I just snapped out of one of those particularly idyllic afternoons, when I finished the remainder of this year’s Jonathan Strahan edited “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year” after I put it down a couple months ago and forgot about it. This was complimented with kwxx stream bringing me ridiculous but relaxing island pop. I hadn’t spent an afternoon just reading in too long.
I’ve picked up every previous volume of the collection and am going to post up a couple quick notes like I did for previous volumes in the preceding link, to give credit where due and make it so I can find them later.
There were of course the expected “Authors filling their niche” pieces, like Cory Doctrow’s The Jammie Dodgers and the Adventure of the Leicester Square Screening(which may actually be the perfect archetype for his writing) and James P. Kelly’s “Plus or Minus”, which I thought was a continuation of last year’s “Going Deep” until I looked up character names. Setting the predictable selections aside, the stories this year tend a bit more toward historical fantasy and heavy handed feminism than in previous volumes… and it isn’t really a problem.
The last piece, Rachel Swirsky’s The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” is definitely an example of the historical and feminist bent of the volume, and definitely a standout. It reminds me of the ancestral spirit system of Brian Aldiss’ Helliconia (an old favorite), but is solely an exploration of that concept.
That said, my favorite was Robert Reed’s Novealla “Alone” (How is one supposed to punctuate a Novella title?), which has absolutely extraordinary scale for its 45 pages and a fascinatingly strange protagonist(?)… and not much more can be said about it without detracting from the experience.
I’m always a fan of Kij Johnson, and one of her stories has been included in this collection every year. This year’s “Names for Water” is a bit of a departure from her usual style, but manages to be remarkable in three pages. I think my favorite of hers still may be The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles, which is pure historical fiction… which is just to say she is nothing if not versatile.
This years’s collection was, if anything, more consistent than previous volumes, with fewer losers and just as many pieces that make one just pause and admire. There is a good reason I keep getting this one year after year.