Welcome to Best SF – reviewing the very best SF short stories since 2000. Use the links below to browse recent reviews and visit the Review Index for over twenty years’ worth of reviews, of SF published from 1949 to date. Or use the search option at the top of the page. Currently reviewing Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’ and have just finished Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’.
Latest updates :
16th January 2022. Last up in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ is Neon Yang’s ‘The Search for [Flight X]’ which I enjoyed, with the proviso that it isn’t SF. I make a note of this issue in my short conclusion about the book – 20 of the 26 stories are near-future and they cover tech, AI, environmental issues and such like, and to varying degrees don’t really provide what I’m looking for in SF, leaving just a half dozen set off Earth and in the future.
13th January 2022. Coming towards the end of Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ Tochi Onyebuchi’s ‘How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary’ addresses a humongously complicated and charged issue, but in a documentary-transcript format which doesn’t quite work for me. Nick Wolven’s ‘Sparklybits’ is similarly near-future, looks at issues surrounding the increasing presence of tech (internet of things) and AI, but has a more traditional narrative approach, which worked better for me.
12th January 2022. I enjoyed Marian Denise Moore’s ‘A Mastery of German’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’, but was disappointed when it ended as I was anticipation the story kicking into top gear.
9th January 2022. If you like forensic, procedural stories about manufacturing electonic parts and logistics theoreof, then Roger Flint Young’s ‘Not to be Opened’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’ is the story for you. I don’t, and it wasn’t.
6th January 2022. As with the Siddiqui story in the volume, Usman T. Malik’s ‘Beyond These Stars Other Tribulations of Love’ has a lot of humanity in it, but the sfnal element is marginal.
5th January 2022. Charlie Jane Anders’ ‘If You Take My Meaning’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’, follows on from her novel ‘The City in the Middle of Night’ and gives a glimpse into an intriguing world.
4th January 2022. Possibly my favourite story so far in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’, from an author new to me, Ozzie M. Gartrell’s ‘The Transition of OSOOSI’ has a lot to offer.
3rd January 2022. Three near-future tech stories in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’. Suzanne Palmer’s ‘Don’t Mind Me’ is a cautionary one which looks at a means by which conservative/Christian parents can prevent their offspring from being exposed to language and subject matter which they don’t approve of (you can guess what kind of topic!). Karl Schroeder’s ‘The Suicide of our Troubles is a more optimistic look at some novel ways in which tech (gaming, cryptocurrency, blockchain, augmented reality) can bring together communities and challenge ecological issues. And Sameem Siddiqui’s ‘Airbody’ has an sfnal underpinning (renting out your body to host a virtual visitor) but beyond that is a story about moving far away from home and your roots, and looking at past regrets, and could easily be retooled as a non-SF story.
2nd January 2022. I enjoyed Ray Nayler’s ‘Father’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ , especially as the alternate history 1950s suburban USA setting struck a chord with the stories I’ve been reading of late in the Bleiler/Dikty anthologies of late forties/early fiftes best SF.
1st January 2022. Yes 2022 FFS. I’m sure I must have read it at some point in the past, and the seasoned SF reader will be pretty sure what’s happening and what’s going to happen, but I still enjoyed Bill Brown’s ‘The Star Ducks’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’.
30th December 2021. Two more stories from Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ and both from a couple of long-time favourite authors. Pat Cadigan’s ‘The Final Performance of the Amazing Ralphie’ has an entertaining AI-controlled wannable magician who pulls much more than single dove out from his virtual sleeve, and which is complemented by the much more intense Maureen McHugh ‘Yellow and the Perception of Reality’ which is an altogether more complication looks at the nature of our perception of ‘reality’.
28th December 2021. Timons Esaias’ ‘GO. NOW. FIX.’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ is an entertaining drama in which, in a world with an Internet of Things, saving the day can be done by the most unassuming and unlikely device. And from that same source A.T. Greenblatt’s ‘Burn or The Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super’ is a well-handled character-driven story about trying to fit in, albeit in a superhero setting, which I tend not to engage with as a rule. That rule being that I mostly read science fiction. Bu the next story in the volume did hit the spot for me – Rich Larson’s ‘How Quini the Squid Misplaced His Klobučar’ is some good old-fashioned cyberpunk, and a cracking example of it. But how in God’s green earth are we only six months away from the freaking 40th anniversary of the publication of William Gibson’s ‘Burning Chrome’??
21st December 2021. Unlike the previous story in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’, which was somewhat dated, Cyril M. Kornbluth’s ‘The Mindworm’ stands the test of time, and it’s a cracking sf/horror story.
19th December 2021. Alastair Reynolds’ ‘Polished Performance’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ is an altogether lighter yarn from Reynolds than you would expect, but is an entertaining look at how the robotic crew address the issue of the loss of the human cryosleepers in their charge. A bit less reading of late, as I’ve been catching up with Fargo series 4, and the Apple TV ‘Foundation’. I liked the way ep1 of the latter stayed fairly close to the opening pages of Asimov’s first story in the sequence, and the Cleon clones angle I liked, other bits less so, so far.
18th December 2021. From Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’, Nadia Afifi’s The Bahrain Underground Bazaar uses an sfnal device (virtual immersive experiences) to get inside the head of an older woman, and Ken Liu’s ’50 Things Every AI Working with Humans Should Know’ is a wry take on matters AI.
12th December 2021. Until you read my review of Gene Doucette’s ‘Schrödinger’s Catastrophe’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’, it will, for you, be both a good review and not a good review. However, I can tell you that Andy Dudak’s ‘Midstrathe Exploding’ has a very clever idea and it’s very well handled, and I was a bit miffed that the story wasn’t much longer.
8th December 2021. I was mildly entertained by the bit of wry humour and satire in Max Barry’s ‘It Came From Cruden Farm’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’, but almost a quarter of a century after Men In Black, I didn’t think there was enough in the story about alien visitations to Earth to be a Year’s Best story.
6th December 2021. I really enjoyed the lyrical and touching Yoon Ha Lee’s ‘The Mermaid Astronaut’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ .
28th November 2021. The humour in Reginald Bretnor’s ‘The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out’ comes across as rather dated, but as it appeared in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’, this is to be expected.
27th November 2021. There are some sympathetically well-drawn characteristics in Meg Elison’s ‘The Pill’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ .
22nd November 2021. An author new to me, although with Hugo/Nebula/Locus noms and wins under their belt, Sarah Gailey’s ‘Drones to Ploughshares’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’ didn’t really do much for me at all.
20th November 2021. Two great stories start off Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’, viz. Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s ‘A Guide for Working Breeds’ and Rebecca Campbells ‘An Important Failure’
6th November 2021. First up in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’ is Frank M. Robinson’s ‘The Santa Claus Planet’, which rather suprisingly isn’t an example of the best SF from the previous year, as this was it’s first print appearance. Which I might need to point out to younger readers means that, as it was 1951, it hadn’t appeared anywhere before either, as there was only print in which to appear at that time!
5th November 2021. You have to turn somewhat of a blind eye to some of the science in John D. MacDonald’s ‘Flaw’, but it’s well written, as you might expect from such an experienced author, albeit rather downbeat. And ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Stories : 1950’ ends with Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Man’, a short, thoughtful piece on the nature of faith and the need to search for something.
31st October 2021. Wilmar R. Shiras’ ‘Opening Doors’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1950’ follows on from her ‘In Hiding’ from the previous year’s volume, and is more of the same – lengthy and detailed, without much happening at all. Very much a novel serialisation feel to it. The following story, Robert W. Krepps’ ‘Five Years in the Marmalade’ is an altogether lighter piece, a droll little spacefaring tale. And Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dwellers in Silence’ provides us with another bleak tale set amongst the deserted, wind-swept ruins of the ancient Martian civilization. (Lots of reading today as I’m laid low-ish with a stinking cold that precludes me doing much more than sitting down, reading or watching TV). Fredric Brown’s ‘Mouse’ sees a small-scale alien First Contact, however, as the humble rat killed millions through the plague, the fact that the dead inhabitant of the alien vessel is a small mouse, doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential for bad, bad things to happen. Robert Moore Williams ‘Refuge for Tonight’ really does stand out in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1950’ as a story that could have been written 7 days ago, not 70 years ago, with elements in the story used in computer games/movies over the decades since. Murray Leinster’s ‘The Life-Work of Professor Muntz’ doesn’t feature Professor Muntz, as he is already posthumous at the beginning of the story, but his life work enables the coarse, and entirely noncogniscent of what is happening, Mr. Grebb to avoid being the fall guy for a crooked supervisor’s nefarious fiddling (at least in this plane). An amusing piece.
28th October 2021. Clifford (no D) Simak’s ‘Eternity Lost’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1950’, stands the test of time well. Conversely Robert Spencer Carr’s ‘Easter Eggs’ is rather too embedded in the immediate postwar Red Peril panic in the USA for it to do so.
27th October 2021. Light in tone and gently humorous, Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘The Hurkle is a Happy Beast’ gets some proper SF in to ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1950’, three stories in.
25th October 2021. Will F. Jenkins aka Murrary Leinster’s ‘Doomsday Deferred’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1950’ is nicely written, but doesn’t satisfy much in terms of providing SF.
21th October 2021. Having closed the 1949 volume, Henry Kuttner’s ‘Private Eye’ opens ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1950’.The story has two distinct elements. Firstly, an sfnal device that predates Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Minority Report’ by five years, with an all-seeing eye that the cops can use. Thus, rather than being a whodunnit, the second, and predominant element is that the story is a we-know-he-planned-to-do-it-and-they-know-he-did-it-but-can-they-find-historical-evidence-that-he-planned-to-do-it. If you like classic American detective fiction, and classic science fiction, this will be your cup of tea! Or cup of joe, to be a bit more in keeping with the type of story I suppose.
19th October 2021. Henry Kuttner’s ‘Happy Ending’ does indeed provide a happy ending to ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1949’, a story which is enjoyable throughout, but a very clever ending makes it even more of a great read and a concluding story in the volume.
16th October 2021. An author new to me, and I enjoyed Wilmar H. Shiras’ ‘In Hiding’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1949’, although it was a bit overlong. A story that stands the test of time as there are no sfnal elements to date it, and it’s a psychological character study that works well today.
15th October 2021. I did read it in ‘The Early Asimov Volume 3’ back in around 1975, but have no memory of it (whilst other stories by Asimovs on a similar theme have stayed in the memory), but I was able to enjoy afresh Isaac’s Asimov’s ‘No Connection’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1949’. The good news is that nuclear war probably isn’t going to be the end of humanity. The bad news is that since Asimov’s day we’ve dreamed up way more ways of addressing that issue.
6th October 2021. Not without it’s faults (primarily a *lot* of lecturing) Poul Anderson’s ‘Genius’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1949’, creates a big backdrop and explores an interesting premise. And the following story, Ray Bradbury’s ‘And the Moon Be Still as Bright’ paints a bleak picture of the future (or lack of one) for the ancient, dead culture of Mars in the face of despoilation by humanity.
2nd October 2021. Enjoyed both J.J. Coupling’s ‘Period Piece’ and Fredric Brown’s ‘Knock’ in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1949’, with the former standing the test of time well. Top marks to Coupling for having an automaton controlled by a remote computer through a ‘tight beam’.
1st October 2021. Ken Liu’s ‘Quality Time’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Thirteen’ didn’t quite hit the heights his stories usually do.