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 Jonathan Strahan’s ‘The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2’.
Latest updates :
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.