (Realms of Fantasy, August 2006)
  • “The Water Poet and the Four Seasons,” by David J. Schwartz (Strange Horizons, May 1, 2006)
  • “Life on the Preservation,” Jack Skillingstead (Asimov’s, June 2006)
  • “A Fish Story,” Sarah Totton (Realms of Fantasy, October 2006)
  • “Milk and Apples,” Catherynne M. Valente (Electric Velocipede, Fall 2006)
  • “Temnaya and the House of Books,” Catherynne M. Valente (Mythic 2)
  • “My Report on the Secret Life of Shane Hamill,” Jeff VanderMeer (Eidolon 1)
  • “Anywhere There’s Game,” Greg van Eekhout (Realms of Fantasy, 2006)
  • “The Osteomancer’s Son,” Greg van Eekhout (Asimov’s, April/May 2006)
  • “Orange Groves Out to the Horizon,” Richard Wadholm (Polyphony 6)
  • “Saving for a Sunny Day,” Ian Watson (Asimov’s, October/November 2006)
  • “Wolf Night,” Martha Wells (Lone Star Stories, August 2006)
  • “Travels Along an Unfurling Circular Path,” Robert Charles Wexler (Electric Velocipede, Spring 2006)
  • “The Old Woman in the Young Woman,” Gene Wolfe (Baen’s Universe, October 2006)

That’s 50 stories, four more than the past two years, but I read rather more. That’s just over 3% of the short stories I read this year. Stories by Brian Attebery, Ken Scholes, D. J. Cockburn, Will McIntosh, Samantha Henderson, Julian West, Theodora Goss, Charles Saplak, Kiel Stuart, Ian Watson, Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick, Susanna Clarke, Steven Popkes, Ken Altabef, Robert Reed, Tony Richards, Richard Parks, William Alexander, Cat Sparks, Carrie Vaughn, Amanda Downum, Cat Rambo, Michael Humfrey, Anna Tambour, and Martin Livings were also close to the list. And several more I’ll remember later.

My tentative Hugo list is just four deep for now, with four or five stories vying for the last spot:

  • “The House Beyond Your Sky,” Rosenbaum
  • “Another Word for Map is Faith,” Rowe
  • “Eight Episodes,” Reed
  • “Life on the Preservation,” Skillingstead

One might notice that the TOCs for my books cited above lack “Eight Episodes,” “Julian: A Christmas Story,” and “Missile Gap” among my Hugo nominees. The reasons: I didn’t include “Eight Episodes” because I limited myself to one story per author per book and I decided to include “A Billion Eve” as my Reed story. I didn’t include “Julian: A Christmas Story” for the same reason, and also because I didn’t see it until after my TOCs had been finalized. And I didn’t include “Missile Gap” because it is being reprinted by Subterranean Press and they have a contract which allows them exclusive rights to reprint it in 2007.


Rich Horton’s feature articles exploring the rich history of modern fantasy and science fiction appear in every issue of Black Gate.Also read The Virtual Best of the Year: 2005 by Rich Horton, which originally appeared here last year.
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