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 L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future Volume 36 and Ted Dikty’s The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955.
Latest updates :
20th January 2023. Compared to the slimmed-down UK edition of the previous year’s volume, Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955’ is an altogether more substantial volume. It starts with one very familiar to me SF story from that era, and two humorous, satirical observations which were new to me, viz : Tom Godwin’s ‘Cold Equations’, Chad Oliver’s ‘Of Course’, and Ward Moore’s ‘Dominions Beyond’.
19th January 2023. After a run of three strong stories in Bleiler and Dikty’s The Best Science Fiction Stories 1954, the volume closes with two stories in a much lighter view. Ruth M. Goldsmith’s ‘Yankee Exodus’ sees a good ol’ boy farmer benefit from a mutually beneficial relationship with a visiting alien. Mark Clifton and Alex Apostolides’ ‘What Thin Partitions’ didn’t really work for me. But it clearly did for others, including those who evidently commissioned some follow up stories about HR Director Ralph Kennedy, who by a happy co-incidence ends up with an anti-gravity device, but has problems replicating that co-incidence when trying to produce more devices.
16th January 2023. Three strong stories in Bleiler and Dikty’s The Best Science Fiction Stories 1954. William Morrison’s ‘The Model of a Judge’ is an interesting story based around the judging of a cake baking competition. Yes, really. The judge is an interesting character, who does have an eye for a tasty morsel. Richard Matheson’s ‘The Last Day’ is an approaching apocalypse story which stands up very well to the test of time. Ward Moore’s ‘Lot’ is a post-apocalypse civilisation breakdown story with a most unpleasant protagonist. But as the story is very much a retelling of the biblical Lot, that is to be expected!
6th January 2023. Happy New Year folks! A bit of a quiet period for short SF reading, as I was reading Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ‘Children of Time’ which I enjoyed. I did spend some time watching and enjoying ‘Station Eleven’ on the tellybox over the past month. Reading wise, four stories from Bleiler and Dikty’s The Best Science Fiction Stories 1954 kept me entertained. Fritz Leiber’s ‘The Big Holiday’ was an interesting one, a gay counterpoint to the generally dark tone of SF stories in the post-war/Cold War period of the time. G. Gordon Dewey and Max Dancey’s ‘The Collectors’ propose a solution to the problem of just where all your money goes. Joseph Shallit’s ‘Wonder Child’ gets a bit Rosemary’s Baby on us. And Walter M. Miller, Jr’s ‘The Sower Does Not Reap’ doesn’t feel too far removed from a story you could read today.
8th Dec 2022. The UK edition of Bleiler and Dikty’s The Best Science Fiction Stories 1954 starts off with Jack Vance’s ‘DP! which is sadly still relevant some 70 years later.
7th December 2022. A bit of a break from short SF as I had another dalliance with longer form SF. However, I got only about a quarter of the way through Alastair Reynolds ‘Blue Remembered Earth’ before realise I didn’t have the patience to carry on further. (I found the clues to solve the mystery – coded message in a spacesuit glove on the moon, leading to a coded message in a painting on Phobos, leading to… somewhat irritating and whilst there was a huge amount to enjoy and admire on the technological side of things, I just wanted the story to progress rather more quickly than Reynolds!). Anyhoo, a story of only a few pages, in Rich Horton’s The Best of the Year 2008, which I didn’t read at the time, is Jack Skillingstead’s ‘Everyone Bleeds Through’ which was enjoyable whilst it lasted. And the two final stories from this volume which I didn’t read at the time were a bit lightweight, not close to Year’s Best standard IMHO, viz Mary Robinette Kowal’s ‘For Solo Cello, Op. 12’ in which a cellist who loses a hand finds one way, with a high price attached, to keep on playing (but fails to find out one key bit of information in advance of taking that option, and Will McIntosh’s ‘Perfect Violet’ looks at selling memories and the price that is paid (losing those memories in the process).
26th November 2022. Tim Pratt’s ‘Artifice and Intelligence’ in Rich Horton’s Science Fiction the Best of the Year 2008 Edition is a neat little story looking at AIs and ghosts in the machines.
25th November 2022. Bruce Sterling’s ‘A Plain Tale from Our Hills’ from Rich Horton’s Science Fiction the Best of the Year 2008 Edition is only a few pages long and is passing strange. None of your cyberpunky Sterling here! And the final story in Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1953’, Eric Frank Russell’s ‘Fast Forward the Eventide’ is a thoughful story.
23rd November 2022. Here’s a thing : today I read two stories whilst travelling up to London on the train. Something I haven’t done for almost a decade, having previously done it whilst community for a couple of decades. The stories I read were the penultimate and the pre-penultimate in Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1953’. John D. MacDonald’s ‘Game for Blondes’ starts like a crime noir story, then an sfnal element with the titular dames kicks in (they aren’t human!). Frank M. Robinson’s ‘The Girls from Earth’ posits an Earth where so many men have left to find their fortune on a multitude of far off planets, the men left behind have their pick from the much larger number of women, leaving the rest of the women to a future of spinsterhood and old biddydom.
21st Nov 2022. From Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1953’, Eric Frank Russell’s ‘I Am Nothing’ looks at a cold-hearted warmonger who meets his match.
15th Nov 2022. Two more strong stories (well it *is* a Year’s Best) close out Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 6, both by authors revisiting themes/settings in recent year’s anthologies. Aliette de Bodard’s ‘The Long Tail’ is another dive into a reality-distorted abandoned space ship. And Fran Wilde’s ‘Rhizome, by Starlight’ is Earth-based and has a horticultural bent, although very much in Weird Unexplained Shit Going On territory. Me, I’m just about recovered from the shock of my eldest son turning 33 ffs.
9th Nov 2022. Two strong stories from Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 6. James S. A. Corey’s ‘Elsewhere’ and Andy Dudak’s ‘Salvage’, the latter particulary so, and especially impressive as he had a different story in Strahan’s take on the best sf of the year, which was one of my picks of that volume, as this one is of this volume.
8th November 2022. Two more stories from Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1953’. Alfred Coppel’s ‘The Dreamer’ is a four pages in which an astronaut achieves his boyhood dream. But be careful what you wish for… And Fritz Leiber’s ‘The Moon Is Green’ is a harrowing, claustrophobic post-nuclear war story.
7th November 2022. Murray Leinster’s ‘The Middle of the Week after Next, from Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1953’ is an amusing tale revolving around a grumpy New York cabbie and his missing passengers.
31st October 2022. A trio of good stories in Neil Clarke’s ‘Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 6 for this All Hallow’s Eve. Vajra Chandrasekera’s ‘The Translator, at Low Tide’ has almost a Ballardian feel to it. Sofia Samatar’s ‘Fairy Tales for Robots’ is clever stuff and a good read. And M. Rickert’s ‘This World is Made for Monsters’ is an altogether gentler work than some I’ve read by them. Only four more stories to go in this volume! The good news is that whilst this volume was delayed as were many titles, 2023 might see two volumes being published in order to get back into sync. Huzzah! In less good news, I’m already worrying about the stress of having to watch the Buffalo Bills in the Superbowl again – those four back to back losses were a hard watch back in the day!
27th October 2022. Second story in the reduced UK edition of Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1953’ is Mark Clifton’s ‘Conqueror’, a simple tale of a young Guatemalan peasant body whose dreams of conquering the world are indeed fulfilled, although through a most unusual means.
25th October 2022. The latest two stories in Neil Clarke’s ‘Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 6 are both by Big Names, viz. Peter Watts’ ‘Test 4 Echo’ and Ken Liu’s ‘Uma’. One story lived up to my expectations, t’other didn’t. Which one? Drumroll, maestro, as you follow the links…