Short Fiction Friday: My Favorites of 2013

REVIEW SUMMARY: A look back at what I consider the best of the short fiction that I read in 2013.

It has been quite a run. I did not realize how time-consuming and challenging it would be to take on the task of attempting (and sometimes failing) to review works of short fiction each week for 2013 here on SF Signal. I have appreciated the opportunity and the rewards have been rich indeed, as will be apparent in the following post. Many of the stories featured were first published in 2013, though some are not and were simply discovered by me for the first time this year. I have included links to each short story, when they exist, as well as my edited review notes and a notation of where I found each story. All of the stories featured in this annual overview received either a 4.5 or 5 star rating from me at the time of review.

This is a great selection of short stories, novelettes and novellas. In the mix you will find the presence of both established and up-and-coming authors, a great variety of style and subject matter in both science fiction and fantasy, and will see that various selections unintentionally play off of one another for interesting thematic contrast. As a disclaimer I will state that ratings are a matter of personal opinion and thus you may not experience these stories in the way that I did. A shortage of time means that many potentially noteworthy stories were missed and my personal desire to stay current with a handful of short fiction publications means that many other purveyors of short fiction were not featured during this year of reading and reviewing short fiction. So feel free to tell me where you agree or disagree and let me, and all the SF Signal readers, know what short fiction I missed in 2013 and where it can be found.

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Editor John Joseph Adams has launched the website companion for The Apocalypse Triptych, a trio of anthologies he’s co-editing with Hugh Howey being released in stages starting next year.

Here’s what the anthologies are about:

Edited by acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams and bestselling author Hugh Howey, THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH is a series of three anthologies of apocalyptic fiction, exploring three different facets of the form:
THE END IS NIGH: pre-apocalyptic stories—exploring the world on the brink of collapse. (Forthcoming June 2014)
THE END IS NOW: apocalyptic stories—exploring the end of the world as it happens. (Forthcoming December 2014)
THE END HAS COME: post-apocalyptic stories—exploring life after the end of the world. (Forthcoming June 2015)
THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH will include stories by authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Ben H. Winters, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Sigler, Robin Wasserman, and many more. Additionally, each volume will include a brand new story by Hugh Howey set in the world of his bestselling novel Wool.
Don’t want to risk missing out on news about THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH? Sign up for John Joseph Adams’s free newsletter (sent out no more than once or twice a month) to receive updates about THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH, as well as news about his other editorial projects.

Like John’s other anthology websites, the site for The Apocalypse Triptych will be loaded with tons of great content, like:
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INTERVIEW: A Chat with Don Pizarro, Editor of BIBLIOTHECA FANTASTICA

Don Pizarro has been subsisting on red-eyes and gallows humor for forty years. His writing has appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Crossed Genres, Reflection’s Edge, the anthologies Rigor Amortis and Cthulhurotica, and other places. He lives in upstate New York where he pushes paper, plays with knives and Filipino fighting sticks, and is a non-skating official for the local roller derby league. You can find him on his website Warm Fuzzy Freudian Slippers and on Twitter @DonP.

Don is the editor of the excellent Bibliotheca Fantastica. (See our review.)

Now, Don sits down for a light chat about the project.


Haralambi Markov: In order to discuss Bibliotheca Fantastica, it’s necessary for the readers to learn more about the project in question. Please explain to us in your own words what Bibliotheca Fantastica is and what does Bibliotheca Fantastica as a title hold?

Don Pizarro: Bibliotheca Fantastica is an anthology of stories about the nature and the power of this construct we call “the book.” Each story explores these issues by using elements of the fantastic. In that sense, the title is descriptive of itself as an artifact, and of the contents within.
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Short Fiction Friday: Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2013

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REVIEW SUMMARY:  One strong short story and two fair novelettes stand out in comparison to a novella and short stories that never fully reach their potential.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:   Time travel, the afterlife of nanotech, tactical warfare on a moon orbiting Mars, and an intimate look at two space-inspired young people and more await readers in the pages of the latest issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: One highly creative, thought-provoking short story; two novellettes that are fair; entertaining reflection on year’s best anthologies and their history by Robert Silverberg; nice editorial honoring early female astronauts.
CONS: A novella and short stories which felt like they could go somewhere interesting but never arrived.
BOTTOM LINE:  The March 2013 issue sits at the mediocre end of the spectrum in considering it against some of Asimov’s better offerings.  This is disappointing given the past quality of some of the included authors’ stories and the potential that almost every story appeared to have at the start.  Fans of the authors included should seek out the issue.  Those considering trying Asimov’s for the first time would be best served tracking down the January 2013 issue which set the standard impossibly high for the rest of the year.

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REVIEW: 2011 Hugo Award Novella Nominees

Here are my impressions of five of the six Hugo award Novella Nominees for 2011. Although there are normally only five nominees in any given Hugo category, this year the Novella category had six nominees due to a tie in the nominations. However, since I have not read the novel that it follows (and spoils), I did not read the sixth nominee, Deadline by Mira Grant.

Interestingly, all five of these stories were also 2011 Nebula Award Nominees as well, with a sixth story also nominated due to a tie.

Impressions, comparisons and thoughts on the five nominees reviewed follow.

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Welcome to the debut episode of SF Crossing the Gulf with Karen Burnham and Karen Lord.

We’ll be discussing contemporary hard sf and Caribbean speculative fiction over the course of our new, twice-monthly podcast. We spend most of this first episode discussing “Exhalation” and the collection Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang.

Other books we’ll be discussing in the future:

  • My Bones and My Flute by Edgar Mittelholzer
  • A selection of short stories by Greg Egan
  • and The Rainmaker’s Mistake by Erna Broadber
  • More titles to be announced when we’re sure we can actually lay our hands on them ourselves.

We look at these stories from our perspectives as readers, writers, critics, scientists, sociologists, women, etc.
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Oleg Kazantsev had the opportunity to do an in-depth interview with John Joseph Adams for SF Signal.

John Joseph Adams is the bestselling editor of many anthologies, such as Other Worlds Than These, Armored, Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom, Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, The Living Dead, The Living Dead 2, By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard. John is a four-time finalist for the Hugo Award and a three-time finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He has been called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble, and his books have been lauded as some of the best anthologies of all time. In addition to his anthology work, John is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare, and he is the co-host of Wired.com’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. For more information, visit his website at johnjosephadams.com, and you can find him on Twitter @johnjosephadams.


Oleg Kazantsev: Your personal bio says that The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester was a turning point in your reading experience, after which “your reading life became all about finding other books like that one.” Does your early reading experience, and this book in particular, still affect your editor’s taste? If so, to what extent?

John Joseph Adams: I’m sure it does, but it’s hard to say how. I mean, I do still very much enjoy deeply damaged (and sometimes disturbed) protagonists, like Gully Foyle.

OK: You refer to yourself as a sci-fi/fantasy editor and reader. What attracts you to this genre?

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Gardner Dozois has posted on his facebook page that he has just released his long out-of-print anthologies The Year’s Best Science Fiction, First Annual Collection and The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Second Annual Collection to the Amazon Kindle store. And you can get them for just under $7 each. That’s a steal.

My first two Best anthologies from St. Martin’s, THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, FIRST ANNUAL COLLECTION and THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, SECOND ANNUAL COLLECTION, are now available in Kindle editions. These are extremely hard editions to find in print, people have been asking me at cons for decades how they can find them, and I’ve seen them selling for hundreds and even thousands of dollars–so if you ever wanted to read them, the start of my long-running Best of the Year series (soon up to its Twenty-Ninth Annual Edition, which will out in July), this is probably your best chance.

So run out and buy these in a buying frenzy. Buy them as presents for friends. Buy them as gifts for your pets. If they sell well enough in Kindle format, I may be able to convince the publisher that they should make other old, long-out-of-print volumes in the series available in that format as well.

This is great news. I’ve already told the story of how I came to own a physical copy of the first annual collection, now I can get a copy of the missing second annual collection.

Tables of contents follow…
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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

In my last column, Laird Barron commented, albeit briefly, on the marginalization of the short story. The subject seemed to interest readers, so this time around my guest, Paul Tremblay, and I will discuss the current state of the short story and perhaps a bit of history as to how we got to this point.

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This week’s question is a simple one, but yielded lots of responses. We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What are some of your favorite short stories in sf/f/h and what makes them so memorable?

Read on to see some great reading suggestions, then check out Part 1. And be sure to tell us your own favorites!

Paul Melko
Paul Melko‘s first novel, Singularity’s Ring, won the Compton Crook/Stephan Tall Award as well as the Locus Award for Best First Novel. His second novel is The Walls of the Universe.

When I took a creative writing class in college, way back in 1991, we used one of the Norton anthologies. The professor asked us to pick a couple of stories to read and write about, so I of course scoured the table of contents for any science fiction stories at all. I found just a couple among the Cheevers and the Updikes and the Carvers: Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star” and Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Those Who Walk Away from Omelas”. The former I had read before and found heavy-handed. (The teacher thought it was grand!) The latter story by LeGuin has stuck with me since. I suppose one could argue that it too is a heavy-handed polemic, but I had never seen science fiction deal so strongly with moral questions. It was quite moving to that 23-year-old fellow…

I think I’ll go re-read it now!

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This week’s question is a simple one, but yielded lots of responses. We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What are some of your favorite short stories in sf/f/h and what makes them so memorable?

Read on to see some great reading suggestions, then check out Part 2. And be sure to tell us your own favorites!

Michael Boatman
Michael Boatman is best known as an actor. He co-starred in the ABC comedy, Spin City, as well as the HBO original series ARLI$$. He’s appeared in movies like Hamburger Hill, The Glass Shield, and The Peacemaker, and in television shows like The Game, Criminal Minds, Law and Order and China Beach. He is also an author. His horror-comedy, The Revenant Road, was published by Drollerie Press in 2009 (available at Amazon.com) and his short story collection, God Laughs When You Die, was published by Dybbuk Press in 2007. His fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Red Scream, Horror Garage, and in anthologies like Dark Dreams 2 and 3 and the upcoming Dark Delicacies 3: Haunted.

One of my favorite horror stories would have to be David J. Schow’s “Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy”. It’s the quintessential zombie tale that originally appeared in Skipp and Spector’s classic Book of the Dead anthology. In a collection of great stories by Stephen King, Joe Lansdale and others, this one stands out for humor that is as black as pitch, gore that is both horrifying and hilarious and an unbelievably weird protagonist in the five-hundred pound zombie apocalypse survivor Wormboy. I guarantee anyone who loves stories set in a Romero-esque zombified universe, J.K.M.W cannot be beat. Not with a baseball bat, an axe-handle or out of control spinning helicopter blades.

My favorite recent science fiction story is Understand, a great thriller by Ted Chiang. It’s about a coma victim who is injected with an experimental drug after suffering extreme brain damage in a near drowning. The drug not only repairs him; it also makes him smarter. The rest of the story involves the supercritical protagonist trying to find more of the drug to increase his intellect while preparing to meet the one person on Earth who may actually be smarter than he is. It’s a great story. The supercritical Leon’s struggle to live in a world in which he is rapidly becoming smarter and smarter, is fascinating. I actually felt smarter after I’d finished reading it.

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