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, Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1953’ and Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 6.
Latest updates :
20th July 2022. A bit of a beef with Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 6, in that he has put two stories one after another, both scientist fiction, both near future climate and geopolitical change. Fortunately both S.B. Divya’s ‘Textbooks in the Attic’ and M. L. Clark’s ‘Seeding the Mountain’ have plenty of good characterisation, background, and cultural and geo-political dimension to them, which often isn’t the case with scientist fiction. On the climate change issue, with the cost of fuel going sky high, would you believe that wannabe British PM Rishi Sunak has just said that he plans to keep the planning changes put in place a while back that make building onshore wind farms basically impossible??
20th July 2022. The last story in Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories 1952’ is Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Pedestrian’ which provides a warning to the generations to come. He didn’t quite get it right though – it’s not a question of walking on deserted pavements because everyone is indoors glued to the tv, it’s walking on congested pavements dodging the people with people glued to their mobile phone!
11th July 2022. The pre-penultimate and penultimate stories of Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories 1952’ are dark ones. William Tenn’s ‘Generation of Noah’ takes a brief look at one man seeking to survive the imminent nuclear war, despite the ridicule of neighbours. He has the last laugh. And Mack Reynolds and Fredric Brown ‘Dark Interlude’ sees a time traveller from the far future on a one-way ticket falling for a girl in the southern states of America. Sadly, something that is of little consequence to him, is of great importance to the local good old boys.
30th June 2022. Dilman Dila’s ‘Red_Bati’ in Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 6 is a nice little story as far as it goes. It doesn’t go into places where no man has gone before, but it’s nice enough.
29th June 2022. Coming towards the end of Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories 1952’! Slightly slower progress than might have been expected on account of watching the Amazon Prime TV series ‘Night Sky’ which I’ve enjoyed a lot. First half of the series particuarly so, with wonderful performances, but just a bit concerned as whether s2 can live up to that. Anyhoo, before s2 arrives, there’s s3 of ‘For All Mankind’ to be watched. But back to the 1950s SF. Arthur Porges’ ‘The Rats’ has a resilient loner about to go underground to sit out the imminent nuclear war. The only thing he has to do is to get rid of his rodent problem. Unfortunately for him, his cunning plan to build his underground shelter on an abandoned nuclear testing site means that he’s dealing with rats who have been exposed to radiation…. Jack Vance’s ‘Men of the Ten Books’ poses an ethical dilemma for explorers who stumble across a planet with the descendants of a crashed rocket ship from some 300 years ago. The people they find are living in a veritable nirvana. Do they really want to introduce them to the whole seething mass of humanity and inevitably ruin them and their planet?
28th June 2022. Fritz Leiber’s ‘Appointment in Tomorrow’ in Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories 1952’ has stood the test of time well. It offers some double-crossing, some double-double crossing, heaps of chutzpah, come uppances, tech forecasting, great dialog, and some great writing. And also, it’s available in full on Project Gutenber.
23rd June 2022. Two more stories from Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1952’. Peter Phillips”At No Extra Cost’ is a dialogue-heavy robotic ethics story that could easily have been written by Asimov himself. Anthony Boucher’s ‘Nine-Finger Jack’ left me feeling that I’m missed something important in the story, but I think it was just that the humour didn’t gel with me.
20th June 2022. Three dark and disturbing stories from Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1952’. British SF stalward ohn Christopher’s ‘Balance’ looks at the threat a multi-faceted genius might provide, in a story some 15years after his first published novel. Idris Seabright’s ‘Brightness Falls from the Air’ looks at how an alien bird-like race have been crushed under humanity’s rapacious galactic expansion. And, following up his oh-so-dark story in the previous year’s volume Richard Matheson’s ‘Witch War’ shows even more literary chutzpah, that will have marked him out further as One To Watch. [22nd June 2022]
14th June 2022. Two readable stories from Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1952’. The humour and time travel conceit in Wilson Tucker’s ‘The Tourist Trade’ stand up well to the test of time. Nancy Kress’ ‘Invisible People’ in Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’ is well written, which hardly needs to be said, but some 30 years on from her seminal ‘Beggars in Spain’ this story in a similar vein doesn’t quite hit those heights!
9th June 2022. David Grinnell’s ‘Extending the Holdings’ in Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1952’, is a short, wry and lightweight tale of someone attempting to reach for the moon.
7th June 2002. Two good stories in Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1952’, C. M. Kornbluth’s ‘The Marching Morons’ is darkly satirical, and Betsy Curtis’ ‘A Peculiar People’ is an altogether gentler story.
26th May 2022. Carolyn Ives Gilman ‘Exile’s End’ is far-future, ethnographic and looks at cultural appropriation. It’s a worthy story, but just misses out on that something extra to make it a special story. It’s in Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’.
25th May 2022. Two more good stories in Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’. Bogi Takács ‘The 1st Interspecies Solidarity Fair and Parade’ is a clever look at communities and individuals rebuilding after alien invasion. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ‘Oannes, From The Flood’ is of the near-future technology/climate stories type (ie not SF) but is a good read. In other news viz. time dilation, tomorrow is my youngest son’s 30th birthday. How is that even possible?? In related news (i.e. awareness of the passing of time and me being in my seventh decade) I’ve spent quite some time transcribing my hand written diaries from 1978-1996 and incorporating scanned photos that match entries in the diaries. I’ve got more diaries to do, and I’ll reference the several twitter accounts and other places I’ve written my sage words of wisdom, and they’re going to be packed up and uploaded somewhere, in the sound conviction that in decades to come there’ll be AI technology that will be good enough to take this trove of words and recreate some virtual avater that is a version of this mortal self. And … hang on a second, the wife is telling me it’s time for my tablets…. And also just read and enjoyed, in Bleiler/Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1952’, Alfred Bester’s ‘Of Time and Third Avenue’ in which a bar in said location is the scene for a bit of persuasion needed to ensure an almanac from the future retuns to it’s rightful temporal location.
16th May 2022. Two stories in Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’ from authors who work I’ve enjoyed in the past, and who deliver the goods. James Patrick Kelly’s ‘Your Boyfriend Experience’ has a slightly different take on sexbots, and Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘Beyond the Tattered Veil of Stars’ is a clever look at simulation theory.
10th May 2022. TBH I struggled with Arula Ratnakar’s ‘Lone Puppeteer of a Sleeping City’, in Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’, which I found just a bit too dense and difficult to engage with.
9th May 2022. Julie Novakova’s ‘The Long Iapetan Night’ in Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’ was an okay read, but I felt it missed just that little something special.
8th May 2022. Carrie Vaughn’s ‘Sinew and Steel and What They Told’ in Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’ is also far future and off earth and slo very good.
4th May 2022. As his stories invariably do for me, Ray Nayler’s ‘Eyes of the Forest’ in Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’ hits the spot nicely, especially as it’s far future and offworld, stories of which ilk were fairly few and far between in Strahan’s take of the Year’s Best.>
30th April 2022. Pleased to report that a) Neil’s Clarke’s ‘The Best Science Fiction of the Year 6’ has now been delivered and it opens with Tobias S. Buckell’s ‘Scar Tissue’ which I enjoyed; and b) Rich Horton has posted the ToC for his Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Edition 2021, although with the rider Amazon is showing just a Kindle version, as it does for the 2020 Edition.
29th April 2022. Well, I didn’t think it was quite so long since I had read something for Best SF. I’ve been engrossed of late, ekeing out, as I tend to do with something I enjoy reading (i.e. prolonging the pleasure and not wanting to reach the end) Arkady Martine’s ‘A Memory Called Empire’. A very good novel indeed, although frustratingly what sticks in the mind most are a couple of anachronistic references (heating up coffee in a microwave, and eating ice cream in a park from a tub with a plastic spoon, and flourescent lighting – all out of place many millenia and half a galaxy away!). That novel was a dense read, so quite handy that I was able to return to the short SF with an easy read viz Walter Kubilius’ ‘The Other Side’, from ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1952’. Very much just the kind of delicate digestif after such a full repast.
7th March 2022. Just finished Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’, with Frank Belknap Long’s ‘Two Face’ seeing human visitors to a planet come face to face with an indigenous race who turn out to be two-faced (Eloi/Morlock) and Fritz Leiber’s ‘Coming Attraction’ looking into some very dark corners of the post-WWII Cold War human psyche.
28th Feb 2022. Well, Charles L. Harness’ ‘The New Reality’ in Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’ requires the reader to sit up and pay attention, as there’s a *lot* of commplicated stuff to get your head around! Just two stories left in the volume. Hopefully I’ll get to read them, provided the evil RasPutin keeps his murderous kleptomaniacal fingers off that big red button….
27th Feb 2022. Coming towards the end of Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’. Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Fox in the Forest’ has a married couple fleeing back in time to 1930s Mexico to hide from their life working for a perpetual war effort where chemical weapons are the norm.. ‘Fredric Brown. The Last Martian’ is an altogether lighter tale, about a man who believes himself to be the last Martian and who is surprised to find himself on Earth in a human body. There is a twist in the final page that cheered my spirits as I feared the reader was to be left to make up their mind!
24th Feb 2022. A bit of a break from short SF, partly on account of watching the recent Dune movie and decided to re-read the original novel for the first time since 1975. And I fairly zipped through it, which came as a suprise, as I’ve struggled with novels of late, let alone very long ones. I’ve also been watching ‘For All Mankind’ on Apple TV, currently series 2 and enjoying it. But, having just finished Dune (the ending snuck up on me as I’d forgotten the 100-odd pages of appendices at the back of the book) I thought I’d have a little light ‘digestif’ so to speak in the shape of Richard Matheson’s ‘Born of Man and Woman’ which is just a few pages long, and, I guessed one of the lighter stories in Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’. Well, it *was* short. Light it certainly was not…
7th February 2022. Damon Knight’s ‘To Serve Man’ in Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’ is a delicate little morsel. The following story, L. Sprague de Camp’s ‘Summer Wear’ is similarly light, as light as the summer clothes which are being taken to an alien planet in an attempt to persuade the denizens to embrace Earth couture. Interestingly the story is very much part of a much bigger series of stories by de Camp, an author who I have little knowledge of. So far!
28th January 2022. Well, the divisional round of NFL playoffs was a treat this year, although for a long-standing Bills fan, their game against the Chiefs was a difficult watch! Anyoo, reading-wise, Alfred Bester’s ‘Oddy and Id’ looks at the role of the Freudian id a millenia hence.
21st January 2022. By way of a palate-cleanser between the Year’s Best volumes I’m reading, I’m just started on
L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future Volume 36 and the first story by C. Winspear certainly didn’t feel terribly out of place amongst my rich diet of Year’s Best stories.
20th January 2022. I’ve finished my ‘review’ of Nebula Awards Showcase #55 which doesn’t have a whole lot of SF in it, as is the case these days.
20th January 2022. Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’ contains stories from a selection of authors that is pretty much a roll-call of the great writers of the 1950s/1960s : Poul Anderson, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, L Sprague de Camp, Gordon Dickson, Charles Harness, Damon Knight, Cyril Kornbluth, Fritz Leiber, Katherine MacLean, Richard Matheson, Frank M Robinson, and A E van Vogt. But at least for this reader, William F. Temple is a name that doesn’t register as do those names. However his
‘Forget-me-not’ is an enjoyable read, and stands head and shoulders up there with any of the other stories I’ve read in this series so far. And Katherine MaLein’s ‘Contagion’ next up in the volume is an entertaining and memorable read.
18th January 2022. Ha! You might almost think I planned it this way. Having just finished Strahan’s latest Year’s Best (see entry below) and lamenting the majority of stories being near-future and AI/tech/environment/DNA rather than sfnal stories, my next story to read is from Bleiler and Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories : 1951’ and A.E. van Vogt’s ‘Process’ is far future, deep space, and features as a protagonist a continent-spanning sentient forest.
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’.