Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Although David Hartwell doesn't completely ignore the major SF magazines, Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF in his selections for Year's Best SF6, it almost feels as if he does. Of the twenty-seven stories he selected to include his his retrospective volume, only one third come from the "traditional" sources. The remainder come from anthologies, small press magazines and non-genre magazines, including Playboy and Nature. Ellen Datlow's anthology Vanishing Acts also contributes two stories (including the Hugo Nominated novella "Seventy-Two Letters") as does Interzone, which Hartwell notes "has grown into one of the three or four leading SF magazines."
Regardless of the origin of the stories, and none of them come from on-line sources, Hartwell's selection demonstrates how vibrant the genre remains. In addition to such long-time stars of the field as Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Silverberg, and Norman Spinrad, Hartwell has found excellent stories by authors who are still trying to make a name for themselves in the field. Ted Chiang has only published a handful of stories, but all are excellent. Stephen Dedman, an Australian author has been prolific for several years, with two novels in print, but many are still unfamiliar with his superb writing. Perhaps the most surprising byline in the book is Charles Dexter Ward, whose name is familiar to fans of H.P. Lovecraft, although in his introduction, Hartwell reveals the name to be a pseudonym, although one more famous than the author's actual name.
Although Hartwell notes that he is unable to reprint many of the wonderful novellas published in 2000, he does manage to include two, the aforementioned Chiang story and Greg Egan's "Oracle" (also a Hugo nominee). Balancing these out are the very short stories which originally appeared in Nature, of which Hartwell selected seven to represent the science journal which is not usually a market for speculative fiction. The quality of those seven stories, and the names associated with the remaining ones, serve to whet the reader's appetite for a collection of all the Nature stories or the hope that the others will be picked up by other reprint anthologies.
For the purposes of this anthology series, Hartwell has always limited himself to the type of fiction he regards as science fiction. In his introduction, he comments that "we should set our SF stories farther ahead in time, lest we become outdated fantasy too soon." Later in the book, when introducing Tananarive Due's story, "Patient Zero," he notes that this is the prolific speculative fiction "author's first published SF story." Hartwell also notes that this year will see the introduction of a companion volume, Year's Best Fantasy, which he will co-edit with Kathryn Cramer.
Year's Best SF is now in its sixth year and has managed to achieve the voice which is clearly Hartwell's intention. As an editor, Hartwell knows what he is looking for and refuses to settle for things which only marginally fit his definition, no matter how good they may be. He is luck in the high quality of science fiction which does fit well inside his definition. Year's Best SF 6 provides an excellent spotlight for some of the best science fiction published in a variety of sources, many of which are not accessible to the general reading public. Hartwell has provided a true service with this volume.
|Paul J. McAuley||Reef|
|David Brin||Reality Check|
|Robert Silverberg||The Millennium Express|
|Tananarive Due||Patient Zero|
|Ken MacLeod||The Oort Cloud|
|M. Shayne Bell||The Thing About Benny|
|Brian Stableford||The Last Supper|
|Joan Slonczewski||Tuberculosis Bacteria Join UN|
|Howard Waldrop||Our Mortal Span|
|David Langford||Different Kinds of Darkness|
|Norman Spinrad||New Ice Age, or Just Cold Feet|
|Stephen Dedman||The Devotee|
|Chris Beckett||The Marriage of Sky and Sea|
|John M. Ford||In the Days of the Comet|
|Ursula K. Le Guin||The Birthday of the World|
|Nancy Kress||To Cuddle Amy|
|Brian W. Aldiss||Steppenpferd|
|Stephen Baxter||Sheena 5|
|Darrell Schweitzer||The Fire Eggs|
|Robert Sheckley||The New Horla|
|Dan Simmons||Madame Bovary, C'est Moi|
|Robert Reed||Grandma's Jumpman|
|Charles Dexter Ward||Bordeaux Mixture|
|Robert Charles Wilson||The Dryad's Wedding|
|Michael F. Flynn||Built Upon the Sands of Time|
|Ted Chiang||Seventy-Two Letters|
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