older updates fwiw

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.

30th September 2021. Two stories from ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1949’ which rather show their age : Erik Fennel’s ‘Doughnut Jockey’ is a good one if you’re interested in what rocket science in 1948 was thinking with reference to interplanetary flight, and Martin Gardner’s ‘Thang’ is an ultra-short with a single conceit.

30th September 2021. I’ve also re-started my review of Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume 13’ from 2019, which I only got halfway through reading. First up is an excellent story, Vandana Singh’s ‘Widdam’ which looks at the response of government and corporations to climate change (ignore it and just fuck up the planet more), but with just a glimmer of hope for us. Dave Hutchinson’s ‘Golgotha’ in contrast, stretched my suspension of disbelief until it went ker-twang!

29th September 2021. Just enjoyed Lewis Padgett’s ‘Ex Machina’ in The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1949. And the following story Murray Leinster’s ‘The Strange Case of John Kingman’ is an interesting First Contact story.

26th September 2021. As there are a few weeks before the 2021-published Year’s Best SF volumes hit the doormat, I thought I’d get underway a project long planned, and I’m reading The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1949 (yes, 1949!), and start with a doozy in the shape of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Mars is Heaven!.

21st September 2021. Whoops, I was a bit previous in my last entry, as I hadn’t in fact quite finished Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2, but that is something I have now done as I have read, an enjoyed, Ken Liu’s ‘Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit—Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts’. And FWIW after a couple of month’s with WordPress’s Gutenberg block editor, I’m back using the Classic Editor. How can the WordPress guys and gals get it so so badly wrong??

14th September 2021. Rather surprisingly, as I tend to really like Buckell’s stories, Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell’s ‘The Mighty Slinger’ in Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2, really didn’t do much for me, feeling somewhat sketchy rather than deep. And I’ve finished reading the few outstanding (as in not read) stories in that volume, with Karl Bunker’s ‘They Have All One Breath’ which looks at humanity under a benevolent but ultimately controlling AI.

12th September 2021. Alastair Reynolds’ ‘The Iron Tactician’ in Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2, revisits his epoch- and galaxy-spanning character Merlin, who has some deep space mysteries to resolve in the search for a weapon to defend humanity against an implacable enemy.

10th September 2021. Read and enjoyed Nick Wolven’s ‘Metal Demimonde’ in Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2, just a couple of stories to go before I’ve filled the gap in that volume and time to root out another.

9th September 2021. Read Aliette de Bodard’s ‘Pearl’ in Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2.

6th September 2021. Read Xia Jia’s ‘Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse’ in Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2. It’s poetic and charming.

4th September 2021. Having finished last year’s Year’s Best volumes, and whilst I wait for this year’s Year’s Best volumes, I’m going to read a few stories I never got round to reading in previous year’s Year’s Best volumes. First up is T.R. Napper’s ‘A Strange Loop’ a darkly comic cautionary tale about a man selling his memories to get his wife and daughter back, which was published in Neil Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 2’ way back in 2017. (Spoiler alert : he doesn’t!)

3rd September 2021. An enjoyable read as I get towards finishing Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 1’, Fonda Lee’s ‘I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we’re getting married’ is a plausible, amusing, well handled story of a young man whose initially harmless subterfuge becomes increasingly complicated. Hopefully Lee is touting the story’s film rights. And the final story in the volume is Caroline M. Yoachim’s ‘The Archronology of Love’ which didn’t quite move me as such stories might.

2nd September 2021. Coming towards the end of Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 1’ and Sofia Rhei’s ‘Secret Stories of Doors’ is a very, very clever piece or writing. Sadly, Greg Egan’s ‘This Is Not The Way Home’ falls quite some what short of what I was looking forward to, and Chinelo Onwualu’s ‘What The Dead Man Said’ has a very interesting setting but the story doesn’t make the most of it, and is in fact a ‘confronting your past and finding closure’ story that has no need for an sfnal setting.

1st September 2021. A counterpoint to the positive take on dealing with eco-catastrophe that Vandana Singh provided in the previous story in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 1’ E. Lily Yu’s ‘Green Glass : A Love Story’ is blackly satirical and looks at just how the super-wealthy can rise above the rising sea levels, in a world where sourcing some fresh milk is a trickier ask than sending a rocket to the moon to gather a piece of green glass for a piece of jewelry.

31st August 2021. Ken Liu’s ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ in Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 1’ is a depressing read, looking at the aftermath of a mass shooting, made worse by the mother’s decision to use her dead daughter’s image in a campaign against shuch events. Fortunately, the following story in the volume, Vandana Singh’s ‘Reunion’ is much more upbeat, and has lots to like about it.

30th August 2021. Elizabeth Bear’s ‘Soft Edges’ in Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 1’ was just a little too reliant on lengthy debate of a moral dilemma to work as a story for me, although it had some nice touches. MAGA-hat wearers will probably have their head explode if they read it.

29th August 2021. Just read Peter Watts’ ‘Cyclopterus’ and Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s ‘Dune Song’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 1’. Both near-future eco-catastrophe stories, it would have been better to have separated them in the volume.

28th August 2021. Just read Anil Menon’s ‘The Robots of Eden’ and Alice Sola Kim’s ‘Now Wait for This Week’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 1’, particularly enjoying the latter.

illustration by Scott Bakal for S.I. Huang’s ‘As the Last I May Know’.

17th August 2021. Just read S.I. Huang’s ‘As the Last I May Know’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 1’. It won the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Short Story FWIW, but for me it was a bit retro and simplistic for my liking. Next up in the volume is Fran Wilde’s multiply-nominated ‘A Catalog of Storms’, which is bang in the middle of Weird Unexplained Shit Going On territory, and as fantasy is somewhat out of place in a SF anthology.

16th August 2021. Just read Han Song’s ‘Submarines’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 1’.

12th August 2021. Just read Rich Larson’s ‘Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Volume 1’, and by golly it’s a good one. I haven’t put the story illustration to the left for, well, reasons.

10th August 2021 – just read, in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1’ Karin Tidbeck’s ‘The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir‘, which I rather enjoyed. You can read it over on Tor.com and props to Victor Mosquera for the illustration. However, the following story in the volume, Malka Older’s ‘Sturdy Lanterns and Ladders‘ is Earth and ocean-based and didn’t do much for me. And even worserer, a real oh bugger! moment, it transpires that next up in the volume, Ted Chiang’s ‘It’s 2059 and the Rich Kids are Still Winning‘ is not only just three pages long, it’s also just an op-ed (albeit one from the future) covering well established issues around their being more to achievement than IQ and education, rather than it being a story. #disappointment

Illustration by Eli Minaya for ‘Painless’

9th August 2021 – Rich Larson’s ‘Painless’ and A.T. Greenblatt’s ‘Give the Family My Love’ close out Neil Clarke’s ‘Best Science Fiction of the Year #5 strongly. Bring on #6. And muchly enjoyed the Men In Black/Fifth Element vibe of Tobias S. Buckell’s ‘The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex’ in Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1’. But Saleem Haddad’s ‘Song of the Birds’ has an altogether darker tone.

5th August 2021 – five stories read in Neil Clarke’s ‘Best Science Fiction of the Year #5, just two left, which is good timing as #6 won’t be too long before it lands on my doormat.

25th July 2021 : finished reading Nebula Awards Showcase #54. Good news : large enough print to be able to read it without my reading glasses. Bad news : whilst there were a couple of Nebula-standard stories in there, there were a couple of really really poor stories, and the remainder were very average.

25th July 2021 : bit of a break from reading, but Charlie Jane Anders’ The Bookstore at the End of America was a doozy of a story to mark my return.

21st May 2021 : over the past week I’ve read Ann Leckie’s ‘The Justified’, Annalee Newitz’ ‘Old Media’, Alec Nevala-Lee’s ‘At the Fall’ and Ray Nayler’s ‘The Ocean Between the Leaves’ in Neil Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 5’.

21st April 2021 : big development here folks, the Nebula Awards Showcase 54 volume has, I realise, such large print that I can read the book with my Laptop Glasses, of which I have several pairs, meaning that I don’t have to play the game Where Are My Fcking Reading Glasses!, which involves stomping round the house. Sometimes that game evolves into Seriously, Where Are My Fcking Reading Glasses!, which goes off into tangents including No, Those Are My Reading Small Print Glasses! or No, Those Are William’s Glasses!! Anyhoo, I duly read, in quick order, A.T. Goodblatt’s ‘And Yet’ a haunted house/revisiting the childhood horrors story which felt just a little too like previous stories in a similar vein. But as a librarian, my fancy was truly tickled by Alix E. Harrow’s ‘A Witch’s Guide to Escape : a Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies’ and I have passed the story over to my ex-children’s librarian wife for her to read it.

7th April 2021 : busy of late walking the streets enumerating, in a job the kind of which only comes along every ten years or so. I just read Karen Osborne’s ‘Cratered in Neil Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 5’, but which didn’t quite do it for me.

The new slimmed down presentation of Best SF reflects a reduction to reviewing just the Year’s Best volumes. To see what I was up to in the 20 years before that, check out BestSF.net on The WayBack Machine