I recieved what I assume may be the very final edition of "The Years Best Science Fiction" this morning.
And I should think, certainly for anybody who has annually bought and probably enjoyed reading many of the hundreds of carefully selected short stories in the English version of this anthology since 1987, well, this is going to be a rather sad moment to pause and reflect upon for many reasons.
The absolutely first and foremost amongst these will be that Gardner Dozois , its editor, who has chosen every single one of those stories for well over thirty years, sadly passed away on 27th May 2018, shortly after finishing this edition. It will be even more strikingly poignant for readers to note that his wife, Susan Casper, died last year, and she is listed in the sad losses to the scifi, fantasy and horror genres piece that always comes at the very end of summation year. I can barely imagine how Gardner managed to write such a painful thing , but then he has had to do that bitter duty for so many of writers, colleagues and friends over the passing decades.
Personally I, as an avid reader of sci fi since I was a lad , feel I owe G.D a substantial measure of thanks and gratitude for his continual guidance, excellence of choice and the often deep wisdom that he imparted as an editor for many in the field of science fiction .His subtle influence had a marked effect on what I was able to choose to read and enjoy as a busy working adult, simply because I often didn't have the time to go spend ages guessing which novels I may have liked reading based on dust jacket blurbs alone.
There is often a lot of uncertainty over a budding authors talents that makes reading a new novel always a risky business and had it not been for this annual collection, which was so often acted as such a great introduction to many of them, well then I guess a large number of very strong stories, and one or two brilliant ones would have been lost to me. Pre Amazon and the Internet, I'd say alot of writers , publishers and eventually even book shop owners owed him a great deal for some of the writing success , recognition and applause that he probably helped to eventually lay at their doors.
Its directly from the short story choices he made in these yearly collections that I discovered such new writers as William Gibson, Greg Bear, Charles Stross, Micheal Swanwick,Lucius Shepard ,Greg Egan, and Ted Chaig to name but a few of my current favourites. And they became that simply because he had the foresight to spot and include them as the "up and coming best " that was there for that year and probably many going forward. Like I said I found I frequently agreed with him and went out and bought their novels based on his careful introductions.
That he also regularly was able to include many new stories by the older greats of the field that had kept me company as a youth was also a delight, authors such as Silverberg, Stableford, Le Guin, Waldrop, and Scott Card to name but a few again. Its been fascinating to watch how new ideas, emerging technologies ,global science studies and modern social changes shaped and were woven into new imaginatively designed fresh story fabrics created by these seasoned professionals, then note how some of them would then disappear ,often for years , only to re-emerge to totally surprise me with knock out punch to the literary skull that I didn't see coming. It was always strangely thrilling.
I was also hugely appreciated of the effort he put into his yearly summation of the field, which enabled me to go back and look for connected works I might otherwise have missed. My bookshelves are groaning appreciatively under the weight of the many volumes I subsequently bought because of the well informed nature of what he included in his yearly reviews, particularly with sci fi artists artbooks and subscription information .
I know a few of the selections Gardner has made in the later volumes have been viewed by some, including myself , as perhaps not the best or brightest there may have been out on release that year. But I suspect many of those choices made may have been a reflection of what he felt represented was happening in the real world, to him and society, as well as that of sci fi in general, there certainly seemed a darker and more quietly depressing and sombre tone to many of tales in the later editions. But if that's what many authors he choose are detecting and writing about more frequently then perhaps he was absolute right to have include more of them each year.
However, it would be totally unfair not to point out that he almost always unfailingly managed to land some absolute gems in amongst all those others , which isn't really surprising because the sheer size and number of stories in each volume was often astonishing. There are always going to be those that will prefer some topics and themes to others, but the choice and range was always so pleasingly large per volume , I think most people should be able to find at least a couple in there to really admire and like.
And the real point of gratitude for me is that I still go back and reread the ones I really enjoyed because I still so often remember them years later.
And that, in this busy, busy internet age, for a short story, is definitely a minor miracle.
So thank you Mr Dozois. I'm going to miss this annual collection and the kind and knowlegable guidance that arose from its pages, in both the years passed and those forward into a future where you so often choose to dwell. Voyage well and safely out there amongst the heavens.
"The journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path... One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass... And then you see it. White shores... and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise...…." Gandalf the White.
PS (I'll post my review of the selection sometime in the future, its going to take a while to wade through them all!)
I do have an immediate suggestion. Read this from the very last story and work forward. I couldn't get into the first two stories, so I restarted with the novella "Nexus". Its a delight, complex and yet really entertaining, all you could want from a sci fi story. And from there going forward the stories have been pretty strong, with a recurrent theme that seems to link them.
I've actually finished it on 3rd October. Its not a classic Years Best , because perhaps ,rather sadly, there's not a lot that's great being written. More than a few of the stories have a very melancholic atmosphere to them, I'm growing tired that the most seemingly controversial element of them is often about sexuality, and that over the years the volumes have grown to feel much less about sci fi , and much more about current social commentary with science fiction elements chucked in.
I really enjoyed about four of the stories, "Nexus" being my favourite, and the quality of the writing is high but reading a fair number of them felt like a slog. And thats a sad note to end the series on.
- Hardcover: 720 pages
- Publisher: St Martin's Press; Annual edition (10 July 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250164621
- ISBN-13: 978-1250164629
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 5.4 x 24.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 898 g
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 231,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)