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The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015

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Science fiction and fantasy enjoy a long literary tradition, stretching from Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne to Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and William Gibson. In The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy award-winning editor John Joseph Adams delivers a diverse and vibrant collection of stories published in the previous year. Featuring writers with dee Science fiction and fantasy enjoy a long literary tradition, stretching from Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne to Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and William Gibson. In The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy award-winning editor John Joseph Adams delivers a diverse and vibrant collection of stories published in the previous year. Featuring writers with deep science fiction and fantasy backgrounds, along with those who are infusing traditional fiction with speculative elements, these stories uphold a longstanding tradition in both genres—looking at the world and asking, What if . . . ?   The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 includes   Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Karen Russell T. C. Boyle, Sofia Samatar, Jo Walton, Cat Rambo Daniel H. Wilson, Seanan McGuire, Jess Row and others  JOE HILL, guest editor, is the New York Times best-selling author of the novels Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and NOS4A2 and the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts. He is also the writer of the comic book series Locke & Key.   JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, series editor, is the best-selling editor of more than two dozen anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, and The Living Dead. He is also the editor and publisher of the digital magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare and is a producer of Wired’s podcast The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy. 


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Science fiction and fantasy enjoy a long literary tradition, stretching from Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne to Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and William Gibson. In The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy award-winning editor John Joseph Adams delivers a diverse and vibrant collection of stories published in the previous year. Featuring writers with dee Science fiction and fantasy enjoy a long literary tradition, stretching from Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne to Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and William Gibson. In The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy award-winning editor John Joseph Adams delivers a diverse and vibrant collection of stories published in the previous year. Featuring writers with deep science fiction and fantasy backgrounds, along with those who are infusing traditional fiction with speculative elements, these stories uphold a longstanding tradition in both genres—looking at the world and asking, What if . . . ?   The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 includes   Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Karen Russell T. C. Boyle, Sofia Samatar, Jo Walton, Cat Rambo Daniel H. Wilson, Seanan McGuire, Jess Row and others  JOE HILL, guest editor, is the New York Times best-selling author of the novels Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and NOS4A2 and the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts. He is also the writer of the comic book series Locke & Key.   JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, series editor, is the best-selling editor of more than two dozen anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, and The Living Dead. He is also the editor and publisher of the digital magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare and is a producer of Wired’s podcast The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

30 review for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015

  1. 4 out of 5

    Wil Wheaton

    Every single story in this collection is fantastic. It is so rare for a collection that claims to be the "best of" anything to consistently deliver on that promise, and this one has wrecked the curve. Whether you're already a fan of the genre, or you're looking to explore SF/F for the first time, you will love the stories that Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams have collected in this volume.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amerie

    What a wonderful science-ficiton/fantasy short story collection. I discovered a few new authors in addition to great stories. A few favorites: *"Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead" by Carmen Maria Machado *"A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i" by Alaya Dawn Johnson *"Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology" by Theodora Goss *"Windows" by Susan Palwick *"The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever" by Daniel H. Wilson *"Skullpocket" by Nathan Ballingrud *"The Relive Box" by T.C. Boy What a wonderful science-ficiton/fantasy short story collection. I discovered a few new authors in addition to great stories. A few favorites: *"Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead" by Carmen Maria Machado *"A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i" by Alaya Dawn Johnson *"Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology" by Theodora Goss *"Windows" by Susan Palwick *"The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever" by Daniel H. Wilson *"Skullpocket" by Nathan Ballingrud *"The Relive Box" by T.C. Boyle

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A lot of grim dystopia here, some wonderful apocalyptastic stuff, especially "The Empties" by Jess Row, which was brilliant. Probably the best of the bunch are "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i," which I read twice, and "The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever." I'm sad to say how very disappointed I was in "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back," some shockingly bad stuff from Neil Gaiman, so I won't dwell on it for too long. And I'm so happy that I read the Contributor's Notes, wherein I learned th A lot of grim dystopia here, some wonderful apocalyptastic stuff, especially "The Empties" by Jess Row, which was brilliant. Probably the best of the bunch are "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i," which I read twice, and "The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever." I'm sad to say how very disappointed I was in "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back," some shockingly bad stuff from Neil Gaiman, so I won't dwell on it for too long. And I'm so happy that I read the Contributor's Notes, wherein I learned that the author of "Skullpocket," which was the reason I picked this up in the first place, is actually writing a novel about Hob's Landing! The story hints at all sorts of dark, gruesomely interesting stuff and the story works really well without spilling the details, but what a treat it would be to get some more info on Wormcake, the Church of the Maggot, the Frozen Parliament, and all that jazz. Here's a taste: http://io9.com/read-skullpocket-one-o...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    I really like the way Adams compiled this: making a long list and then submitting those stories blind to Joe Hill to choose from. Lots of good stuff, and several new-to-me authors. Library copy

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marita Arvaniti

    This was without a doubt one of the best short story collections I've read, and easily deserves its 5 star rating from me. But because memory is a fickle mistress and i have stopped trusting it I'm going to review each story separately as a note to my future self who cant remember exactly what they were about. How to Get Back to the Forest - Sofia Samatar : 4 stars. "You have to puke it up." A raw, haunting story about girls and their bodies, controlled and uncontrollable and as Sofia Samatar s This was without a doubt one of the best short story collections I've read, and easily deserves its 5 star rating from me. But because memory is a fickle mistress and i have stopped trusting it I'm going to review each story separately as a note to my future self who cant remember exactly what they were about. How to Get Back to the Forest - Sofia Samatar : 4 stars. "You have to puke it up." A raw, haunting story about girls and their bodies, controlled and uncontrollable and as Sofia Samatar says in the contributor's notes "the idea of rebellion as a kind of sympathetic reaction." A great start to the collection. Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead - Carmen Maria Machado : 5 stars. A Kickstarter shaped story about a girl trying to follow her sister down into the land of the dead. Beautiful and original with a great balance between the classic orphic tale of descending into the underworld and all the modern nuances of internet projects. Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable - Cat Rambo : 3 1/2 stars. I am being unfair with my rating because that was a really good story about cloning (both the narrator's dead wife and the tortoiseshell cat in the title) with very interesting implications and causes for thought. All in all everything is handled really well and it just suffers from being a scifi story placed between two of my favorite fantasy stories in this collection so I was harsher with my rating than i would normally have been. The Bad Graft - Karen Russell : 5 stars. !!! This was a very Weird story about a woman who got possessed by a Joshua tree during her honeymoon and the subsequent collapse of her marriage. It sort of carries the vibe of the film "The honeymoon" only it's done A LOT better. The story is simply fantastic. A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i - Alaya Dawn Johnson : 4 stars. I was expecting to be disappointed because I'd loved the Summer PRince so much and I thought that a short story couldn't possibly capture all the beauty and feeling ADJ managed to infuse the Summer Prince with. Especially a story about vampires . Needless to say i was w r o n g. An amazing and complex and wonderful story. Each to Each - Seanan Mcguire : 4 1/2 stars. This story was basically why i decided to finally get off my ass and read this anthology i mean. It's got everything. Mermaids. Genetic experiments. The ocean. TS Eliot. Seanan Mcguire really never disappoints me. Ogres of East Africa - Sofia Samatar : 4 1/2 stars. I loved the format of this story, with the description and cataloging of the ogres and then the notes and kind of "background info" provided by the narrator. A great story about identity and racism and reclaiming what the world is trying to steal from you and yours. Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology - Theodora Goss : 5 stars and a lot of exclamation marks. If you make a list of all the things I love to see in stories then this story would cross out a good deal of them. Stories shaping reality!! This is a bunch of anthropologists who literally created an entire civilization. It ran away from them, of course, as civilizations tend to do, and nobody could quite imagine how it would end up but. Stories made real! Stories shaping the world! and finally: weird creepy twins!! Sleeper - Jo Walton : 4 stars. Again, this is a story about how the narrative shapes the reality. A woman works on the biography of a possible Soviet Sleeper agent SORT OF. A biography that features an AI based on the subject but programmed by the author. Revolution via strange King Arthur-like imagery. Sign me up. How the Marquis Got His Coat Back - Neil Gaiman : 3 stars. But Marita, I hear you say. It's the Marquis! more than that it's Neil Gaiman! And I will nod myself and say: yes. but this was probably one of the most disappointing stories in this collection. It pales between the amazing stories that surround it and lbh I doubt it would have made it in if it wasn't so recognizably Neil Gaiman, and about such a beloved character. Windows - Susan Palwick : 4 stars. A mother visits her son in prison to play him a clip sent by his sister who has been selected to be a passenger/crew/citizen of a generation ship. A story that focuses on the people left behind. Very real despite its Scifi setting. The Thing About Shapes to Come - Adam-Troy Castro : 4 stars. What if humans stopped giving birth to baby shaped babies and gave birth instead to geometrical shapes, like spheres, or pyramids, or cubes. How do you love your child against all odds, not because it's your duty but because you genuinely honestly Just Do? A very strange but still beautiful and touching story. We Are the Cloud - Sam J. Miller: 5 stars. Named by the author a "supervillain origin story", in a world that's ours, with a couple more gadgets and maybe a more prominent capacity for the oppression of the weak and different and unlucky. The most horrifying things mentioned in this are real, happening now, and as Miller says in the contributor's notes: In a world like that none of us come out clean. A must read, honestly. The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever - Daniel H. Wilson : 3 stars Not one of my favorites. Still a beautiful story about the end of the world but not exactly my cup of tea. But then again I'm a fantasy girl, so I am probably being very unfair to it. Skullpocket - Nathan Ballingrud : 4 stars. This didn't get my attention from the start but when it did, boy was it worth it. Probably the most classically horror story of the bunch -although all of the stories have an undertone of horror, probably understandable since they were chosen by Hill- it's got hints of Jerusalem's Lot and a slightly Lovecraftian feel. I Can See Right Through You - Kelly Link : 5 stars. I have a hit and miss relationship with Kelly Link but this story was an absolute hit. The story of two former co-stars, lovers, friends, Maggie and Will, the Demon Lover. It's a story about the intimacy created by being loved by millions of people, and the loneliness that comes with it, and the weirdness, and the, yes, sometimes, horror of people's love. The Empties - Jess Row : 5 stars. Narratives are static. Real life is kinetic. How do you write about the end of the world while you're living the end of the world? How do you reconcile years and years of watching the films, and reading the stories, and thinking you know how the story goes only to realize that the stories are really just stories, and have absolutely nothing to do with your reality? The One They Took Before - Kelly Sandoval : 5 stars. You might have noticed by now that I, like a true millennial, am biased in favor of stories set in what is undoubtedly today. Not yesterday, or tomorrow, today. Add faeries to this and you've got a story of pain and longing and the need for autonomy and freedom that's as magical as anything. The Relive Box - T C Boyle : 3 stars. Another victim of my Fantasy bias, this is a very interesting story that failed to captivate me that much. About a man and his daughter and their Relive Box, a machine that allows you to (you guessed it) relive points of your life. Addiction is unavoidable, and destructive. How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps - A. Merc Rustad : 5 stars. A great end to a fantastic collection. The author says it's one of the most personal stories they've written and you can tell, you can definitely tell, reading it because it's almost raw in its honesty. I cried, a little, to be quite honest. And it wasn't just the mention of polyamory that made me cry. Nor the asexual character. Although they helped.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Davie

    An anthology of twenty short stories in the science fiction-fantasy genre. I gotta confess that I stopped after 13 stories. It was too depressing. The foreword is interesting as Adams breaks down the history of science fiction/fantasy. The Series "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" (London Below, The World of Neverwhere, 1.5) The Stories Sofia Samatar’s " How to Get Back to the Forest " was disgusting. A nutjob girl believes there’s some kind of bug that’s put in you and that it has to be puked up. Ca An anthology of twenty short stories in the science fiction-fantasy genre. I gotta confess that I stopped after 13 stories. It was too depressing. The foreword is interesting as Adams breaks down the history of science fiction/fantasy. The Series "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" (London Below, The World of Neverwhere, 1.5) The Stories Sofia Samatar’s " How to Get Back to the Forest " was disgusting. A nutjob girl believes there’s some kind of bug that’s put in you and that it has to be puked up. Carmen Maria Machado’s "Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead" was definitely creative with a gruesome ending. Cat Rambo’s "Tortoiseshell Cats are Not Refundable" is well written and so depressing about grief and wanting the deceased back in their lives. Karen Russell’s "The Bad Graft" is truly a horror of a sci-fi tale with plant life wanting to spread itself around. It was a curious read in terms of how the Joshua tree seedling(?) felt about the whole thing, but lord, this was depressing. Alaya Dawn Johnson’s "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i" is very creative about vampires who won the war and how they preserve their food. Another depressing story. Seanan McGuire’s "Each to Each" is yet another creative tale that may appeal to women’s libbers who want freedom. It’s a case of mutation into a different species underwater. Not as depressing as the others. Sofia Samatar’s "Ogres of East Africa" is science fiction with a heavy dose of fantasy in this listing of the different kinds of ogres who live in East Africa. Their appearance, fears, powers, regions preferred, and more. Theodora Goss’ "Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology" was interesting if a bit confusing. Some college students invent a country with its own history, culture, mores, religion, etc., and are then surprised to discover its reality. Goss parallels our own world with its national and international politicking. Jo Walton’s "Sleeper" finds a woman writing a book about a dead man who comes back to a sort of life in which he provides a simulation for the book that is intended to raise questions about the class system and why the English no longer have what they had. I don’t know if I was influenced by all the depressing stories I read previous to this, but I found this one depressing too and somewhat confusing. Neil Gaiman’s "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" gives us the inside look on how the marquis gets out of his fix and saves a Raven lady from someone else’s fixation. It takes place during Neverwhere , 1, which should be read before this. Susan Palwick’s "Windows" is another well-written story that is so depressing, as a mother scrapes up the funds to visit her ne’er-do-well son in prison to wish him a happy birthday. She even has a video greeting from his sister who was lucky enough to win a place on a gen-ship. Adam-Troy Castro’s "The Thing About Shapes to Come" is just plain weird when a mother has a cube-shaped baby instead of a proper-ball-shaped one. Sam J. Miller’s "We are the Cloud" is too true, as this is a world which pays poor people to let them put a wire in their brain so the rich can have free wireless everywhere. There’s more in here about poor Case, his mother, the exploitation of his body, although oddly enough, there is an, odd, ray of hope at the end. There are seven more short stories, but I was so depressed by all this that I gave up. The Cover and Title The cover has a black background with an arc of phases of the moon in silver across the top with Saturn in the center. Thin, thin silver rays emanate out through a series of thin silver arcs from the second to last silver icon in the vertical line-up that separates each word of the title. It’s a colorful title: two words in a greenish gold, then fuchsia, red, and ending with bright colonial blue. The editor’s name is on the bottom left while the series editor’s name is on the bottom right. So, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2015, huh? Depresses the *@#! outta me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    a lot of good stories in this! my favorites were "We Are the Cloud" by Sam Miller, "The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever" by Daniel Wilson, and (especially!) this amazing story called "The Thing About Shapes to Come," by Adam-Troy Castro... which you can read over at Lightspeed Magazine, where it first appeared, if you like: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fic... such a great story! wish i wrote it. a lot of good stories in this! my favorites were "We Are the Cloud" by Sam Miller, "The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever" by Daniel Wilson, and (especially!) this amazing story called "The Thing About Shapes to Come," by Adam-Troy Castro... which you can read over at Lightspeed Magazine, where it first appeared, if you like: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fic... such a great story! wish i wrote it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    Because reading Best Of compilations two years later is how I roll.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book was a bit of a disappointment to me, as a "best" collection. Everything was well-written, but many of the stories were too, shall I say literary?, for my taste. Meaning, a bit vague, disconnected emotionally, cerebral in a self-referential way, and without a clear resolution. Some rose above the others. I especially liked the stories by Cat Rambo, Jo Walton, Neil Gaiman (of course), Sam Miller, and A. Merc Rustad. Three and a half stars overall.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I've actually been working on reading this one since January, and you know, I loved about 90% of the stories in this. That's really saying something -- I tend to not be much of a fan of short stories -- but the story curation on this one was superb.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kai Charles(Fiction State Of Mind)

    A very solid collection of stories, many of them female writers. I hope there are more ofbyhese collections going forward.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    A book with several exceptional stories, such as "Windows"(my favorite), "The Thing About Shapes to Come", "The Blue Afternoon that Lasted Forever"(my other favorite), "Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead" and "The Relive Box" (which seems almost suspiciously similar to one of my favorite Black Mirror episodes from 2011: "The Entire History of You.") The collection is somewhat marred however by some fairly poor or just outright bad/ boring selections like Neil Gaiman's rather stran A book with several exceptional stories, such as "Windows"(my favorite), "The Thing About Shapes to Come", "The Blue Afternoon that Lasted Forever"(my other favorite), "Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead" and "The Relive Box" (which seems almost suspiciously similar to one of my favorite Black Mirror episodes from 2011: "The Entire History of You.") The collection is somewhat marred however by some fairly poor or just outright bad/ boring selections like Neil Gaiman's rather strange disaster that wouldn't have made it in if he wasn't Neil Gaiman, and Seanan McGuire's "Each to Each" (several other stories I couldn't even finish and others I wish I hadn't taken the time to) which was probably my least favorite of the collection, it's really a travesty in every respect, from the often amateurish writing to the over-the-top premise to the lackluster ending. There were, I'm sure, far more insightful feminist sci-fi stories written in 2015, but I guess Joe Hill decided it merited inclusion because 'y'know, there's like fish-women and stuff, dude!' In the prologue, the author writes about how he read like 7000 short stories, made a long list of his favorites, then gave them to Joe Hill to come to this collection. How it is it that such a strange mixture of excellence and mediocrity are grouped together perplexes me. I have to give this book three stars because even though there were some really great stories, about half of the book was boring, cringe-worthy, or both. If you're going to get together two writers to assemble the very best of American Sci-Fi, choose William Gibson and uh... I dunno, the ghost of Phillip K. Dick maybe? Anyone as long as it's not Stephen King (gotta love mushrooms and fish-girls, fuck yeah!) Jr., please.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Maas

    Pure Brilliance from John Joseph Adams and Joe Hill I love anthologies - I love discovering new authors and tales that I never would have found otherwise. This one, like the title suggests, is the best of the best - of the best. Adams acts as a friend who reads every New Yorker issue, and every prominent and semi-prominent SF/F magazine out there, and delivers the cream of the crop to you - the reader. And this one has some cream. I got this originally because I was looking for more Nathan Ballingr Pure Brilliance from John Joseph Adams and Joe Hill I love anthologies - I love discovering new authors and tales that I never would have found otherwise. This one, like the title suggests, is the best of the best - of the best. Adams acts as a friend who reads every New Yorker issue, and every prominent and semi-prominent SF/F magazine out there, and delivers the cream of the crop to you - the reader. And this one has some cream. I got this originally because I was looking for more Nathan Ballingrud, and his tale Skullpocket is featured. But I stayed for the rest of the tales, which I will outline below: * Jo Walton's Sleeper - this might be my favorite of this group - though again, there were so many others, I dislike playing favorites. But it took me by surprise, and shook me in all the right ways. * Karen Russell's The Bad Graft - Think of a New Yorker SF/F tale that really gets to you - this is one of those. * Sofia Samatar's Ogres of East Africa - As crazy as the title suggests. * Nathan Ballingrud's Skullpocket - This is different than his normal fare. More H.P. Lovecraft and John Shirley than what you find in North American Lake Monsters: Stories. Though I came for his usual fare - I admire him trying to branch out. * Alaya Dawn Johnson's A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i - Honestly, this might be the most disquieting of the group. Great premise, and in a positive way - I was happy when it ended, because it shook me so. * T.C. Boyle's The Relive Box - I read this in his own collection, happy to see it here. * A. Merc Rustad's How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps - Great way to end this. Accessible, unique - and really humorous. In short - THANK YOU John Joseph Adams and Joe Hill - you guys made the party and invited all the right guests. The world is a little bit better because of you!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tom Malinowski

    I forget about short stories at times and thus reminded why I need to revisit them more and more. For those who aren’t into fantasy or science fiction, I get it. But I challenge you, a short story of either of those genres are a perfect way to get into them if you’re not familiar with fantasy or science fiction. At about 350 pages, and 19 stories…that’s about 18 pages per story. That is so palatable to give these a try. And they do really run the gamut. In Carmen Maria Macahdo’s “Help Me Follow My I forget about short stories at times and thus reminded why I need to revisit them more and more. For those who aren’t into fantasy or science fiction, I get it. But I challenge you, a short story of either of those genres are a perfect way to get into them if you’re not familiar with fantasy or science fiction. At about 350 pages, and 19 stories…that’s about 18 pages per story. That is so palatable to give these a try. And they do really run the gamut. In Carmen Maria Macahdo’s “Help Me Follow My Sister Into the Land of the Dead,” the main character Ursula funds a kickstarter and details why she needs funds to go the Land of the Dead to rescue her sister. “In the Relive Box” by T.C. Boyle a father and daughter fight over who’s turn is it to use the Relive Box…it’s technology that ties into the brain and projects any point in your life to see. How much is too much though when you relive the past and you forget the present? Daniel H. Wilson wrote “The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever.” “The cafeteria where I work plays the news during lunch. The television is muted but I watch it anyway. My plastic fork is halfway to my mouth when I see the eyewitness video accompany the latest breaking news story. After that, I am not very aware of what is happening except that I am running.” The narrator is a physicist thus he’s knowledgeable of stellar occurrences that happen in our universe. By looking at the TV for an instant he recognizes one of these occurrences, and he freaks the heck out! It’s a powerful story that’s beautiful and sad. Highly recommend this book, thanks!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    "I did not think Americans were capable of poetry." —"Cimmeria," by Theodora Goss, p.109Oh, but they are—we are—and this volume, despite its minor flaws, helps prove that assertion. The name of the book at hand is The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. It's a bold claim, but I won't quibble about most of it. The word "Best" is okay, for example—every story in this volume is both emotionally resonant and technically adept, a plausible choice in that regard. Nor do I object to the crite "I did not think Americans were capable of poetry." —"Cimmeria," by Theodora Goss, p.109Oh, but they are—we are—and this volume, despite its minor flaws, helps prove that assertion. The name of the book at hand is The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. It's a bold claim, but I won't quibble about most of it. The word "Best" is okay, for example—every story in this volume is both emotionally resonant and technically adept, a plausible choice in that regard. Nor do I object to the criteria that editors Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams used to define either "science fiction" or "fantasy"—I'd agree with them that every story herein falls somewhere on the spectrum of speculative fiction. No, it's the arbitrary use of the word "American" that I found most troublesome. While the term usually means "of the United States," and has also been used to mean "of the continents of North and South America," John Joseph Adams' Foreword explicitly states that he limited his choices to stories from the U.S. and Canada—an idiosyncratic division at best. A more accurate name for this anthology would be, "The Best SF We Could Find from the Two Mostly Anglophone Countries of North America... 2015," although that probably wouldn't sell as well, and certainly wouldn't fit as well on the cover. Once you get past the exclusion of Mexico and the rest of the Americas, though, what you'll find really is a remarkably original and diverse collection. These are stories which do things that simply can't be done (or can't be done nearly as well) with mimetic fiction, and collectively they bode well for the future of sf as a genre. As Joe Hill says, "Whatever your sexual orientation, whatever your ethnicity, whatever your age or personal experiences, it is my hope you will find a hero somewhere here you can relate to, that speaks to the world as you see it" (p.xx) (emphasis in original). It's a laudable goal, and one in which I believe Hill and Adams succeed. This is apparent from the very first line of the first story, Sofia Samatar's "How to Get Back to the Forest," though it takes awhile to get the full impact of what she's saying:"You have to puke it up," said Cee. You have to get down there and puke it up.{...}" —p.1 The stories that follow are frequently just as raw, and often just as of the moment, like the crowdfunding tale "Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead," by Carmen Maria Machado, and the indictment of shallow thinking about cloning that appears in Cat Rambo's "Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable." They're stories that could not have been written until the 21st Century, although they are most certainly as solidly within the same tradition of "if this goes on..." as the great SF of the 1950s. What follows those are tales by Karen Russell, Alaya Dawn Johnson (whose name also crops up in Rich Horton's The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014), Seanan McGuire, another one by Sofia Samatar and the aforementioned Theodora Goss, as well as stories by favorite authors of mine like Jo Walton and Neil Gaiman. (I read the latter's story, "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back," for our family's annual Christmas story exchange, by the way—it's a pleasant and long-awaited return to the world of Neverwhere.) And that's only half the book! Don't skip the authors' biographies and story notes, either, which are always entertaining and often illuminating. The bottom line here is that The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin—and highly recommended, whether you're interested in a survey of the field or as simple entertainment.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Peter Melancon

    Not as good as I expected there were a few stories I enjoyed and some are very very strange, the stories that stand out are: Ogres of East Africa, Cimmeria: From the journal of Imaginary Anthropology, How the Marquis got his coat back, Skull Pocket, The Thing about Shapes to Come and the Empties.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Highlights: "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps," A. Merc Rustad "Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead," Carmen María Machado "We Are the Cloud," Sam J. Miller "The Bad Graft," Karen Russell

  18. 5 out of 5

    Randall

    A really great selection of stories, a lot of them really make you think. And so many fantastic authors!

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Adkins

    The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 I was very excited to read this anthology as I am a huge fan of John Joseph Adams’ theme anthologies such as The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Federations, and Help Fund My Robot Army!!! Unfortunately, I did not find this collection as enjoyable as his other work. While I found several of the selections to be outstanding I was disappointed in many others. Overall the twenty stories in the anthology averaged a bit over 3.5 on my perso The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 I was very excited to read this anthology as I am a huge fan of John Joseph Adams’ theme anthologies such as The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Federations, and Help Fund My Robot Army!!! Unfortunately, I did not find this collection as enjoyable as his other work. While I found several of the selections to be outstanding I was disappointed in many others. Overall the twenty stories in the anthology averaged a bit over 3.5 on my personal five point scale. By no means do I in this or any other review feel that I am passing judgment on the worthiness of a text. I can only offer my personal evaluation of whether I enjoyed the work. This collection was in places not SF enough for me, I can be forgiven I think for my personal preference leaning more towards the work of the Golden Age of SF than some of the new literary fiction showcased in this volume. Again, I do not judge the intrinsic value of these stories but express only my own preferences. Now to the stories! How to Get Back to the Forest by Sofia Samatar This story was originally published in Lightspeed Magazine and is well written and atmospheric and, well. . . not especially enjoyable. This is one of the stories where I am just not certain that the story is SF to me (obviously, series editor Adams and volume editor Joe Hill disagree with me). 2/5 Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead by Carmen Maria Machado I had read this short before in Help Fund My Robot Army!!! and enjoyed it then as well. The story is structured around the updates common to crowd funding campaigns on sites like GoFundMe or Kickstarter along with a couple of e-mail messages. The story follows the efforts of Ursula who needs to retrieve her sister Olive from the “land of the dead.” Machado does an excellent job of capturing the tone of such a personal fund raising campaign and paces things perfectly. The twist at the end is especially well done. 4/5 Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable by Cat Rambo This story was originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine and a sensitive look at cloning and the grief one feels after losing a loved one. Widower, Antony, briefly comes out of mourning to order a cloning kit from the television to clone his mother’s recently deceased cat. What follows, while perhaps easily guessed, is handled so deftly by Rambo that you eagerly follow the story to the end. 5/5 The Bad Graft by Karen Russell In “The Bad Graft”, originally published in the New Yorker, two impulsive lovers hit the road to escape their lives with no intention of ever putting down roots again. Andy and Angie are both restless sorts and heaven to them seems to be the freedom to move from place to place with no permanent attachments. Subsequent events complicate their plans. 4/5 A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i by Alaya Dawn Johnson This story is set in a post vampire takeover Hawaii where small numbers of humans are retained to serve as a food source for the vampire rulers. The tale centers around the relationship of one human, Key, and the vampire, Tetsuo, who she met on the day they invaded her home. 4/5 Each to Each by Seanan McGuire “Each to Each” explores the introduction of all female submarine crews into the navy.Not only are the crews all female but they are modified over time through various surgeries and treartments to become literal mermaids. McGuire explores the psychological impacts of these treatments. 3/5 Ogres of East Africa by Sofia Samatar This story is written in the form of a zoological or anthropological investigative log. The data is obtained from the testimony of a woman named Mary. She describes the different ogres that she knows about. Are they real? Is she crazy? I am not certain but there is little to no story in this story. 1/5 Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology by Theodora Goss Can mere thought or ideas create reality? Can it create a physical reality that brings a new nation into being complete with a history, complicated sets of mores, and a living, breathing royal family? It appears that the answer is yes when a small group of American graduate students publish a series of articles in the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology. 4/5 Sleeper by Jo Walton Biographer Essie has programmed a self-aware simulation of her deceased subject, Matthew Corley. Matthew was an influential BBC director with many secrets in his past. The simulation was built by inputting everything known about the subject into the system and allows for the biographer to interview the subject. There are strict rules about making these programs self-aware and Essie may have exceeded the limit in this case. 3/5 How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman The Marquis de Carabas is on a quest. The quest is to recover his magnificent coat which was stolen from him while he was recently dead. The setting is a dark, magical, Victorian London underground full of strange and wonderful characters. 5/5 Windows by Susan Palwick Windows tells the story of Vangie, a poor mother of two on her way to see her son in prison on his birthday. The story is quite short but powerful. Unfortunately, there is only one small SF’nal plot point in the story which could easily have been replaced with a mundane substitute and you would lose nothing from the tale. A good SF story should have SF elements that are essential to the story. 2/5 The Thing About Shapes to Come by Adam-Troy Castro More absurdist fiction than SF, in this story babies have begun to be born in various geometric shapes. Why? No idea. The way that people react to these spherical, pyramidal, or cubic children is explored but to my mind this is neither fantasy or SF. 2/5 We Are the Cloud by Sam J. Miller This story is about a couple of teen boys living in a shelter who sell a portion of their brains as cloud storage. This is an interesting concept though it is secondary to the emotional and sexual relationship between the boys. A little more time exploring the implications of the technology and a little less time at the porn studio would have improved this story. 2/5 The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever by Daniel H. Wilson This story revolves around the relationship between a single, physicist father and his young daughter. His wife left due to his being too logical and mechanical – accusing him of not expressing his feelings. This is belied by the sweet bedtime ritual he has with his daughter and how desperately he tries to hold onto her in the face of a disaster. 3/5 Skullpocket by Nathan Ballingrud “Skullpocket” is a well told story of a town that has come to accept an undead being into their midst. Jonathan Wormcake is a ghoul and after seventy years in the town he is dying. The story tells the tale of his life in the town. This is reminiscent of a Gaiman short story. 4/5 I Can See Right Through You by Kelly Link An actor, the “demon lover”, seeks to reconnect with an old flame after years spent apart. They meet up and explore their past together with much of the story told in flashbacks from the demon lover’s perspective. The SF angle is tied up in the question of whether he is the demon lover due to his acting role as a vampire known by that name or if he is the entity who influenced a Ouija board in his lover’s childhood. 3/5 The Empties by Jess Row “The Empties” is a moody, depressing vignette of a post-apocalyptic future. It is well imagined but feels more like a sketch of the setting for a good story than anything else. 2/5 The One They Took Before by Kelly Sandoval A former abductee (abducted by aliens, demons, who knows) deals with being back home and the mixed emotions of being free yet knowing someone else was taken in her place and at the same time missing being there. The author sets the mood nicely but nothing ever happens. 2/5 The Relive Box by T. C. Boyle The relive box is a device that allows the user to fully experience any of their previous memories. The story deals with the dangers of such an immersive technology and the risk that one might live completely in the past. The experiences of a single father and his daughter, both of which spend too much time in the box, is used to illustrate the risks. 4/5 How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps by A. Merc Rustad Tesla has a dilemma. She is in love with a robot. Not a fully humanoid, android like robot but the espresso machine robot at the local coffee shop. How will she make it work? 4/5

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vava

    I was fortunate to be chosen by Houghton Miffin Harcourt to be the recipient of their 2015 Best American Series via an Instagram giveaway. To say that I am thrilled to receive the entire set of this series is an understatement; I’m over the moon ecstatic is more like it. This highly regarded series is an annual compilation of the best fiction and non-fiction published in the previous year. The set includes: The Best American Essays The Best American Short Stories The Best American Mystery Stories I was fortunate to be chosen by Houghton Miffin Harcourt to be the recipient of their 2015 Best American Series via an Instagram giveaway. To say that I am thrilled to receive the entire set of this series is an understatement; I’m over the moon ecstatic is more like it. This highly regarded series is an annual compilation of the best fiction and non-fiction published in the previous year. The set includes: The Best American Essays The Best American Short Stories The Best American Mystery Stories The Best American Science and Nature Writing The Best American Travel Writing The Best American Sports Writing The Best American Nonrequired Reading The Best American Comics The Best American Infographics and for the first time this year, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy For this review I’m going to focus on The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, the newest addition to this series. New York Times bestselling author Joe Hill serves as guest editor, and best-selling editor, publisher and producer John Joseph Adams is the series editor. The book starts off with a foreword from Hill and Adams where they give us an informative background on the science fiction/fantasy genre, and how reading such stories affected them personally. They also explained the painstaking process they went through in order to choose 10 science fiction and 10 fantasy stories from numerous sources. The outcome is a diverse, imaginative and thought-provoking collection of stories that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. Among my favorites are The Thing About Shapes to Come by Adam-Troy Castro and How to Become A Robot in 12 Easy Steps by A. Merc Rustad. The Thing About Shapes to Come gives us an intriguing look at a world where mothers are giving birth to geometric shapes. I know, how curiously-amazing is that? How To Become A Robot in 12 Easy Steps tells the story of Tesla who falls in love with a robot and longs to become one herself. Cleverly woven into the story are issues like depression and sexual orientation. This anthology also includes Contributor’s Notes (from the authors of stories included in the book) and Other Notable Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (60 stories that did not make it). Personally, my exposure to science fiction/fantasy comes mostly from films, it’s only recently that I started reading books from this genre. I have to say the stories included in this anthology left me excited to explore more books from this genre. Author Joe Hill expressed it best: "This is the truth of science fiction and fantasy: it is the greatest fireworks show in literature, and your own imagination is a sky waiting to catch fire. And here is the truth of this book: we’ve got all the best, brightest, bangiest fireworks a person could want. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy is not just a book but also an explosive device…..one that is, fortunately, entirely safe to bring on a plane.”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Gordon

    The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy is a new comer to the "Best of" releases this year, and it was put together by one of my favourite editors, John Joseph Adams. The selections tend towards literary, but they were all quite exceptional. A selection of my favourites included: 1. Each to Each by Seanan McGuire: An exploration in the changing identity and humanity of women turned into military mermaids. I reviewed this story separately on Goodreads, and it's a creative and contemplative p The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy is a new comer to the "Best of" releases this year, and it was put together by one of my favourite editors, John Joseph Adams. The selections tend towards literary, but they were all quite exceptional. A selection of my favourites included: 1. Each to Each by Seanan McGuire: An exploration in the changing identity and humanity of women turned into military mermaids. I reviewed this story separately on Goodreads, and it's a creative and contemplative piece on gender and technology. 2. Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology by Theodora Goss: A student participates in a project that creates a new civilization. It pops into existence and he finds himself experiencing the darker aspects of the cultural components he designed. This is such a strangely fantastical story that even the protagonist struggles to grapple with his reality. 3. Windows by Susan Palwick: A heart wrenching story about a mother who mourns one child in prison and one child on a generation colony ship and the cruelty of luck. Very light on the speculative aspects of story telling, but very good at characterization and emotion in a few short pages. 4. The Thing about Shapes to Come by Adam-Troy Castro: Women begin giving birth to children in the form of geometric shapes, and one mother refuses to abandon her cube daughter. Utterly haunting, strangely transfixing, and ultimately disquieting. 5. The Blue Afternoon that Lasted Forever by Daniel H Wilson: A single father and physicist holds his daughter as the world is ripped about by a micro black hole. Prepare for tears! 6. Skullpocket by Nathan Ballingrud: An odd and dark little story about a town where monsters and humans reside alongside one another, tied together with horrific traditions and a disturbing religion. Ballingrud was very successful at building up a coherent and complex world in such a tiny number of words. 7. The Relive Box by TC Boyle: In the near future, there's a machine that allows you to relive whatever parts of your life you wish. Humans, unsurprisingly, have a hard time dealing with this technology. 8. How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps by Merc Rustad: One of the most creative and affecting explorations of depression I've seen in the science fiction genre.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ollie

    Oh boy! You know I love science fiction, and I'm a fan of Star Trek, and Isamov, and even Andy Weir (who wrote the Martian). And as an attempt to expand my science fiction literary horizons, I've been trying to get into some writers (old and new) to try and figure out what's out there. Octavia's Brood got a lot of attention earlier this year for being a collection of speculative fiction short stories written by writers with a more leftist disposition. That book was a disappointment to say the le Oh boy! You know I love science fiction, and I'm a fan of Star Trek, and Isamov, and even Andy Weir (who wrote the Martian). And as an attempt to expand my science fiction literary horizons, I've been trying to get into some writers (old and new) to try and figure out what's out there. Octavia's Brood got a lot of attention earlier this year for being a collection of speculative fiction short stories written by writers with a more leftist disposition. That book was a disappointment to say the least. So I turned to a more promising source, and what could be better than The Best American Series which has always impressed me with their comics? So how does it measure up? Well, not exactly as engaging as I had hoped. I had always wondered if maybe short stories are not the best way to write Science Fiction, but since Asimov has pulled off that format so well, it makes me wonder if he is actually an anomaly. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy definitely takes a good (and interesting) stab at the art form, but again, I felt like I was left hanging for most of these stories. The good ones set the scene quickly and develop in interesting directions, but there simply is no chance to really get into the core of the stories and explore the ideas better. Highlights for me were definitely Neil Gaiman and How the Marquis Got His Coat Back about – you guessed it – some witty nobleman who is trying to get his awesome coat back, Daniel H Wilson's The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever about a family preparing for the end of the world, and Adam-Troy Castro's hilarious The Thing About Shapes to Come about a weird plague that makes it so that human can only give birth to shapes (cubes, balls, rhombuses, etc). So yes, there are some highlights here, but there are just too few of them to really make this a stellar book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Rather than review the individual stories, most of them excellent if you like some litfic in your SFF (as I do), a brief rant. There were two or three stories, mostly toward the end, where I either finished them or got a few pages in and thought, "This isn't really even SF." What I meant, I realized, was that they lacked sensawunda. They had SFnal settings and themes, but my affective response was mundane. I felt the same way about Ex Machina, a pretty good three-hander neo-noir that, for me, did Rather than review the individual stories, most of them excellent if you like some litfic in your SFF (as I do), a brief rant. There were two or three stories, mostly toward the end, where I either finished them or got a few pages in and thought, "This isn't really even SF." What I meant, I realized, was that they lacked sensawunda. They had SFnal settings and themes, but my affective response was mundane. I felt the same way about Ex Machina, a pretty good three-hander neo-noir that, for me, didn't even attempt to capture the excitement or strangeness of AI emergence or its effect on humans (well, men really not humans, but that's it's own rant.) If I'd read those stories in Granta or the New Yorker I'd have probably responded more on the terms they intended. As it was, the stories around them delivered concentrated sensawunda as only short forms can, so the contrast was all the more marked. A few, exemplary favorites: "Each to Each" by Seanan McGuire, "Cimmeria" by Theodora Goss, "The Thing about Shapes to Come" by Adam-Troy Castro, and the story that led me to pick up the volume, "Help Me Follow my Sister into the Land of the Dead" by Carmen Machado.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is an extremely good collection. The generic title, franchise character of the series and totally unintenteresting blurb description, and John Joseph Adams questionable past editing history are totally misleading—this is one of the best collection of speculative fictions I've ever come across. It's largely women, feminists, often queer, and nearly every story is absolutely brilliant. Apparently 2015 was a marvelous year for speculative fiction, and the editor, Joe Hill, is worth following. This is an extremely good collection. The generic title, franchise character of the series and totally unintenteresting blurb description, and John Joseph Adams questionable past editing history are totally misleading—this is one of the best collection of speculative fictions I've ever come across. It's largely women, feminists, often queer, and nearly every story is absolutely brilliant. Apparently 2015 was a marvelous year for speculative fiction, and the editor, Joe Hill, is worth following. Sam Miller, Kelly Link, Jo Walton, and Neil Gaiman are all familiar to me and superb writers. But others were equally remarkable and I haven't previously come across: Sofia Samatar, Karen Russell, Alaya Dawn Johnson and Susan Palwick. These people are extremely good. Notably, the stories work effectively both as speculative fiction—in the sense they have novel ideas about creative world premises—as as psychological realist fiction. Their characters are convincing and rich, with a level of depth we've only recently seen be common in SF. This is a great introduction to today's SF for the curious, and a solid read for die-hard fans.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Peter Aronson

    This collection is less than the sum of its parts. It overwhelming contains, dark, humorless, solemn, earnest stories, and the uniformity of tone drags it down. Now, this is supposed to be the years best, and maybe the best stories are all almost "grimdark", but I doubt it. I think the editors have fallen into the trap that Robertson Davies warns of, where they think to be serious, a story must be solemn. But life is no more consistently grim than it is consistently happy. As for the stories, asi This collection is less than the sum of its parts. It overwhelming contains, dark, humorless, solemn, earnest stories, and the uniformity of tone drags it down. Now, this is supposed to be the years best, and maybe the best stories are all almost "grimdark", but I doubt it. I think the editors have fallen into the trap that Robertson Davies warns of, where they think to be serious, a story must be solemn. But life is no more consistently grim than it is consistently happy. As for the stories, aside from their solemnity, several of them also suffer from poor world building (you should not finish a story and immediately think "that makes no sense!"), or inconsistent characterization or a basic misunderstanding of how things actually work. There are some good stories here, but whatever the editors were looking for in these, it isn't what I look for in stories. I do not think I will be buying next year's.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    There's plenty of quality writing in here, but Christ, it's all so damn somber. I thought 19 different authors would have produced a little more variety in tone. Also, I don't want to doubt Joe Hill (whose work I really enjoy), but I find it hard to believe that Neil Gaiman's story made it into this collection by blind chance. He's the most famous author in this book, and his story is about a character from one of his previous novels, which was itself a companion piece to a TV miniseries. Come o There's plenty of quality writing in here, but Christ, it's all so damn somber. I thought 19 different authors would have produced a little more variety in tone. Also, I don't want to doubt Joe Hill (whose work I really enjoy), but I find it hard to believe that Neil Gaiman's story made it into this collection by blind chance. He's the most famous author in this book, and his story is about a character from one of his previous novels, which was itself a companion piece to a TV miniseries. Come on.

  27. 5 out of 5

    S

    Well, if you judge 2015 by the stories in this book, it was a big "D." Because pretty much all of these stories are about depression, death, or destruction. I think there were like 2 of the 20 that would not fit in that "D" category. A few of them are pretty good - I particularly liked Each to Each and Sleeper. But overall, I would not rate most of these as "best," and I found it odd that the book as a whole reflected only such dark themes. Maybe 2015 was just a really rough year? Nah.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    A rather lackluster collection of stories. None stood out, though none were unreadable. If you have a favorite author among the collected, you'll probably like their entry; otherwise, I didn't find anyone I'd seek out to read more of their work.

  29. 5 out of 5

    David

    Like most collections this is a little uneven, but when it is good it is VERY VERY good, and when it is bad it is still readable. As always, John Joseph Adams puts together a quality product...haven't read enough others in this vein to see if Hill adds his own flair, but like him anyway.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sam Kyle

    There are some seriously talented writers feauted in this collection. If you're looking for original, diverse sci-fi/fantasy stories, check it out!

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