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The Year's Best Science Fiction:
Fifteenth Annual Collection

edited by Gardner Dozois
St. Martin's Press, 623 pages

Art: John Foster
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fifteenth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois
Gardner Dozois is the editor of Asimov's SF Magazine. He is an editor of the multi-volume Magic Tales fantasy series with Jack Dann and the Isaac Asimov's... series with Sheila Williams, both from Ace Books.

Asimov's SF Magazine Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fourteenth Annual Collection

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver


In his lengthy summation of 1997, Gardner Dozois begins by taking a shot at the pessimists of the field -- perhaps even including rival Best of Year anthologist David Hartwell -- by stating that "Doomsayers continued to predict the imminent demise of science fiction... with gloomy, headshaking, I-told-you-so-but-you-wouldn't-listen-to-me relish... "   Dozois then goes on to explain why, despite falling sales figures and mergers, he feels science fiction is alive and well.  However, as a glance at the table of contents will reveal, Dozois's definition of science fiction is much more inclusive than Hartwell's.

The remainder of Dozois's summation looks at the various aspects of the SF field:   magazines, books, anthologies, films, etc.  Dozois points out what he felt were the strengths and weakness of each area, which can provide good fodder for a debate.   After reading Dozois's take on the film The Fifth Element, I wonder if there are two films with that title (and shudder at the prospect).  One new thing Dozois did in his introduction is to include a listing of some of the science fiction websites, both fiction and news-based, which can be found on the web (including a fine review of the SF Site, which never hurts -- Ed.)

Once I finish reading Dozois's summation each year, I find myself doing some number crunching.  How many of the stories first appeared in Asimov's, the magazine Dozois edits? (9 out of 26 this year).  Looking at the source material this year reveals few surprises, although the surprises that are there are interesting.  Only one story comes from Analog, but four are from Science Fiction Age.  The big four magazines (those three, plus F&SF) contributed 16 of the stories in the anthology.  The biggest surprises are four stories which do not come from traditional sources.

Two of the stories, Nancy Kress's "Steamship Soldier on the Information Front"  and Dave Marusek's "Getting To Know You," come from a British anthology entitled Future Histories.  This is a much-talked about book which few people have seen since only a limited number were published and distributed, not to the trade, but to the British telecommunications industry.  Dozois has provided a considerable service in reprinting two of these stories.  Based on these works, with luck a general publisher (both in the US and the UK) will purchase reprint rights to the entire anthology.

The other surprises were Simon Ings's "Open Veins" and Sean Williams and Simon Brown's "The Masque of Agamemnon."  Both of these pieces were originally published on-line -- the first in the recently defunct Omni On-Line, the latter in the continuing Eidolon, an Australian venture.  Because of their electronic format, I have a feeling these stories have had a much smaller audience than they warranted, and it is nice to see that Dozois, whose anthology usually only draws from the usual suspects, is willing to look off the beaten paths.

Dozois has also included one of my favorite stories from 1997, the Hugo and Nebula nominated "The Undiscovered," by William Sanders.  On the surface, this this piece examines the idea of Shakespeare lost in the wilds of North America and writing Hamlet for a native American tribe.  On deeper inspection, it examines the role and interpretation of art across cultural boundaries.

James Patrick Kelly's "Itsy Bitsy Spider" presents an odd mix of nostalgia with a quest for identity as Jen Fancy visits her estranged father in a fantasy world based on Beatles songs, only to discover a robotic version of herself taking care of her aging father.  Although Jen has no desire to be a part of her father's life, she is disturbed to discover how easily she seems to have been replaced.

Dozois's decision to present a variety of types of science fiction is demonstrated by the inclusion of Bill Johnson's quixotically named "We Will Drink a Fish Together...," which places an alien ambassador in a backwater Dakota town reminiscent of Twin Peaks, Washington or Cecily, Alaska right next to Stephen Baxter's hard SF alternate world story "Moon Six."  Howard Waldrop's "Heart of Whitenesse," a journey up the Thames in the manner of Joseph Conrad, is another example of how far fiction can be from spaceships and planets and still fall into the category of SF.

Dozois's anthology continues to be the leader in a field which has, admittedly, little competition, currently only going head to head with David Hartwell's three volume series.  Dozois's anthology tends to cover a wider range than Hartwell's, and includes both Dozois's insightful summary of the previous year's science fiction and an extensive recommended reading list, which Hartwell doesn't provide.

Table of Contents
Robert Silverberg Beauty in the Night
Paul J. McAuley Second Skin
Nancy Kress Steamship Soldier on the Information Front
Greg Egan Reasons to be Cheerful
Stephen Baxter Moon Six
Bill Johnson We Will Drink a Fish Together. . . 
Peter F. Hamilton Escape Route
James Patrick Kelly Itsy Bitsy Spider
Alastair Reynolds A Spy in Europa
William Sanders The Undiscovered
Alan Brennert Echoes
David Marusek Getting To Know You
Gwyneth Jones Balinese Dancer
Robert Reed Marrow
Howard Waldrop Heart of Whitenesse
Michael Swanwick The Wisdom of Old Earth
Brian Stableford The Pipes of Pan
G. David Nordley Crossing Chao Meng Fu
Greg Egan Yeyuka
Carolyn Ives Gilman Frost Painting
Walter Jon Williams Lethe
Geoffray A. Landis Winter Fire
Ian R. MacLeod Nevermore
Simon Ings Open Veins
Ian McDonald After Kerry
Sean Williams & Simon Brown The Masque of Agamemnon
John Kessel Gulliver at Home
Gregory Benford & Elisabeth MalartrezA Cold, Dry Cradle

Copyright © 1998 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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