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The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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“This volume showcases the nuanced, playful, ever-expanding definitions of the genre and celebrates its current renaissance.” —Washington Post Science fiction and fantasy can encompass so much, from far-future deep-space sagas to quiet contemporary tales to unreal kingdoms and beasts. But what the best of these stories do is the same across the genres—they illuminate the w “This volume showcases the nuanced, playful, ever-expanding definitions of the genre and celebrates its current renaissance.” —Washington Post Science fiction and fantasy can encompass so much, from far-future deep-space sagas to quiet contemporary tales to unreal kingdoms and beasts. But what the best of these stories do is the same across the genres—they illuminate the whole gamut of the human experience, interrogating our hopes and our fears. With a diverse selection of stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Charles Yu, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 continues to explore the ever-expanding and changing world of SFF today, with Yu bringing his unique view—literary, meta, and adventurous—to the series’ third edition.


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“This volume showcases the nuanced, playful, ever-expanding definitions of the genre and celebrates its current renaissance.” —Washington Post Science fiction and fantasy can encompass so much, from far-future deep-space sagas to quiet contemporary tales to unreal kingdoms and beasts. But what the best of these stories do is the same across the genres—they illuminate the w “This volume showcases the nuanced, playful, ever-expanding definitions of the genre and celebrates its current renaissance.” —Washington Post Science fiction and fantasy can encompass so much, from far-future deep-space sagas to quiet contemporary tales to unreal kingdoms and beasts. But what the best of these stories do is the same across the genres—they illuminate the whole gamut of the human experience, interrogating our hopes and our fears. With a diverse selection of stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Charles Yu, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 continues to explore the ever-expanding and changing world of SFF today, with Yu bringing his unique view—literary, meta, and adventurous—to the series’ third edition.

30 review for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    I had this collection out twice, read the stories below, and set it aside. I don't think my taste matches editor Yu's very well. Guesstimated rating based on the better stories I read, mostly the SF. With a bonus for the wonderful introduction. And you may like more of the stories than I did. TOC: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?6... The selection process: the series editor, John Joseph Adams, picks the 80 SF/F stories he thinks are the best published in 2016. The guest editor, Charles Yu, the I had this collection out twice, read the stories below, and set it aside. I don't think my taste matches editor Yu's very well. Guesstimated rating based on the better stories I read, mostly the SF. With a bonus for the wonderful introduction. And you may like more of the stories than I did. TOC: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?6... The selection process: the series editor, John Joseph Adams, picks the 80 SF/F stories he thinks are the best published in 2016. The guest editor, Charles Yu, then picks his favorite 20 from the 80: 10 SF stories, and 10 fantasies. Many of the stories are also available online -- see below for the links I noticed. Opens with with the most entertaining anthology Introduction I can recall, by guest editor Charles Yu. Susan, an anthropologist from another dimension, tries to interview the editor at his local coffee shop. Yu assures us this is all absolutely true. [quotes follow] Yu: I'm sorry. I'm under deadline. I'm editing this anthology.... Susan: It looks like you're browsing pictures of baby pandas. Then Stan the interdimensional cop shows up, with plans to shut down our universe: "It's just not working out." It does work out. Yu finishes his coffee, gets a sandwich, and meets his deadline. As you know, Bob, we're still here.... 5 stars! Available online with the Kindle sample. Don't miss! •Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail • (2016) • fantasy novelette by Leigh Bardugo. An unusual coming-of-age story, featuring teenage Gracie, her dorky boyfriend, and a lake-monster. Sort of. Happy but confusing ending: 3.9 stars. • Teenagers from Outer Space • (2016) • SF novelette by Dale Bailey. Online at http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/baile... What it says. A high school girl is dating a hood with a hot rod. She dumps him, and takes up with Sam, a space-alien football star. Trouble follows. 3.5 stars. • The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight • (2016) • Fantasy short story by E. Lily Yu. Online at https://uncannymagazine.com/article/w... Also reprinted in Jonathan Strahan's 2017 Year's Best. Hmm. Did I read this? Yes, fractured fairy tale, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&r... Weak 3 stars. • On the Fringes of the Fractal • (2016) • SF short story by Greg van Eekhout. Online at http://escapepod.org/2017/10/19/escap... (text & podcast). "The Status Seekers" updated to drone deliveries that depend on your ever-changing stat. But what if you have none? A cautionary tale, 3 stars. Miss Spotty Pants to the rescue! • Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0 • (2016) • SF short story by Caroline M. Yoachim. 2017 Nebula Award nominee. Online at http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fic... What it says, a cautionary tale. Entertaining short-short, but not (imo) award-worthy. 3.2 stars. • Successor, Usurper, Replacement • (2016) • Horror short story by Alice Sola Kim. Online at https://www.buzzfeed.com/alicesolakim... It was a dark and stormy night for the writer's group, but I lost interest. DNF -- but the online artwork is spectacular! • Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do? • (2016) • SF-horror short story by Nick Wolven. Gross terrorist images saturate phones & Ubervision. I quit reading at the pile of severed feet. Not for me! DNF.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    Charles Yu is one of my favorite authors, so I had to check out his taste in short stories. They are strong on story-telling rather than being impressionistic, and tend to be longer rather than shorter. It's nice to see an SFF collection with such author diversity too. I read about 3/4 of the stories, which is better than my usual rate with anthologies. My absolute#1 favorite was the last story, The Venus Effect by Joseph Allen Hill. Others that charmed and stuck with me are Head Scales, Tongue, Charles Yu is one of my favorite authors, so I had to check out his taste in short stories. They are strong on story-telling rather than being impressionistic, and tend to be longer rather than shorter. It's nice to see an SFF collection with such author diversity too. I read about 3/4 of the stories, which is better than my usual rate with anthologies. My absolute#1 favorite was the last story, The Venus Effect by Joseph Allen Hill. Others that charmed and stuck with me are Head Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo (my first taste of Bardugo), I've Come to Marry the Princess by Helena Bell, Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home by Genvieve Valentine, The Story of Kao Yu by Peter Beagle.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    The best installment of BASFF so far - and not just because last year was some kind of banner year for SFF (although I guess maybe it was), but because Charles Yu brought a truly different glance to the editing. No disrespect to Joe Hill or Karen Joy Fowler, authors I love and admire, but it was nice to have a non-white author, to have an author who writes deep within the genres in question, and the results show: I recognized maybe five or six of the authors on this year's list and nearly every The best installment of BASFF so far - and not just because last year was some kind of banner year for SFF (although I guess maybe it was), but because Charles Yu brought a truly different glance to the editing. No disrespect to Joe Hill or Karen Joy Fowler, authors I love and admire, but it was nice to have a non-white author, to have an author who writes deep within the genres in question, and the results show: I recognized maybe five or six of the authors on this year's list and nearly every single one of the rest was a delightful discovery for me. This iteration of BASFF showed the depth and breadth of the speculative genres and renewed my passion for both of them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joe Crowe

    Anthologies are tough to sit through, sometimes, especially those that proclaim stories as "best." Such terminology sounds an alarm for pretty much anyone, challenging readers to say, "I'll be the judge of that." In this case, editors Charles Yu and John Joseph Adams pretty much nail it. Stories here are by Dale Bailey, Peter S. Beagle, N.K. Jemisin, Helena Bell, Genevieve Valentine, Alice Sola Kim, and over a dozen more. All are different shades of science fiction, and worth your eyeballs. My f Anthologies are tough to sit through, sometimes, especially those that proclaim stories as "best." Such terminology sounds an alarm for pretty much anyone, challenging readers to say, "I'll be the judge of that." In this case, editors Charles Yu and John Joseph Adams pretty much nail it. Stories here are by Dale Bailey, Peter S. Beagle, N.K. Jemisin, Helena Bell, Genevieve Valentine, Alice Sola Kim, and over a dozen more. All are different shades of science fiction, and worth your eyeballs. My favorite is "This is Not a Wardrobe Door," by A. Merc Rustad. It's sweet and heartwarming, about a girl who used to be able to go through a magical door and turn into a kid again, but now the door is broken. That story made me cry, but they were happy tears. It's just precious, and I mean that as an extreme compliment. (review from an advance copy.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    I feel like I just don't get on with Charles Yu's taste in SFF. I should have known from the overwrought introduction, written in the form of a dialogue between Yu himself and two time travelers who help him finalize the collection and suss out the true purpose of the SFF genres. It was not the kind of meta, self-aware fiction I enjoy, meaning that it went out of its way to make a rather unoriginal point that could have been better expressed with much less effort and fewer words. The use of meta- I feel like I just don't get on with Charles Yu's taste in SFF. I should have known from the overwrought introduction, written in the form of a dialogue between Yu himself and two time travelers who help him finalize the collection and suss out the true purpose of the SFF genres. It was not the kind of meta, self-aware fiction I enjoy, meaning that it went out of its way to make a rather unoriginal point that could have been better expressed with much less effort and fewer words. The use of meta-narratives and unique narrative structure is also present in many of the stories he chose to feature in the collection. While sometimes they were interesting, more often than not I felt like the stories needed to be expanded and read like underbaked drafts. The three stories I really liked out of the twenty were by Alexander Weinstein, Catherynne M Valente, and N.K. Jemisin, respectively. While I had hoped to find some new authors to explore further after reading this collection, it turns out the three I enjoyed most were by authors I've already read. Sort of a failed experiment on my end. I hope the next one of these I read is better.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sable

    I picked this up for "market research," really. What sorts of stories are considered to be "the best" for audiences over the past couple of years? This is a really excellent collection from some of the best writers that modern short SF/F has to offer. Well worth your time & energy if you love short fiction! A few notes about the individual stories: Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo - Beautiful in its whimsy. Also, I know it was inspired by Penticton because the author's note says so, and I picked this up for "market research," really. What sorts of stories are considered to be "the best" for audiences over the past couple of years? This is a really excellent collection from some of the best writers that modern short SF/F has to offer. Well worth your time & energy if you love short fiction! A few notes about the individual stories: Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo - Beautiful in its whimsy. Also, I know it was inspired by Penticton because the author's note says so, and that's my stompin' grounds (part of the Okanagan Valley.) Also, Bardugo shouted out our own native cryptid, the Ogopogo. Teenagers from Outer Space by Dale Bailey - Well written, but I could have taken or left this one. It had a lot of similarities with two other stories in this anthology, which strikes me as an odd editorial choice. I would have avoided that, myself. I've Come to Marry the Princess by Helena Bell - Weird fabulism in which a lot happened that seemed to make no sense. Still, it had me right to the end, which was ambiguous. If you like ambiguous endings, don't read the author's note at the end of the book, where what happened is explained. Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine - An excellent science fiction story that does what sci-fi does at its best; use hypothetical technology to make us question the path we're on and the logical conclusion of certain gray ethics. The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight by E. Lily Yu - A fractured fairy tale that reminded me of several deconstructed feminist fairy tales I read in the 80s and 90s. Except this one goes a little deeper. Worth the read. When They Came to Us by Debbie Urbanski - One of the two stories that had similar elements to Teenagers from Outer Space. Still excellent, if somewhat cynical and creepy in its cynicism. Vulcanization by Nisi Shawl - One of my favourite stories in the collection. It's basically a revenge fantasy on one of the most evil bigots in human history. Cathartic. Openness by Alexander Weinstein - A disturbing tale that explores the inevitable conclusion of our current social media, and considers loss of privacy and whether complete openness is, in fact, ideal. Inspired a half-baked idea that might become a story, so that's always a plus! Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass by Jeremiah Tolbert - A story about frustration and feeling left behind. Not sure I agree with the conclusion of the story. Is the world wondrous just because it's suddenly filled with satyrs, pirates and unicorns? Just because they're asking you to work for gold instead of dollars, doesn't make it magical in my opinion (you'll understand when you read it.) The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente - Maybe my favourite story in the book. Worldbuilding bar-none! (It has a prayer invoking Oscar the Grouch. Seriously, how can you beat that?) This is Not a Wardrobe Door by A. Merc Rustad - This one spoke to me very strongly. Who says we have to give up our magical fantasy worlds just because we grew up? (But I kinda want to be Merc when I grow up, so.) On the Fringes of the Fractal by Greg Van Eekhout - A deeply weird story that was part of an anthology of stories inspired by the music of Rush. Rush is awesome, of course, and their music can be deeply weird, so this was a great choice. Reminded me of Philip K. Dick or Kurt Vonnegut when they're at their best. The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle - A poignant story by a master. I find myself wondering if it was inspired by the character of Judge Bao? (If you don't know what I'm talking about, find the movies on YouTube. Whodunnits in Ancient China. And apparently he's a traditional character of folklore. I can't get enough of it.) Smear by Brian Evenson - One of those existentially weird science fiction stories where you're still asking "what the hell just happened?" Reminded me of Cordwainer Smith, only creepier. The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin - I am absolutely here for this story about the true identity of cities, where they embody themselves in the characters of people. Reminded me of a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers that my peers and I all listened to in the 90s. Delicious! Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0 by Caroline M. Yoachim - A darkly funny story that uses the format of a Choose Your Own Adventure. Laughed my ass off. Reminded me of some bad TTRPG games I've been in with terrible GMs. The author's note says it was inspired by real-life adventures in health care. I can relate. Successor, Usurper, Replacement by Alice Sola Kim - A story I found deeply disturbing as a writer. Clearly written by writers for writers. The characters make this story, which is excellent, but I'm not sure it will move non-writers like it did me. You could extrapolate it to all creatives, I think. Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do? by Nick Wolven - I understand from the author's note this was intended to be satire. It wasn't funny. It was creepy as hell, though. Makes me wonder, if we could actually do this, would people finally start caring about the horrible suffering in the world? I Was a Teenage Werewolf by Dale Bailey - Pretty good! Had a Stephen King quality to it, though I saw the ending coming a mile away. Also had a similar feel to Teenagers from Outer Space. I think it's weird that two such similar stories from the same author were chosen for this, when someone else might have been given a chance. I mean, it's a good story, but... The Venus Effect by Joseph Allen Hill - A darkly funny story about something that's going on in the world right now that is not funny at all. Because a lot - too many - stories are ending this way. I thought this was a flatly brilliant treatment of the subject that makes a poignant point under the veil of dark comedy, which makes the tragedy manageable, and points out its absurdity. Well done! Regardless, pick this up if you want to see how it's done, and if you like artsy, literary science fiction and fantasy. Quite an impressive collection, well worth my time! Read it when you've got time to think.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    This is by far the best of the three collections of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. I've read each one cover to cover, and taught each one in my classes...but this is the most enjoyable from a reader's perspective (with the most diversity), and also the most rewarding as a teacher for all the big ideas and clever wordplay in the stories. It ranges from stories of teenage aliens and werewolves to satirical suburban dystopias, to timeless Chinese fairy tales. There were only a few stori This is by far the best of the three collections of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. I've read each one cover to cover, and taught each one in my classes...but this is the most enjoyable from a reader's perspective (with the most diversity), and also the most rewarding as a teacher for all the big ideas and clever wordplay in the stories. It ranges from stories of teenage aliens and werewolves to satirical suburban dystopias, to timeless Chinese fairy tales. There were only a few stories I didn't care for (inveitable in such a grab-bag collection), though several of the stories introduced me to new favorite authors and were true 'game changers' among modern science fiction and fantasy. My subjective front-runners in the collection: Bardugo's "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail": a beautiful teenage romance story between a girl and a 'merman' in a sleepy tourist town in Canada. Really takes you by surprise. Bailey's "Teenagers from Outer Space" and "I Was a Teenage Werewolf": clever twists on 50' s genre staples that strike deep. Teenagers are a bit like aliens, aren't they? And god knows what they do when the moon goes full... Weinstein, "Openness": romance in the age of virtual reality and shared memories...how can you be truly open to someone when you're hiding even from yourself? Tolbert, "Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Class": my FAVORITE story in the bunch, a quiet story about a girl who never found her happily ever after when everyone else has...or has she? Van Eekhout, "On the Fringes of the Fractal": a surburban nightmare that seems, like a fractal, to spin out of control...except for a few "stains" on the mathematical pattern. Beagle, "The Story of Kao Yu": a powerful, seemingly timeless story by the author of The Last Unicorn. A big favorite. Wolven, "Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do?": a darkly humorous tale about media terrorism and what happens when the computers target you to become "morally aware." Thank you for bringing all these great stories to my attention, since I'm too lazy or clueless to read all the individual magazines they appear in.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Grey Thornberry

    I'm leaving a slightly unfair review because in truth I didn't finish this collection. Maybe I missed the best stories, but the ones I did read just felt 'soft'. There were no grand concepts, no leaps of imagination, no unforgettable characters - in short, nothing that draws me to Science Fiction/Fantasy in the first place. I was left with the impression that the editor intentionally selected stories that were as tepid as possible, for whatever reason. I hope that's true, and it wasn't just becau I'm leaving a slightly unfair review because in truth I didn't finish this collection. Maybe I missed the best stories, but the ones I did read just felt 'soft'. There were no grand concepts, no leaps of imagination, no unforgettable characters - in short, nothing that draws me to Science Fiction/Fantasy in the first place. I was left with the impression that the editor intentionally selected stories that were as tepid as possible, for whatever reason. I hope that's true, and it wasn't just because that was the best on offer in 2017.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daryl

    I have a bit of a snobbery problem when it comes to books, and I've tended to turn my nose up at genre fiction. This year in particular, I've been trying to have more of an open mind about it and have read a fair bit of science fiction on my own alongside fantasy for the family read-aloud. I'm a sucker for "Best American" anthologies (I picked up two others when I bought this one recently) and this seemed like a good one to expose myself to a broader range of the genre without a huge investment I have a bit of a snobbery problem when it comes to books, and I've tended to turn my nose up at genre fiction. This year in particular, I've been trying to have more of an open mind about it and have read a fair bit of science fiction on my own alongside fantasy for the family read-aloud. I'm a sucker for "Best American" anthologies (I picked up two others when I bought this one recently) and this seemed like a good one to expose myself to a broader range of the genre without a huge investment in a long book or series. It also seemed like a good opportunity to see what current fiction in these genres was like (most of what I've read is 20 years old or older). Turns out, fiction in these genres is very mixed. I dog-eared the following stories as really enjoyable or worthwhile: - Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home - When They Came to Us - Openness - The Future is Blue I also thought "The Venus Effect" was fairly important but annoyingly written (it's metafiction, which I like in general, but I didn't like the way the author wrote it). I enjoyed a little bit "The Story of Kao Yu" but didn't think it really belonged in this anthology. Most of the rest of the stories were meh at best for me. A couple of them were downright bad. I screened entries for a local genre fiction contest a few years ago, and there were a few pretty solid entries and a lot of really terrible ones. Some of the stories in this collection I would not have passed along to the round of final judging even in a local contest, much less considered fit for a collection of 20 of the best stories in the two genres. This makes me feel like maybe the current state of science fiction and fantasy is pretty grim, though it's possible that the series editor and judge just have tastes or literary sensibilities very very different from mine (though I think that my snobbery lets me value quality writing even if I don't love the category of the writing). The thing about it is that good writing transcends genre. The stories I dog-eared are all reasonably good stories that I'd be pleased to have read in any context (one appeared in The Sun, which is a literary magazine and not a science fiction magazine). The ones I didn't mention by title above seem to have been chosen specifically because of their genre and not because they represent good writing or storytelling, and this sort of pigeonholing and acceptance regardless of quality is, I suppose, what makes me feel iffy about genre fiction in general to begin with.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    The choice of the 'best' for these collections is always a very subjective project and they typically contain stories I had considered good to average with a few I recalled (or just discovered) as favorites. The 2017 entry in the relatively new Best American SF and Fantasy series is no different, but as I go through 2017 anthologies I do appreciate how this doesn't feature some of the really good works that got placed in multiple other anthologies. That may sound an odd statement, but in reality The choice of the 'best' for these collections is always a very subjective project and they typically contain stories I had considered good to average with a few I recalled (or just discovered) as favorites. The 2017 entry in the relatively new Best American SF and Fantasy series is no different, but as I go through 2017 anthologies I do appreciate how this doesn't feature some of the really good works that got placed in multiple other anthologies. That may sound an odd statement, but in reality there is more great stuff out there than could fit in just one collection, and some stories end up being too featured, even if stellar. So if you're read others 'best of' genre collections, you'll likely find unique stuff here. However, partly that comes also from the fact that the series leans more toward the 'literary' over the 'speculative'. The writing may be stellar throughout, but that alone doesn't make good SFF necessarily. Also, though guest editor Yu chose final works included, John Joseph Adams makes the first pass, and there seems to be a preference to works from the magazines he edits. Makes sense, as he chose them to start with, but it also represents some inherent bias. Here I perhaps most enjoyed stories at the start and the close. "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo was a new story for me, and I liked the fantasy cryptozoology in a touching tale of relationship. "The Venus Effect" by Joseph Allen Hill originally appeared in Lightspeed, but under the author's real name: Violet Allen. Not sure why her pseudonym was used here for the same story. But in any case, the metafiction story is a series of 'episodes' featuring a Black superhero. In each take, things do not go well for our superhero, because that is the way things typically go for people of color. Now in 2020 amid publicity surrounding #blacklivesmatter the story reads just as critically important, and far less absurd than it may have to many readers back in 2016ish. Many others I enjoyed immensely, some I found okay, and none did I dislike. But I'm not going to summarize and comment on each one here, you should just discover them for yourselves and see how they resonate with you if you are into anthologies such as these and haven't tried the series out yet. A few more 2017 works to go and then onto 2018. Maybe I'll catch up one day.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Grady

    The stories in this collection, by and large, display much better writing than other science fiction or fantasy anthologies I’ve read in the last year. A bunch of the stories are metaphors or fables, with alien identity standing in for racial otherness in explorations of social dynamics. At least half are laced with some form of humor, which is also a nice change from some other anthologies. Not all of the stories work, but even those that fall short are smart and interesting experiments. Favori The stories in this collection, by and large, display much better writing than other science fiction or fantasy anthologies I’ve read in the last year. A bunch of the stories are metaphors or fables, with alien identity standing in for racial otherness in explorations of social dynamics. At least half are laced with some form of humor, which is also a nice change from some other anthologies. Not all of the stories work, but even those that fall short are smart and interesting experiments. Favorite stories in this colection include Leigh Bardugo, ‘Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail’, a sweet, romantic fantasy about young love; Alexander Weinstein, ‘Openness’, a sad but beautiful study of a relationship in a future where social media interactions have replaced most verbal conversation; Peter S. Beagle, ‘The Story of Kao Yu’, a fairly conventional story about love and sacrifice set in pre-modern China; and Joseph Allen Hill, ‘the Venus Effect’, which uses a meta approach (reminiscent of Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller) to remind that Black Lives Matter.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    3.5 stars I've become a fan of this anthology series over the past few years. Sci-fi/fantasy isn't an area I spend a lot f reading time in, but I like to touch base once a year. Each installment has a new guest editor, which makes for a different definition of "best" every year. I'm only familiar with this year's editor, Charles Yu, by name. I haven't read any of his work. But judging by his taste in stories, I might have to check out his books. He's got a good eye. Themes I saw coming up often in 3.5 stars I've become a fan of this anthology series over the past few years. Sci-fi/fantasy isn't an area I spend a lot f reading time in, but I like to touch base once a year. Each installment has a new guest editor, which makes for a different definition of "best" every year. I'm only familiar with this year's editor, Charles Yu, by name. I haven't read any of his work. But judging by his taste in stories, I might have to check out his books. He's got a good eye. Themes I saw coming up often in this volume: teen nostalgia, fear of new arrivals, portal fiction gone wrong, global warming and its aftermath, stories with a foot in the real world. Highlights: "Teenagers From Outer Space" and "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" by Dale Bailey "Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home" by Genevieve Valentine "The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight" by E. Lily Yu "Vulcanization" by Nisi Shawl- Looking Glass" by Jeremiah Tolbert- "The Future is Blue" by Catherynne M. Valente- "Successor, Usurper, Replacement" by Alice Sola Kim

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Dorneman

    This edition of this new anthology series didn't live up to the promise of the first few volumes. Too many similar stories, too many direct commentaries on current events with a gloss of SF or fantasy, too many lit fic stories with rule-less magic realism masquerading as genre fiction. Although there are a few winners here, there are too many whiners. Not recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caitlyn Fong

    As with most anthologies, some stories were more enjoyable than others. Many of the stories shared suburban settings or had elements of childhood and youth. Ones I liked: Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass (Tolbert) The City Born Great (Jemisin) Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail (Bardugo) Successor, Usurper, Replacement (Kim) The Venus Effect (Hill)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I felt much the same about this book as about the 2015 collection, so am repeating my review: "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."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brenna

    I read a lot of Phillip K Dick and so typically am biased towards that type of SciFi. Some stories were pretty good, others I didn’t enjoy so much. I appreciate the differing perspectives though.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The collection overall was OK -- a few fantasy stories I skipped, a few sci-fi stories I felt were repetitive. The five-star standout is The Venus Effect by Joseph Allen Hill, in which a writer keeps trying to tell a science fiction or fantasy story, only for his protagonist to repeatedly be shot by a cop. Science fiction is often about the anxieties of its time, and Hill captures the sickening dread and queasy unease of 2015/2016 with a lively, fresh voice.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    I found Charles Yu’s metafiction introduction to this anthology self-indulgent and digressive, so I went into the selection with lower expectations than the ones for the previous two years. But I left thinking he'd probably chosen the strongest set of stories of the three anthologies available so far. First let me get the ones I don’t give a damn about out of the way: “Smear,” is about a guy plugged into a spaceship who wakes from long-spaceflight stasis, sees a random smear he can’t clean away, I found Charles Yu’s metafiction introduction to this anthology self-indulgent and digressive, so I went into the selection with lower expectations than the ones for the previous two years. But I left thinking he'd probably chosen the strongest set of stories of the three anthologies available so far. First let me get the ones I don’t give a damn about out of the way: “Smear,” is about a guy plugged into a spaceship who wakes from long-spaceflight stasis, sees a random smear he can’t clean away, climbs out of his chair and dies. Essentially nothing happens. “I’ve Come to Marry the Princess” had a promisingly funny voice. The POV is left at summer camp for two years tries to have a relationship with a girl. Also a dragon’s egg was involved some way I didn’t understand. But the story didn’t resolve. “Welcome to the Medical Clinic…” is structured as choose-your-own-adventure. But no matter what you choose, you die in a dystopic alien medical system. It was supposed to be funny, but didn’t earn out its formal conceit. Bad medicine sucks, especially in the world you created specifically to make your POV suffer horribly and then die. So? “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” didn’t earn out its throwback campy horror conceit, either. Spoiler: all the teenagers are werewolves. Something of a cliché and what’s the point? “Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do?” had questionable SF elements (“mediaterrorists” who are never revealed make media around the POV show pictures of mutilated people in a war some place that is never identified for reasons unexplained). The witch of “The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight” manages, at great magical cost, to defeat dragons to the benefit of a knight who acts like a psychologically abusive boyfriend. Unpleasant reading for much the same reason sad-sack main characters are unpleasant, which shouldn’t be possible of a woman who’s a dragon-killer. “The Future is Blue” by Catherynne Valente is technically SF—after climate change has drowned everything and all the characters live on a giant floating island of garbage. Only, even in the worst sea-level-rising catastrophe scenario, that’s not what would happen. And like with other Valente work (like Deathless, which I’d planned to read this semester and couldn’t get even halfway through) it felt jammed full of stuffclutter. Like what you’d get if you asked the most precocious 8-year-old on Earth what she’s playing pretend about. She gives you amazing phantasmagoria unlinked by any cause-and-effect. You leave smiling and thinking “what an imagination!” but never “what tightly plotted suspense!” “Vulcanization” was about Belgian king Leopold II haunted by guilt-ghosts of black people murdered by his administrators in Congo. The Mallet of Message was wielded so hard it was difficult to see the story behind it, and that story was weak. One minor issue to stand for the whole: Leopold refers to blacks using the n-word. Only, that’s a Southern USA racist term. He’s Belgian nobility. That word does not exist in that form in French. Clearly the author was cut-pasting her mental image of a racist overlord on Leopold rather than doing the research to work from the actual man. “Teenagers from Outer Space” is about alien refugees coming to 50s America, a la District 9, except most of it is a high school drama. It almost succeeds, but ultimately slips into the Mind Projection Fallacy—in which even goopy reptilian aliens are attracted to cute human women. (see Yudkowsky, “Mind Projection Fallacy”) “When They Came to Us” is also about aliens coming to US suburbs and combines the failings of both the previous stories. The Mallet of Message is wielded (people think they are decent, but commit atrocities against the Other at the drop of a hat). And the squidgy aliens wasting their time in human high schools were ultimately not alien enough. Which brings us to the low point of the collection: “On the Fringes of the Fractal,” by Greg Van Eekhout. A boy in a future in which everything is determined by status (like Cory Doctorow’s Whuffie popularity currency system from Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom only greatly exaggerated). The guy who works next to him in the fast-food place gets unlucky and loses all his status, so he will soon die. The POV tries to help and I’ll let him foreshadow what happened: I felt something surging within me like high-pressure burger slew through a lunch rush gun. This was a new feeling. A powerful feeling. The feeling that I could do something to break the patterns of my life and take Sherman along with me. The feeling that I could make a difference. I was such an idiot. Can’t tell you precisely what happened, because shortly thereafter I stopped reading (except to make sure everything ended badly, which it did). Head-in-the-oven and also SBA—screwed by author—the term I use of a POV who fails quite clearly and exclusively because the author wishes them to fail. “This is Not a Wardrobe Door,” “The Story of Kao Yu,” and “The City Born Great” were all good stories. The first was gentle fairytale (a person trying to get back through the magic portal of their childhood), the second straight fairytale by Peter S Beagle, one of my favorite authors. I’m not a fan of N.K. Jemison, what I’ve read of hers. And you could see her grinding axes in “The City Born Great” pretty hard. But ultimately her premise (each major city has an avatar, and a young black streetkid is the new avatar of New York) was strong and well executed enough that I have to acknowledge the story despite my priors. “Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home” and “Openness” are both stories I liked very much for their well executed premises: the first is about a VR world product-tested on prison inmates without their knowledge. The second is about technology to let you share thoughts with others, and the agonizing retraction and disappearance of shared thought as a couple disagrees, fights, and then separates. “Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail” (a girl at a tourist town falls in love with an odd boy who turns out to be a disguised cryptid) and “Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass” (everyone on Earth suddenly gets a magic portal, except for the POV character) were both about regular, decent people trying to get by and care for others and do good, told in enjoyable voices. Both had happy endings, too. Loved them both. “The Venus Effect,” by Joseph Allen Hill, and “Successor, Usurper, Replacement” by Alice Sola Kim were well above all the other stories, tied for my favorite pieces. Each broke one of my foundational rules of good writing with such brio that I applaud them for it. “The Venus Effect” is metafiction, which I generally disdain as, at best, one step removed from good. But it’s about a young black man in a genre story (sometimes SF, sometimes thriller, sometimes blaxploitation…) who keeps getting shot by a random cop before the story gets going. Then the narrator talks to you, expresses frustration, and it starts again. It was deeply moving, and so good at expressing Hill’s fury and frustration and heartache at police violence against blacks. “Successor, Usurper, Replacement” is about a writing group joined by a weird eldritch horror disguised as a young woman. To me, writing about writers has always seemed narcissistic, ingrown, maybe even inbred. I’d much rather a writer look outward. But Kim is so funny. It’s chock full of one-liners like “Huynh had brought a box of pinot grigio that had a picture of an actual bottle of wine on the front, which seemed like an unintuitive marketing choice, to remind you so baldly of what you weren’t getting.” Or “Huynh, in fact, was terrible at physical contact in general; Huynh hugged like a haunted porcelain doll that had come to life.” Or “back-of-the-fridge Parmesan that had gone the texture of Comet.” Or “The elevator opened directly into Lee’s apartment, as it did for every unit in the building, which was supposed to be a fancy amenity but felt more like having a giant hole that led right into your guts.” Or many others. And as a mark of the perfection of the humor, the elevator quote was also the set-up for an errant boomerang joke—it came back later in the story in a much more serious moment that was far stronger for the association. Delightfully enjoyable. All in all, I will definitely continue reading this series, and Hill and Kim go right to the top of my to-read list.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Raima Larter

    I read last year's edition of this anthology and was disappointed, but thought I'd give it another chance by looking at the 2017 issue. There were a couple of good stories in this but, for the most part, I was puzzled about why the editors selected the stories they included. As usual, there's very little in the way of true scifi in this, and I was disappointed that some of the more scifi-like pieces actually seemed to be mocking the genre, such as the final story, "The Venus Effect" and the two I read last year's edition of this anthology and was disappointed, but thought I'd give it another chance by looking at the 2017 issue. There were a couple of good stories in this but, for the most part, I was puzzled about why the editors selected the stories they included. As usual, there's very little in the way of true scifi in this, and I was disappointed that some of the more scifi-like pieces actually seemed to be mocking the genre, such as the final story, "The Venus Effect" and the two by the same author that seem to be satirical pieces about old teenage horror movies ("I was a Teenage Werewolf," and "Teenagers from Outer Space.") Why mock the very genre that you are supposedly writing in? Another problem I had with this is that it seemed to be aimed at a much younger crowd than I would prefer (I didn't realize this was an anthology of YA stuff), so that's probably my problem, but I still wish there were more adult characters in this genre. The characters in the stories do seem to be more inclusive of the LGBT and non-binary community, but you would think with this attention to diversity there would be more women present in these pages. One exception is the clever fantasy piece by Jeremiah Tolbert, "Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass." The lack of strong female protagonists is, of course, a big problem with the old stuff, classic scifi, and I would have thought we would be beyond that by now. Apparently not. Given that this is the second issue of this I've tried and have found both to be disappointing, I probably won't take a look at next year's issue either. Other readers might want to save some time and skip this one as well.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I don't typically read short story anthologies, but the colourful cover of this intrigued me and I had a hankering to try out some new authors. I noticed this collection had a few authors I've read and enjoyed before (Catherynne M. Valente, Leigh Bardugo, N.K. Jemisin, etc.) as well, so I figured there were enough stories I was very likely to enjoy alongside the new-to-me authors. First off, I want to applaud this collection for its diversity. Not only are there a number of women, people of colou I don't typically read short story anthologies, but the colourful cover of this intrigued me and I had a hankering to try out some new authors. I noticed this collection had a few authors I've read and enjoyed before (Catherynne M. Valente, Leigh Bardugo, N.K. Jemisin, etc.) as well, so I figured there were enough stories I was very likely to enjoy alongside the new-to-me authors. First off, I want to applaud this collection for its diversity. Not only are there a number of women, people of colour and queer authors in this collection, but there's also a diversity in the stories being told. A lot of them aren't cut-and-dry sci-fi or fantasy - some of them toe the line or play with the genres in interesting ways. The stories that demonstrated this most noticeably for me were: Bardugo's, Tolbert's, Yoachim's and Hill's. Some of the stories were topical (ie. dealing with police brutality) while others played with the format (there's a choose-your-own-adventure story! ...kind of), but all of them brought something new and fun to the table. I would recommend this collection whether you're new to SFF - this a good introduction to some big names in the genre - or are a hardcore fan looking for something that pushes the envelope a bit.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lenka

    Very 2.5. It would be easy to say "I saw where they were going, but the execution just didn't work", or "The agenda was too painfully obvious to have any impact" and "I can either do suspension of disbelief for the sake of an idea, or take the matter seriously to its inevitable conclusion, but not both at the same time". It worries me that I could say all of these about most of the stories in this collection, and I can't disentangle the immediate judgement from feelings about the topics explored, Very 2.5. It would be easy to say "I saw where they were going, but the execution just didn't work", or "The agenda was too painfully obvious to have any impact" and "I can either do suspension of disbelief for the sake of an idea, or take the matter seriously to its inevitable conclusion, but not both at the same time". It worries me that I could say all of these about most of the stories in this collection, and I can't disentangle the immediate judgement from feelings about the topics explored, no matter the friction between them. "Science fiction" and "fantasy" here seem to mostly serve as backdrops for social commentary (which of course would not be a bad thing in itself). And yet, I keep hoping that perhaps the superficiality I perceived was just misunderstanding in disguise, though I know I won't be returning to this book to see if I was wrong.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    This year's collection is a shining example of how science fiction can illustrate contemporary problems in a more startling way than non-fiction--the standouts are Joseph Allen Hill's "The Venus Effect" and N.K. Jemison's ode to the autonomous inner life of cities and the forces of evil who try to hinder them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tyrean

    I loved one of the short stories in this collection and found the rest to be experimental, depressing, or just angry. I get including some stories like those, but to have the majority of the anthology to run that way just seemed like overkill. If this is truly what is popular or considered good in scifi and fantasy, then I need a new genre to read and write.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rennie

    A couple of good stories but overall just did not float my particular boat.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    I had a great time with this book and I think reading it slowly like this was really nice--20 stories, spread out nicely without ever getting too far away from me. I think the only way to give an accurate impression of the book is to talk about each story individually grouped by my favorites, the middle and my least favorites (although all of the stories are strong). I'll start with my least favorite stories "Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Will You Do?": nice premise and I think it was probably a sati I had a great time with this book and I think reading it slowly like this was really nice--20 stories, spread out nicely without ever getting too far away from me. I think the only way to give an accurate impression of the book is to talk about each story individually grouped by my favorites, the middle and my least favorites (although all of the stories are strong). I'll start with my least favorite stories "Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Will You Do?": nice premise and I think it was probably a satire, but I had a lot of trouble figuring out exactly what was being satirized, which made it very difficult to follow and to get into. I also found the style a tad jarring, but I'm not really sure why. "Openness" was kind of bleak and hopeless and well executed, but I don't go to speculative fiction to be told that the future is doomed, I go to speculative fiction to learn how we might be able to save it. And this one was a little too doom-y as it launched into an image of the death of human connection. But still interesting. "Successor, Usurper, Replacement": also very well executed, but I found the creature come to reallocate talent and make one succeed at the expense of their friends distressing. As a writer myself, I don't think I could continue to function if I truly believed that my literary success was dependent on taking it away from my friends and fellow writers, who I have worked with and cared about. I think the creature herself is really powerfully drawn and I liked that about this story and the tone was really perfect: "There was no question of going home that night. The streets below Lee's high-rise apartment had flooded, and everyone had received an alert that the beast had been sighted near their area. If they went out their safety could not be guaranteed." Next the stories in the middle: "Teenagers from Outer Space" and "I Was A Teenage Werewolf": both tender stories about the experience of being an American teenager. Very middle-America, very glossy somehow. Fun, but somehow missing something for me. "I've Come to Marry the Princess". This one was actually about promises and friendship and connection, which was cool, but the style was a little simple. "Before Jack can apologize to Nacy, she has to believe that dragons exist." It worked for the summer-camp fantasy, but the story felt like it might have been lacking in a richness I think it could have had. I had trouble believing that no one would notice that Jack just never left the campsite, but suspend disbelief, I suppose. "Head Scales, Tongue, Tail," a sweet love story, but once again, not high depth of what I wanted. "Vulcanization" solid story, but it felt like there was context I was missing. "On the Fringes of the Fractal," suburbia and dystopian fiction. Powerful, but not necessarily my cup of tea "Smear," a little bit of emptiness is powerful and but there's just a little too much left unexplained for my taste. "When They Came to Us"absolutely haunting, racism as applied to aliens My favorite things: "Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home": heartwrenching and sweet and painful and brutal and I just loved this story of longing and corportate mismanagement "The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight"--nicely atmospheric and elegant story of finding out our places in the world "Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass": I love the way this makes the consumption of fantasy stories and the development of the imagination a theme in its own right. "The Future is Blue": "My name is Tetly Abednego and I am the most hated girl in Garbagetown." Cat Valente's style is flawless and the story is gut-wrenchingly beautiful in its post-environmental-apocalypse world. "This is Not a Wardrobe Door," is another smart portal fantasy that deals with storytelling itself and its importance. "The Story of Kao Yu": elegant and soft and difficult because it is really about our own ability to disappoint ourselves. "The City Born Great" Cosmic anti-horror; funny and strong and deeply caring. Probably my favorite piece in the book. "Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0": riotously funny in an incredibly dark and biting way; a sort of futile choose-your-own-adventure story "The Venus Effect": hard-edged story of police brutality and stories themselves

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    1. Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo - 5 stars - very different than her other writing (suburban lake gothic?) but still sexy and fun 2. Teenagers from Outer Space by Dale Bailey - 5 stars - pentecostal parents drive and a rapey bf drive a girl to Bug Town. Weird and creative. 3. I’ve Come to Marry the Princess by Helena Bell - 2 stars - Confusing and I super dislike abandonment unless it's resolved... and this isn't really resolved. You just hope it is? Maybe? 4. Everyone From Themis Se 1. Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo - 5 stars - very different than her other writing (suburban lake gothic?) but still sexy and fun 2. Teenagers from Outer Space by Dale Bailey - 5 stars - pentecostal parents drive and a rapey bf drive a girl to Bug Town. Weird and creative. 3. I’ve Come to Marry the Princess by Helena Bell - 2 stars - Confusing and I super dislike abandonment unless it's resolved... and this isn't really resolved. You just hope it is? Maybe? 4. Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine - 4 stars - a somber, if moving, artificial reality story. 5. When They Came to Us by Debbie Urbanski - 4/5 stars - blue aliens come and the suburbanites don't like them. creepy and discomforting ... and feels like a metaphor for racism. The end left me a little confused, like I was missing something. 6. The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight by E. Lily Yu - 4 stars - confusing but also rather fun. 7. Vulcanization by Nisi Shawl - 3 stars - powerful images yet confusing. The prose style was florid and dense without a real balance to the rhythm. The end didn't really stick the landing. I too often feel like short stories are just missing one necessary plot point. 8. Openness by Alexander Weinstein - 4/5 stars - really sad, lovely story re: internet implants "layers" and about connecting ... and not. 9. Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass by Jeremiah Tolbert - 4 stars - a girl doesn't get a portal fantasy (a cool subversion, really) 10. The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente - 4/5 stars - beautifully written, tho it felt weirdly long - girl has to save Garbage Town. 11. This is Not a Wardrobe Door by A. Merc Rustad - 5 stars - Ellie wants to get back to Zera - deep emotional impact - kind of a metaphor for creativity shaping itself? 12. On the Fringes of the Fractal by Greg van Eekhout - 3/4 stars - great writing and some cool ideas (the world is becoming a capitalist suburb - actually this felt very Lego Movie, hah) with an ABRUPT ending 13. The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle - 4 stars - I loved the throwback to the ancient Chinese tale with the judge having to choose between Snow Ermine and his lady justice. Gorgeously told ... the ending felt needlessly vague. 14. The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin - I read this in her other collection so skipped it here. 15. Smear by Brian Evenson - 4 stars - subtle, creepy little horror story about a "smear" that spreads - perfect for the length but feels like a teaser 16. Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station - 0 Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0 by Caroline M. Yoachim - 3/4 stars - clever. a choose your own adventure space opera/grim comedy. 17 . Successor, Usurper, Replacement by Alice Sola Kim - 3/4 - four urban friends meet up for a writers group while the siren goes off for a prowling monster outside - except what if the monster is inside? Great cast of characters but weirdly confusing in the end. Kept it from satisfying. 18. Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do? by Nick Wolven - 4 stars - a man is the victim of media terrorism. Feels like it's missing a plot step - but very successful at creating ANXIETY in the reader. 19. I Was a Teenage Werewolf by Dale Bailey - 5 stars - this was highly enjoyable and a hilarious metaphor for being a teenager 20. The Venus Effect by Joseph Allen Hill - 4/5 stars - this is a great meta-story about race in our society - the writing is amazing. I would have cut a scene or two is my only quibble.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wise Cat

    First I want to say I don't normally read short stories....because they are too short, LOL. I never felt they could have enough of a plot or character development. This book proved me wrong! I discovered this by accident, as I read The Best American Mystery Stories for an informal book club at our recreation center. Then, I found out the "Best American" is a series, and one of them is a combination of two of my fave genres: Sci-fi and fantasy. I was skeptical about the word "best" and how they ch First I want to say I don't normally read short stories....because they are too short, LOL. I never felt they could have enough of a plot or character development. This book proved me wrong! I discovered this by accident, as I read The Best American Mystery Stories for an informal book club at our recreation center. Then, I found out the "Best American" is a series, and one of them is a combination of two of my fave genres: Sci-fi and fantasy. I was skeptical about the word "best" and how they chose them. I say that because I didn't like many of the mystery stories and wondered how did they get chosen. Also, I didn't get the "mystery" of them. FYI, they are not detective stories....no real ending and sometimes even more questions. There are 20 stories in this book and they vary in length/topics. I liked 12 of them, which is more than half. The rest I either didn't like or didn't understand. I read the foreword, which was mostly boring except when they mentioned the theory that sci-fi/fantasy are not just about the distant future or alternate worlds. It can be symbolic of what we are facing in the world today. I never thought about it that way. Who doesn't want to escape to another world sometimes? Or worry about the future of this world? The ones I liked were so well written, they were like reading full length novels in a way. OR I wished it was a full-length novel; it was that good. My favorites were "Head, Scales, Tongue and Tail", "Teenagers from Outer Space", "I Was a Teenage Werewolf", "Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home", "When They Came to Us", "Openness", "Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass", "The Future is Blue", "On the Fringes of the Fractal", "Smear", "Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station/Hours since the last patient death", and "Caspar D. Luckinbill, What are going to do?" I thought the story about the teenage werewolf was the basis for the movie starring Michael Landon. But I couldn't find where it said it was based on a short story. The sci-fi stories about aliens could reflect how we feel about immigrants and refugees, people from a distance place and different from us. "Openness" is a cautionary tale about technology. "Welcome to the Medical Clinic" could be about health care in this country. "Caspar D....." could be a cautionary tale about how the media can make or break someone, "fake news" and such. "The Future is Blue" is about global warming or it could be. Those are the ones that stand out for me. The medical clinic is my favorite, as they say to go to this place and fill out that form and register here and wait there. Who hasn't been through that at the doctor's office? Esp. an HMO like Kaiser. If you like sci-fi/fantasy and don't usually read short stories but you are considering it, this is a good book to get your feet wet by! :-) It's a good thing to read while eating lunch or waiting for the bus, as they are short enough....taking me a few minutes to read. When I'm in the mood to try new authors, I will look up what other stories or novels the above authors wrote. As for the ones I didn't like, I'm not sure if it's because I didn't understand it. Overall, I really liked this which surprised me. I also plan to look into the other books in this series, like Best American Essays. I'm trying to stretch my comfort zone in reading these days, trying to read new authors or new types of things like short stories.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail - 4* - Great story about teenage romance. Falls off at the end. Teenagers from Outer Space - 3* - Fine but nothing special. Well written but don’t totally understand the rapturous praise. I’ve Come to Marry the Princess - 4* - Surreal and funny story about forgotten things. Little bit of a gut punch at the end. Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home - 5* - Brilliant. Brains in vats, epistolary format, prison industrial complex, corporate espionage, the works. The Witch of Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail - 4* - Great story about teenage romance. Falls off at the end. Teenagers from Outer Space - 3* - Fine but nothing special. Well written but don’t totally understand the rapturous praise. I’ve Come to Marry the Princess - 4* - Surreal and funny story about forgotten things. Little bit of a gut punch at the end. Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home - 5* - Brilliant. Brains in vats, epistolary format, prison industrial complex, corporate espionage, the works. The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight - 4* - Very good in theory, not great in execution. I’ll split the difference and be generous because I really do like the idea of a story about how women always do too much and too little told through the lens of a witch and knight. When They Came to Us - 4* - A little didactic for me, but the style and emotional impact still work well. Vulcanization - n/a - I feel like I’m missing something from not having read Everfair. This is grotesque in a way that I find rewarding, but I don’t really understand a lot of it. Openness - 5* - Beautiful, simple, extraordinarily painful. Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass - 2* - Entertaining enough but the ending is weak. Very “reading is magic!” which I don’t find compelling. The Future is Blue - 4* - A nice light(ish) twist on the post-deluge story that turns very dark at the end. This is Not a Wardrobe Door - 2* - Cute but very not for me. On the Fringes of the Fractal - 3* - Interesting enough. Great last line. The Story of Kao Yu - 3* - Beagle has a knack for writing deeply sad and melancholy stories (Last Unicorn is such a perfect book). I’m not sure I was satisfied with the end of this one, though. Smear - 5* - Short, weird, unsettling. Makes me want to read more of Evenson’s work. The City Born Great - 3* - An interesting attempt to take back Lovecraft from the darker elements of Lovecraft’s personality. Better in theory than execution. Welcome to the Medical Clinic… - 4* - This is close to great. I’m grading on a curve because the idea of a choose your own adventure story that always go to the same place because trying to receive medical care is a Kafka-esque nightmare is fantastically smart and funny. The major problem is that the story keeps telling you explicitly that that’s what it’s doing, which makes it feel much less clever than it should. Successor, Usurper, Replacement - 5* - Scary and fun. A story of doppelgängers and impostors and fame. Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do? - 5* - So dark and vicious and cynical. Completely off kilter, almost Vonnegut-esque, with a total gut-punch of an ending. I Was a Teenage Werewolf - 4* - Cute (if you can call it that) story about being a teenager, that wildest and most untamed of creatures. The Venus Effect - 4* - Just awful and brutal and gut-wrenching all the way through. A little glib and goofy, which is why it’s not 5*, but this is pretty solid.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 by John Joseph Adams is an anthology of short stories that embraces all varieties of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It is an interesting and diverse compilation. It opens with Head, Scales, Tongue and Tail by Leigh Bardugo a story about a young girl who falls in love with a boy that is not really human. It was probably my favorite and set my expectations high for this anthology. Another favorite of mine was Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevi The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 by John Joseph Adams is an anthology of short stories that embraces all varieties of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It is an interesting and diverse compilation. It opens with Head, Scales, Tongue and Tail by Leigh Bardugo a story about a young girl who falls in love with a boy that is not really human. It was probably my favorite and set my expectations high for this anthology. Another favorite of mine was Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine a story about the repercussions of a world in which everyone is plugged in and what are the rights of people in that type of world. There were a few stories I was not crazy about. For example, Welcome to the Medical Center at the Interplanetary Relay Station by Caroline M. Yoachim which is a nod to the problems of the VA and other institutions which fail miserably in carrying out their mission. It just goes to show that you can’t like everything someone else does. I had forgotten how much I enjoy short stories and it never fails to surprise me how some authors can develop a character in thirty pages and others cannot in three hundred. This collection is well thought out and thoroughly entertaining. Some of the stories were uplifting, some thought provoking and some dark. It made for a very good mix and was a joy to read with just a few exceptions. As a lover of both sci-fi and fantasy it was easy to like this anthology. Since the stories were so diverse I believe they will appeal to reader in both genres. Because of the diversity, I would not be at all surprised that readers of general fiction and other genres will enjoy this book. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. See more of my reviews, and author interviews, on my blog at www.thespineview.com.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Gorney

    With Charles Yu as editor, given how much I loved "How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe," I expected more from this collection. I can only assume Yu did with the best with the cards he was dealt. Either that or he's not nearly as good at curating as he is at writing—which isn't likely, so you wonder whether young writers are just getting overwhelmed by social media and television, or if all the Big Ideas have been used up. I found most of the stories here uninteresting. Rather thin With Charles Yu as editor, given how much I loved "How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe," I expected more from this collection. I can only assume Yu did with the best with the cards he was dealt. Either that or he's not nearly as good at curating as he is at writing—which isn't likely, so you wonder whether young writers are just getting overwhelmed by social media and television, or if all the Big Ideas have been used up. I found most of the stories here uninteresting. Rather thin. Where are the lofty questions and grand adventures of the Heinleins, the Asimovs, the Bradburys? William Gibson may be right when he says the strangeness of our current political, social and technical moment may made science fiction's mission pointless. Perhaps these stories—riffs on genres, broad satire and pop-culture-laden sagas in seas of literal garbage—reflect that. Perhaps I've aged out of the genre, but I was in any case, underwhelmed. That's not to say there aren't gems in the dross here. "Caspar D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do?" is a darkly funny take on the commodification of caring in an overly-connected world. Joseph Allen Hill's brilliant "The Venus Effect" seats you in a science fiction vehicle, throws in metafictive twists and crackup humor, slams you into brutal racial commentary…and still offers hope. As the closing story, it was almost enough to move my rating up a star. And Yu's Introduction is, not surprisingly, one of the sharpest, cleverest pieces in the book.

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