Edited by Robert Silverberg & Karen Haber



420pp/$7.99/March 2003

Science Fiction:  Best of 2002
Cover by Scott Grimado

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Robert Silverberg’s forty-nine years of experience publishing in the science fiction genre (and even more years as a reader) combined with wife’s fifteen years of same definitely are worthy qualifications for edited annual years’ best anthologies, and Science Fiction:  Best of 2002 is the second such anthology the conjugated pair has edited.  Rather than express surprise that they have elected to bring out their opinions in such a form, it is more surprising that Silverberg, who has edited anthologies in the field since the 1960s, has not edited a Best of series previously (also surprising is that only this past year he was invited to be an editor guest of honor at an SF convention, an invitation he had to decline due to prior commitments).

Based on their selections, the couple’s understanding of the science fiction field is based on the concept of inclusion.  The stories presented in Science Fiction:  Best of 2002 range from psychological examinations of beauty to coming of age stories to space operatic chases.  While some of the authors are still eligible for the Campbell Award for new writer, others have had the weighty accolade of Grand Master bestowed upon them by the SFWA.  The sources of the stories are also varied, with the magazines represented as well as anthologies and the internet.

The book serves as an introduction to the epic scope of science fiction.  Stories such as Landis’s “The Long Chase” may provide an easy, but satisfying, entry point for those raised on science fiction films or who perceive science fiction as focusing on spaceships, but selecting practically any other story will expand the new reader’s horizons well beyond the stereotypical image of spaceships (and lasers).  There is, for instance, nothing typical about Ted Chiang's story "Liking What You See:  A Documentary," about a society in which beauty becomes transparent, however, I will admit to a bias since everything I've read by Chiang (he's only published eight stories) has struck me as being award-worthy.

Silverberg and Haber provide a brief introductory essay at the beginning of the anthology discussing the reasons for beginning another best of year anthology.  Unfortunately, this is the only editorial writing in the book.  The readers are provided with neither introductions to the individual stories, nor notes about the authors and their careers.  Of course, the focus is on the stories, which therefore must stand on their own (mostly successfully), having some commentary is a bonus for people who already read science fiction and may have some (many, all) of the stories in their collection already.

All in all, Science Fiction:  Best of 2002 is a strong addition to the annual anthologies in the field and provides a different point of view from the existing series in a compact and affordable format.  The stories chosen, provide an introduction to the genre, the state of the field, and a starting point for a discussion about what constitutes the "best" (although Silverberg and Haber note that in this case it is stories that gave them "the greatest reading pleasure."  In truth, the anthology does contain a vast amount of quality reading.

Charles Stross Tourists
Geoffrey A. Landis The Long Chase
Robert Reed Coelacanths
Ted Chiang Liking What You See:  A Documentary
Yoon Ha Lee The Black Abacus
Christopher Priest The Discharge
Brian W. Aldiss Aboard the Beatitude
Benjamin Rosenbaum Droplet
James Morrow The War of the Worldviews
Ian R. MacLeod Breathmoss
Orson Scott Card Angles

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