Reading: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 7

15817091Title: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 7
Published: April 18th 2013 by Night Shade Books
Format: Short Story Anthology
Read:  August 16th 2013 –
Status: First reading
Genre: Urban fantasy, fantasy, science fiction, horror, steampunk, weird fiction, magic realism etc.

This book is a gathering of short stories edited by Jonathan Strahan  who is one of the podcasters of The Coode Street Podcast. The collection is Strahan’s take on the best stories from within the SF&F field. It is a mix of all kinds of sub-genres and many of the stories have only been published in very small venues before. So far I have not read any of them before, but that might change as I go along.

I am currently reading stories from this collection in between all the other things that I am reading. I am very much a mood reader, so I always have at least three books going at any give time but often as many as Seven and I normally have no problem keeping them straight. I like reading short stories because they are short enough to fit in between whatever else I am reading or read while in transit or even before I go to sleep without getting dragged into reading till way too late.

First of all, that title, way too long. I started by reading the introduction. I normally probably would have skipped it and read it later, but Strahan had talked about it on The Coode Street Podcast, so I decide that I better read it first. It pretty much read like a reduction of a year’s Coode Street Podcast. Like the podcast it was lovely and thoughtful.

The Contrary Gardener by Christopher Rowe originally published in Eclipse Online (read it free online)

gardnerRowe played with our idea of the never-ending pursuit of profit. The world that he build was a no-profit-allowed world, where surplus is seen as wasteful rather than something to be strived for. Speaking of the world-building the story gave the clear feel that there was a waste world outside the tiny corner that was made known to the reader. And the world seemed complex and plausible. Rowe also played with the idea of artificial intelligence and who has the right to determine the rights of the intelligent machines. 

I really enjoyed the story. It had a really strange feel to it and I liked how it popped me right into the middle of the story and then expanded from there. Nice ending as well!

plate15The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times by Eleanor Arnason originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

This story is written by a myth or a fable of old. This seems to be one of the stories of an alien civilization that is unknown to the reader. It feels very authentic as a myth and I liked the voice of the story.

I do not think I have read anything like this within the SF&F field before. It has probably been done before, but I am new enough to the feel that I have not run into all the tropes before. The story itself of someone cheating death with horrible consequences for them and their loved ones is hardly a new idea. I think most civilizations has a story like this, but this is also why it is such an interesting idea to do it for an alien civilization. The myths of a society tells us a lot about that society. I find it interesting that death is not very smart in this story, it is rather easy to cheat death, it is just stupid to do.

Read Jonathan Strahan review of the story as well.

fantasy-and-science-fiction-sept-oct-2012Close Encounters by Andy Duncan originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction

In the story Buck Nelson is forced to revisit the memories of his youth by a woman journalist who show up on his doorstep.

While reading the story I was very unsure of what to think of it. During the story I came to the conclusion that this was one of the old man’s stories that Gary and Jonathan talks about on the podcast. That you need to be of a certain age to really get something out of. However the twist and turns of the story meant that I ended up enjoying it. It really played with the idea of the unreliable narrator and it turned out that the narrator was much less unreliable that the author had led you to believe throughout the story.

While looking up the story for this little write-up I learned that Buck Nelson, the protagonist, is apparently a real american farmer, who claimed to have had an alien encounter in 1954. The story makes tons more sense now.

Under-My-HatGreat Grandmother in the Cellar by Peter S. Beagle originally published in Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron

This story was deeply creepy and felt like a cross between a ghost/horror story and a story out of 1001 Night. I had the feeling that the story was set in India without having anything to base that on.

I don’t read much horror and I don’t quite know what to think of a story like this. It has been weeks now since I read it and I still don’t know if I liked it or not. It was definitely well written – this kind of story just isn’t really my cup of tea.

I just realised that this story is written by the same author who wrote The Last Unicorn which I am also reading right now. Which also plays with conjuring up the feel of old fashion stories. In the case of Last Unicorn it is fairy tales while it in this story is Arabian stories.

13455518The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson originally published in After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia

This is a post-apocalyptic story of the kind where all the adults have turned into monsters and it follows a group of children on the edge of adulthood. Adolescence is scary enough as it is without the threat of literally becoming a zombie (the flesh-eating kind not the going to work kind).

The story is quite graphic and rather icky. As I said I am not a huge horror fan and this definitely fell into that category. It was well written and all that, but not for me. Also I don’t like horror endings much.

15806684Goggles c 1910 by Caitlín R. Kiernan originally published in Steampunk III : Steampunk Revolution.

After having listed to The Writer & The Critic talking about Kiernan’s book The Red Tree, I decided this wasn’t just before bed reading and is leaving this one for later. I do however really like steampunk so there is a good chance that I will read it later.

Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford originally published in After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia 2012

When I first started reading this story, I at first thought I had read it already, somewhere, but quickly realised that, no I had indeed not, but one of my Austrian podcasts had talked about it. I am not quite sure which one though. 

13455518Once I had gotten over by my initial confusion I was sucked in first by the world building and when by the story. How had America become a place where you had to bring a gun to school? Where they were thinking about having high school kids working minimum wage jobs as better than being in school?

But quickly I wanted to know more about the characters and their relationships. Our main character has a growing romance with another girl in a world where that is very much not ok. She tries to navigate her senior year where everyone is packing and where it more than once goes horribly wrong.

The story made me feel with the girls, made me hope they would get away from their small town crappiness, perhaps leave America so they could be with each other.

I found the story really touching, intriguing and I actually wanted to know a lot more about this world! And I totally get what all the buzz was about. It is a story that makes you think and it is very much a comment on gun control as well as school shootings.

Read the full review here

cw_73_300A Bead of Jasper, Four Small Stones by . Originally published in Clarkesworld issue 73 2012.

This story is a solar system science fiction story about Henry on Europa, Jupiter’s moon. I might just be running into an odd streak, but to me it seems like the solar system stories are the grim dark of science fiction. They all seems to have an extremely grim and bleak view of the future. In this story the Earth is running out of water and humanity is desperately trying to create a new home somewhere in the solar system, and not having much luck of it.

[… more …]

This is a story with deep and sad emotion to it. It isn’t really my favourite type of story. I prefer something a bit less grim dark. Something with a bit of hope in it or at least some entertainment value. But it is a beautiful story. And I think it deepens because of the betrayal Henry feels towards his parents without ever really admitting it to himself. They had to go right, they had good reasons, they had to take the birds away from him and take him to a word where the wonder of animal life are yellow algae. Right?

Read the full review here

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.