The final installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, is finally here, revealing the top ten. You can find  the individual posts as they were posted #41-50 here,  #31-40 here,  #21-30 here, and #11-20 here.  For those who just want to get to the Top Ten already I’ve listed that first.  For ease of reference, I’ve also included the entire list of fifty at the bottom of the post so if you want to refer people to the list, you can just link here.

These are (my opinion of) what is the best of the best, the most epic of the most epic.  Load them all up and have an awesome road trip, or ration them out over months of liistening.

I would love if other fiction podcast fans would comment here and say what their own favorites are and why.

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MIND MELD: How Science Fiction Changed Our Lives

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week, we asked our panelists the following:

Q: How has reading science fiction and fantasy changed you as a person or changed your life?

Here’s what they said…

Linda Nagata
Linda Nagata is the author of multiple novels and short stories including The Bohr Maker, winner of the Locus Award for best first novel, and the novella “Goddesses,” the first online publication to receive a Nebula award. Her story “Nahiku West” was a finalist for the 2013 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Her newest science fiction novel is the near-future military thriller The Red: First Light. Linda has spent most of her life in Hawaii, where she’s been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and lately an independent publisher. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui. Find her online at: MythicIsland.com

I’ve been reading science fiction and to a lesser extent fantasy for so long that it’s hard to say how it’s changed my life. I don’t recall a moment of waking up to a sense of wonder or to radical possibilities, because I’ve been reading this stuff since I was a kid. I think it’s more that SFF has shaped my life and my outlook.

Good science fiction tells a gripping story but it’s also a thought experiment that lets us imagine other worlds, or this world, changed. So it offers answers to the question of “How would things be if…?” Ideally, that’s an exercise that should lead to a more flexible, less dogmatic outlook. I don’t know who I would have been otherwise, but I do think I’ve benefitted from being immersed in fictional worlds that are so very different from the real world. I think it’s made me more open minded, more adaptable, and less averse to change—and that’s what I’ve come to think of as the science fictional mindset.

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In episode 179 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester and Jaym Gates gather a second group of panelists to talk about the past, present and future of Cyberpunk.

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MIND MELD: SF/F Stories For English Lit Class

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Last week I attended my son’s high school’s open house. In the English Literature class we were informed that the kids had started reading the Arthur Miller play The Crucible which the kids would enjoy because, in the teacher’s words, “It’s got witches and adultery.” Many SF/F stories have those elements (if not in the same form) but, of course, there is nary a SF/F book on the agenda for the year. And in any case, stories can be interesting to teenagers without either or both.

Q: If you were creating the syllabus for a high school (junior or senior) English Literature course, what SF/F stories do you think should be included?

Here’s what they said…

Kristine Smith
Kristine Smith was born in Buffalo, NY. She grew up in Florida, and graduated from the University of South Florida with a BS in Chemistry. She has spent almost her entire working career in manufacturing/R&D of one kind or another, and has worked for the same northern Illinois pharmaceutical company for 25 years. She is the winner of the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of the Jani Kilian SF series as well as a number of short stories. She is currently working on several projects, and wishes she possessed a time-turner.

My list is by no means extensive or complete, but I thought of stories that contained elements of North American–Mexican, Appalachian–folklore, or that discussed current events and issues–struggles with religion in everyday life, culture clashes and war, discrimination–in ways that weren’t preachy.

Elizabeth Moon: “Knight of Other Days” — one of my favorite stories by Moon. When I first read it, I got the sense of a subtle Twilight Zone/Outer Limits-type tale, grounded in the setting of a Texas border town. The blend of history, mystery, influence of Mexican culture, and legend of the Knights Templar combine to form a multi-layered tale.

Terry Pratchett: Small Gods, Jingo, Feet of Clay — religion, culture clash/war, discrimination, set in a world different enough from ours to qualify as fantasy yet similar enough to equate to everyday life, news headlines. One of Pratchett’s many writing gifts.

Manly Wade Wellman: John the Balladeer tales, esp “Vandy, Vandy” — the Southern/Appalachian folklore, and the sense of how events in history can take on a fantasy spin when some details are scrambled and others are associated with magical intervention. And in “Vandy, Vandy,” there’s a witch! Well, a warlock. And a King, of sorts.
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Here’s the for the upcoming anthology Nebula Awards Showcase 2012 edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel:

  • Introduction: In Which Your Editors Consider the Nebula Awards of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel
  • “Ponies” by Kij Johnson
  • “The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoff Landis
  • “Map of Seventeen” by Chris Barzak
  • “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side” by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • “In the Astronaut Asylum” by Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson
  • “Pishaach” by Shweta Narayan
  • Excerpt from Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
  • “Bumbershoot” by Howard Hendrix
  • “Arvies” by Adam Troy-Castro
  • “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” by Harlan Ellison
  • “The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Green Book” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone
  • Excerpt from I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
  • “To Theia” by Ann K. Schwader
  • “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky
  • 2011 Nebula Awards Nominees and Honorees
  • Past Nebula Winners

Tachyon has sent us the table of contents for the upcoming anthology Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology edited by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel. It arrives on August 1, 2012:

Description:

When the Singularity arrives, and computers possess superhuman intelligence, will there be an ecstatic merging of machine and mind—or an instantaneous techno-apocalypse? Will there be the enslavement of humanity or “the Rapture of the Nerds”? The post-human future is here in its wildest science-fictional imaginings and intriguing scientific speculations. This far-reaching anthology traces the path of the Singularity, an era when advances in technology will totally transform human reality. It travels to the alien far-future of H. G. Wells (Mind at the End of Its Tether), to the almost human near-future of Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity is Near), from Elizabeth Bear’s fusion of woman, machine, God, and shark (“The Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe”), to Isaac Asimov’s evolution of ineffable logic (“The Last Question”). As intelligence both figuratively (and possibly literally) explodes, science fiction authors and futurists have dared to peek over the edge of the event horizon. Do you dare to join them there?

Table of Contents:
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REVIEW SUMMARY: Bring on the Li-Fi!

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:

19 stories and one introduction attempting to reconcile mainstream

literature that’s science fiction and science fiction that’s accepted

by the mainstream.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:
A lot of well-written reprint stories, 5 of which were outstanding.
CONS: No outright bad story, but there were 3 which didn’t really entertain me as much as the others.
BOTTOM LINE: Terrific collection of stories featuring authors both the genre and non-genre readers wouldn’t have otherwise read.

In light of last week’s Mind Meld, nothing seems more apt than reviewing The Secret History of Science Fiction

edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. At first glance, the

selection of authors seem contrary: T.C. Boyle and Margaret Atwood for

example are authors whom we associate with the “we don’t write science

fiction” crowd. And then there’s the science fiction writers who’ve

been accepted by the mainstream (and by mainstream, I really mean the

literary): Ursula K. Le Guin, Jonathan Lethem, Karen Joy Fowler. This

is, in many ways, the anthology that presents the best of both worlds:

the mainstream stories that are science fiction, and the science

fiction stories that have been accepted as literary.

We also shouldn’t forget the “History” is The Secret History of Science Fiction

as the book features stories from the past few decades, and are easily

some of the best stories from the included authors, such as “The Ones

Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Le Guin or “The Hardened Criminals” by

Jonathan Lethem. I really enjoyed a lot of the stories here, perhaps

because I’m the perfect target audience: someone who wants to reconcile

literary writing with genre (or tear down those borders as the case may

be). There’s less focus here on adventure and space opera elements, or

hard science fiction for that matter, but more on the human condition,

and how we see the world. Having said that, there’s a lot of enjoyable

stories here, but my personal favorites include:

  • “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • “Ladies and Gentlemen, This is your Crisis” by Kate Wilhelm
  • “Homelanding” by Margaret Atwood
  • “Interlocking Pieces” by Molly Gloss
  • “The Ziggurat” by Gene Wolfe

Individual story reviews follow…

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Short fiction anthologies come in many flavors: some contain original fiction and some are comprised of reprints; they can be themed or non-themed; they may restrict themselves to a certain sub-genre of speculative fiction… But one thing they all have in common is that it’s Editors that put them together.

Continuing from Part 1 last week, we asked a handful of Editors the following question:

Q: Can you describe what goes on behind the scenes – from conception to publication — when creating a short fiction anthology?

Read on to see their illuminating responses (and check out Part 3 when you’re done!) …

James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel
James Patrick Kelly is the author of a slew of novels and short stories including Burn, Look Into the Sun, Strange But Not A Stranger, Think Like A Dinosaur And Other Stories, and The Wreck of the Godspeed. His numerous short works include the Hugo Award-winning “Think Like A Dinosaur” and “Ten to the Sixteenth to One”. He is also co-editor with John Kessel of three anthologies: Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, and the upcoming The Secret History of Science Fiction. He also writes a column for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.
John Kessel teaches literature at North Carolina State University. He has published numerous books and short stories over the years and he is a Nebula Award winner for his story “Pride and Prometheus.” His latest book is the short story collection The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. John is also co-editor with James Patrick Kelly of three anthologies: Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, and the upcoming The Secret History of Science Fiction.

We have edited three reprint anthologies; the genesis of each was different. Jacob Weisman at Tachyon Publications approached Jim to do a slipstream book and he enlisted John as his co-editor; the result was Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology. We proposed a book about post-cyberpunk and Jacob greenlighted Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology. And it was Jacob and the perspicacious Bernie Goodman who suggested the idea for The Secret History Of Science Fiction; the book is due out next month.

We’ve a long history of collaboration and we’ve shared a similar vision for these reprint anthologies. In each of them we were trying to put forward an argument about the recent history of the genre. So we first had to gather our thoughts about slipstream and post-cyberpunk and the divide between mainstream and genre sf. Creating reprint anthologies like these involves figuring out what we think about a subject, or what we can credibly say about it. Selecting the stories has involved a couple of methods: (1) we decided on who we wanted in the book and then read intensively for stories that best illustrated our thesis, and (2) we decided what kind of stories we wanted and then cast the net widely to see who might have written the sort of thing we needed to support our thesis. In each of the books we have had some disagreements that have involved negotiations between us, and the final table of contents has been affected by practical considerations that made the end result different from our initial intentions.

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Here is the table of contents for the upcoming Tachyon Publications anthology The Secret History of Science Fiction edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, which reprints stories published from 1971-2007 making the case for the convergence of mainstream fiction and literary sf:

  1. “Angouleme” by Thomas M. Disch
  2. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
  3. “Ladies and gentlemen, This is Your Crisis: by Kate Wilhelm
  4. “Descent of Man” by T.C. Boyle
  5. “Human Moments in World War III” by Don DeLillo
  6. “Homelanding” by Margaret Atwood
  7. “The Nine Billion Names of God” by Carter Scholz
  8. “Interlocking Pieces” by Molly Gloss
  9. “Salvador” by Lucius Shepard
  10. “Schwarzschild Radius” by Connie Willis
  11. “Buddha Nostril Bird” by John Kessel
  12. “The Ziggurat” by Gene Wolfe
  13. “The Hardened Criminals” by Jonathan Lethem
  14. “Standing Room Only” by Karen Joy Fowler
  15. “1016 to 1″ by James Patrick Kelly
  16. “93990″ by George Saunders
  17. “The Martian Agent, A planetary Romance” by Michael Chabon
  18. “Frankenstein’s Daughter” by Maureen F. McHugh
  19. “The Wizard of West Orange” by Steven Millhauser