Sunday, November 20, 2011

SF Goes East: 2010's Best Science Fiction Stories

The Year's Best Science Fiction 2010
Twenty Seventh Annual Collection
Ed. Gardner Dozois
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 27th edition (July 6, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0312608989
Available at Amazon

From the book jacket:

"For more than a quarter century, Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction has defined the field.  It is the most important anthology, not only annually, but overall."    -Charles N. Brown, Publisher of LOCUS magazine.

Stories are often the beginnings of sci-fi books.  Authors say that the characters, once created, dictate the direction a book will follow, so they can continue to live their lives after the first story ends.  But the first key to unlock the book is, for many authors, the story.

Science Fiction asks the future's questions: "What would it be like to go to other worlds?" "What will people do when it's possible to manipulate genes?" "What will the world look like millions of years from now?"

Those are sort of the standard questions.  The best science fiction stories go beyond those, expanding them and running the scenarios, bringing us into fictionally realistic lives impacted by questions like:  "If we do have our child genetically modified, what will he think of us, and what will folks who are altered, actually do with their new "powers" and how will they work with others?"  This collection includes some other questions:  "How far can you take mathematics, and do you want to go there?" "What happens when you rely on artificial intelligences, and they don't get along?"  "Once you really can see what everyone wants, what kind of life do you get?" and the always elusive "What's the point of herding cats?"

Authors range from well-known favorites like Bruce Sterling, Nancy Kress and Robert Charles Wilson to newcomers we may well see on bookshelves in the years to come.  Some authors, of course, prefer to stay with short stories, where they can get the ideas out there as quickly and as succinctly as possible, and those authors are here as well.  The one thing I noted was it seemed a high proportion of stories were either set in India or written by folks familiar with that part of the world.  It seems we now believe that's where the economic successes will drive future prosperity, and that's where the new creative ideas that create our future will originate  (US politicos take note!).

In his "Summary: 2009" Dozois includes a positively staggering amount of information about everything from how the sci-fi publishing industry is dealing with the competition from online e-zines, who's publishing where, the address we need to subscribe to a given publication, what new directions authors are exploring, which topics are going fallow, and even a list of some of the most interesting personalities who shuffled off this mortal coil during 2009.  It's an encyclopedia of all things sci-fi, really a bit of a time capsule, and, most importantly, it's  the all-purpose swiss army knife tool for new authors looking to find places to publish their work and find out more about the landscape of sci-fi.  A reader who follows up on even a tenth of the information here will probably have done the equivalent of a college level course in the genre.

I would give this one a 5 (a 6 if I could) because this is where we will go looking when, some year soon, we read a book and remember where we first saw the story that generated it.  It's where we will go when we only have a half hour or an hour or two to transport our minds to places far, far from the daily grind, where the problems and solutions and mysteries found there spark our imaginations, and give us that extra creativity we need to live in our challenging world.

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