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 The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy 3rd Annual Volume ed Judith Merril 1958.
p.s. I’m downsizing my mahoosive SF collection, slowly putting items on ebay. Click here to view what’s currently on offer.
Latest updates :
9th September 2023 – oh happy days, the next two stories from ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy 3rd Annual Volume’ are both 1) SF 2) VG. Avram Davidson’s ‘Never Let us Sleep’ is a grim read, focussing on humanity’s lack of humanity when dealing with other species. Zenna Henderson’s ‘Wilderness’ is from her ‘The People’ series and very much reads like a story from an issue of F&SF in the 2020s, rather than the 1950s.
6th September 2023 – two more stories from ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy 3rd Annual Volume’. Henry Kuttner’s’ ‘Near Miss’ is another miss as far as the sfnal content of the volume is concerned, however Rog Phillips’ ‘Game Reserve’ rather gives the game away with the title, but the game in question on the reserve…. (they ain’t alien!)
5th September 2023 – gosh, ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy 3rd Annual Volume’ weak start (see below) goes from bad to worse, with the next three stories. Isaac Asimov’s ‘Let’s Get Together’ is dialog heavy and action lite, George Byram’s ‘The Wonder Horse’ features a horse with an amazing ability – it’s much faster than other horses (and that’s all), and Theodore R. Cogswell’s ‘You Know Willie’ is a thoroughly unlikeable story these days (was it a likeable story in those days??), and it’s another horror story
1st September 2023 – Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy 3rd Annual Volume’ starts with two stories without a whole lot of SF. First up is no less than an early appearance from British Grandmaster Brian W. Aldiss’ ‘Let’s Be Frank’ and then George Langelaan’s ‘The Fly’, the horror story that spawned two films and doubtless many nightmares. I certainly recall seeing the first film when I was young and been horrified by the ending, with the fly trapped in the web pleading to be saved!
31st August 2023 – Final two stories in Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels : Ninth Series’, viz : Lloyd Biggle, Jr’s ‘The Tunesmith’ which has a musical theme, but in contrast with J.G. Ballard’s contemporaneous ‘Prima Belladona’, this feels somewhat dated, and Carol Emshwiller’s ‘Hunting Machine’ is my third favourite SF story with a hunting theme from the 1950s, behind J.G. Ballard’s ‘A Sound of Thunder’ and Arthur Porges ‘The Ruum’.
18th August 2023 – Algis J. Budry’s ‘Nightsound’ in Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels : Ninth Series’, is a bit disappointing tbh.
3rd August 2023 – I’ve just finished Aidan Tchaikovsky’s ‘Children of Memory’, having read the previous two novels in the trilogy in short order in 2023. What a read!! Back to earth with a story from Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels : Ninth Series’ in the shape of James McConnell’s ‘Nor Dust Corrupt’ which is set on a far future Earth, overpopulated and built over, but where the ultra wealthy seek to be buried.
17th July 2023. A short tail from Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels : Ninth Series’. in Eric Frank Russell’s ‘Into Your Tent I’ll Creep’, visiting Altarian’s embrace humanity, but there’s a greater risk to the visitors, of which only one of their number is aware. If he can’t persuade his companions of this risk, it gonna be rough, rough.
15th July 2023. Two contrasting stories in Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels : Ninth Series’. One by an author with just a half dozen stories in his career, one by an author who had dozens of stories under her belt by the mid 1950s. One I read only a few pages before baling out, one which I enjoyed thoroughly. One is John J. McGuire’s ‘The Queen’s Messenger’ and the other is Leigh Brackett’s ‘The Other People’.
8th July 2023. Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels : Ninth Series’ picks up some momentum after a slow start with two stories that stand up well to the test of time. Interestingly both have a lot in common to a couple of movies. Poul Anderson’s ‘Call me Joe’ has human to alien telepathic control, and Chad Oliver’s ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ postulates a Westworld-type scenario, with added Louis Armstrong and New Orleans jazz.
9th June 2023. The first three stories in what was to be Ted Dikty’s final take on the best SF short stories are rather underwhelming tbh. They are Michael Shaara’s a’2066: Election Day’, Kate Wilhelm’s ‘The Mile-Long Spaceship’, Tom Godwin’s ‘The Last Victory’.
8th June 2023. Reader, after eight weeks with the builders and decorators in, things are getting back to normal and I’m back in the home office again (new wallpaper, new flooring, new desk), and next week untold numbers of boxes and bookcases (and other furniture for other rooms) are to be returned. The final two stories in Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’ made for a gentle and pleasant return to SF, having dallied with *another* genre (crime fiction) and *another* format (novels) in the shape of some Anne Cleves and Kate Atkinson books. The stories were Garson Kanin’s ‘The Damnedst Thing’ gets a very strange request about one gentleman’s funeral. Strange on account of the gentleman in question makes that request personally, but having already been delivered to the undertaker in a state of being dead. And Zenna Henderson’s ‘Anything Box’ is a heart-warming tale of a teacher who finds a girl who is evidently spending a lot of time day dreaming. But in fact…
4th May 2023. May the Fourth Be With You. The latest two stories from Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’, Mack Reynolds’ ‘Compounded Interest’ features a time traveller using regular visits back in time to benefit financially from compound interest of centuries. Not only does he amass great wealth…. And J.G. Ballard’s ‘Prima Belladonna’ feels very much like a story from the New Wave of the 1960s that has travelled back in time to a 1950’s SF anthology. Wowzers.
25th April 2023. In Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’, Robert Abernathy’s ‘Grandma’s Lie Soap’ relates, mostly through the method of telling rather than showing, how a toothpaste with a special ingredient changes the world…
23rd April 2023. Bit of a break from the short SF! I’ve been reading Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ‘Children of Ruin’. I’ve been packing up most of two bedrooms, the office, and the dining room, and several hundred books, in advance of the builders and decorators coming in to do some insurance fixing and re-decorating. I’ve been watching ‘The Mandalorian’ (absolute rubbish). I’ve been watching ‘The Last of Us’ (very good, but not as good as playing the game, and at times it feels somewhat like you’re just watching the cinematic sections of the game). Rewatched True Detective s1 (brilliant). Finally watched True Detective s2 (disappointing, but then again, Rachel McAdams, and Colin Farrell) and both ‘Bruges’ and ‘The Banshee of Inisherin’ (great and brilliant). Easing back into the short SF with a short, light piece in Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’. Roger Thorne’s ‘Take a Deep Breath’ which looks at the potential risks of advertising.
2nd March 2023. In Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’. Robert Nathan’s ‘Digging the Weans’ a far-future archaeologist ponders the small number of finds from the northern continent which is now referred as the and of The Weans, aka The We or The US, and what this tells us of the society and the peoples that lived there.
1st March 2023. Two contrasting stories in Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’. Damon Knight’s ‘Strange Station’ looks at some of the psychological and transactional issues between humans and aliens on an individual and species level, and is quite thought provoking and very much reads like a more recent story. Whilst Isaac Asimov’s ‘Each an Explorer’ feels very much of it’s time, and very much in the vein of many Asimov’s stories of the time : two humans, out of touch with humanity, come face to face with an issue and then in addressing the issue, chat a lot to explain the issue to the reader. That story was collected in his anthology ‘Buy Jupiter’ which I bought at the age of 16. Tomorrow I turn 63…
27th Feb 2023. Algis Budrys’ ‘Silent Brother’ in Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’ is a thoughtful and somewhat different to the norm exploration of an alien species arriving on Earth.
25th Feb 2023. R. Bretnor’s ‘The Doorstop’ in Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’ is a good complement to ‘The Far Look’ earlier in the volume in looking at the human response to the reality of just how big a universe it is in which we live, and just how small we are.
24th Feb 2023. E.L. Malpass’s ‘When Grandfather Flew To The Moon’ in Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’ is a delightful little story, which left me wanting more.
23rd Feb 2023. Judith Merril’s ‘The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume’ is an altogether smaller version than the hefty Dikty volume I’ve just finished. A dinky little paperback whose typeface is small enough to challenge even my newest reading glasses. First up (after the two stories I read and reviewed a few years back) is Theodore L. Thomas’ ‘The Far Look’ which works well today, and indeed has some similarities to ‘The Martian’.
22nd Feb 2023. Well, the final story in Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955’, Frank Herbert’s ‘Nightmare Blues’ was a tad overlong and not as good as I had been hoping for. It’s a near-future technology thriller, but it’s very much B-movie stuff. In more contemporary Year’s Best SF news, Good News is that Neil Clarke’s next volume is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Bad News is that after 2 volumes from Saga of Jonathan Strahan’s take on the Year’s Best, volume 3 ain’t evidently going to be happening, at least from Saga.
21st Feb 2023. The pre-penultimate and penultimate stories in Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955’ are Robert Abernathy’s ‘Axolotl’ and Everett B. Cole’s ‘Exile’. The former is the author’s second story in the volume, and is a good one, albeit with a bit of frustration that the story title and the introduction tip the wink to the reader, thus spoiling an intriguing ending. The latter is a lengthy novelette, and TBH does seem a bit of a strange choice – surely there were better novelettes than this dring the year? Anyhoo, the final story is from one Frank Herbert, and I’m looking forward to that!
17th Feb 2023. Albert C. Friborg’s ‘Careless Love’ in Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955’ sees Friborg having a lot of fun with AI (although it’s not called that in the story) and psychology, both human psychology and robotic AI, the US military and policos, and the psyche of those therein. The reader’s fun reading the story will be determined by the extent to which their funny-bone is the shame shape as Friborg’s.
14th Feb 2023. Three enjoyable stories from Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955’. James Causey’s Felony sees an altogether unpleasant protagonist get to travel to a beautiful world. Raymond E. Banks’ The Littlest People, his second story in the anthology, has an employment agency delivering manual workers and wannabe housewives (!) to distant planets in shrunkified and suspended animation format. And Jerome Bixby’s One Way Street is a clever alternate earths yarn.
13th Feb 2023. Well, Superb Owl LVIII was a cracker. Looks my Bills are going to have a hell of time getting to The Big One in the years to come on account of the Future GOAT. Anyhoo, a second story by Walter M. Miller Jr. in Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955’, with an equally emotional heft, in the shape of The Will, which related how a young boy, terminally ill, has a brainwave thanks to non other than TVs very own Captain Chronos.
8th February 2023. Two quite different stories in Ted Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955’. Winston K. Marks’ John’s Other Practice’ has things not looking up (down?) for gynaecologist John, who dreams up a way of earning money from women’s medical needs in an altogether different way. It’s a wry story. William Morrison’s ‘The Inner Worlds’ has an intriguing setup indeed, with humans arriving on a planet being a challenge for the dominant species on that planet – tiny, intelligent parasites living in the bodies of much larger animals.
6th February 2023. Robert Abernathy’s ‘Heirs Apparent’ in Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955’ is somewhat less entertaining than the preceding stories. The post-nuclear war setup is promising, but the story slides into lengthy debate between two members of the opposing sides.
31st January 2023. A clutch of entertaining stories from Dikty’s ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1955′ – cheered me up after the Bills’ dismal end to the season. Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s ‘Memento Homo’ sees an elderly, terminally ill spacer reflect on his life in space. Andre Norton’s ‘Mousetrap’ starts and ends in a Martian bar, with a crusty old Martian prospector getting revenge on someone who spoiled something precious to him. Raymond E. Banks ‘Christmas Trombone’ is full of christmas sf cheer, as a guy whose one pleasure in life, tromboning, is taken from him due to Venusian water. Frank M. Robinson’s ‘One Thousand Miles Up’ posits an multi-national International Space Station, and puts it in the centre of Cold War tensions. Clifford D. Simak’s ‘How-2’ channels Asimov in it’s tongue in cheek look at the rights of robots.
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 commuting to work 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…