Edited by David G. Hartwell



450pp/$6.50/June 1998

Year's Best SF 3
Cover by Chris Moore

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In the pages of The New York Review of Science Fiction, David Hartwell has been trying to begin a debate on the topic "Is Science Fiction Dead?" for some time now, the implication being that he believes science fiction is going the way of the dodo.  Although he has found some agreement, many of the responses seem to be along the lines of "Its doing better now than ever before, why are you asking this?"   An examination of Hartwell's "Year's Best" series and his othre anthologies (The Science Fiction Century, The Ascent of Wonder, etc.) gives an important clue concerning the direction Hartwell's question is coming from.

Hartwell's definition of science fiction is somewhat exclusionary.  In the second paragraph of his general introduction, he states, "I personally have a high regard foir horror, fantasy, speculative fiction, and slipstream and postmodern literature.   But here, I chose science fiction."  While many would (and are) including a wide range of genres when they answer that science fiction isn't dying, Hartwell is taking a much more limited view.  I'm sure that he does not consider this year's Nebula winner, Vonda McIntyre's The Moon and the Sun, to be science fiction, no matter what its merits may be.  Year's Best SF 3 is important to Hartwell's debate because it helps delineate what he considers science fiction.

Hartwell notes that "I could have filled two more volumes this size and then claimed to have nearly all of the best. . . "  All of the best science fiction in 1350 pages doesn't seem too shabby.  In fact, it makes the reader wonder how many pages Hartwell would have filled in 1950 or 1960 to capture the best of that year.   Despite the quantity of quality science fiction, Hartwell does note important statistics, not so much in the writing of science fiction, but in the distribution of science fiction.

The number of outlets for quality science fiction is relatively constant:  Asimov's, Analog, F&SF, Interzone and Science Fiction Age, the last of which Hartwell feels is finally coming into its own and the penultimate of which is still largely unread in the United States, being a British publication.   Although there continues to be a steady issuance of original anthologies, most of them are on very specific themes and their contents wouldn't have a chance of being published outside the particular anthology, either because of topic or quality, or both.

Naturally, Hartwell's selection won't match all of his reader's choices, particularly because his exclusionary definition of science fiction means that several of the best stories published in the magazines do not fall within his definition of science fiction.   Nevertheless, the twenty-two stories Hartwell has included cover a lot of ground and take in a wide range of styles of science fiction.

Gene Wolfe Petting Zoo
Michael Swanwick The Wisdom of Old Earth
Jack Williamson The Firefly Tree
William Gibson Thirteen Views of a Cardboard City
S.N. Dyer The Nostalginauts
John C. Wright Guest Law
Gregory Benford The Voice
Greg Egan Yeyuka
Terry Bisson An Office Romance
James Patrick Kelly Itsy Bitsy Spider
Robert Silverberg Beauty in the Night
Ray Bradbury Mr. Pale
Brian Stableford The Pipes of Pan
Nancy Kress Always True to Thee, in My Fashion
Tom Purdom Canary Land
Tom Cool Universal Emulators
R. García y Robertson Fair Verona
Kim Newman Great Western
Geoffrey A. Landis Turnover
Paul Levinson The Mendelian Lamp Case
Katherine MacLean Kiss Me
Michael Moorcock London Bone

Purchase this book from Amazon Books.

Return to

Thanks to
SF Site
for webspace.