Last year I read 58 short stories and was quite pleased with that. Pleased enough to decide that I was going to read at least 52 short stories this year too. To help me on my way I’ve entered a short story challenge at the blog Dead Book Darling.
If you want some encouragement in reading more short stories I urge you to sign up too. The challenge requirement is to read at least 12 short stories in 2012. That should be easy
Title: Year’s Best SF 15
Editors: David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Pages: 512 s.
Originally published: 2010
Genre: Science Fiction
The dice landed on: 5
Did I finish? Yes!
Do I like the cover? Yes. It does promise more space opera than the book delivers, but I love space opera.
One-sentence summary: Good science ficton short stories.
In science fiction short stories are still an important part of what’s being written, and every year there are several anthologies collecting the stories the editors think are the best from that year.
As in any good short story collection I’ve ever read this one has stories I really love and stories I’m more indifferent to. However, it has no stories that I dislike or think is really bad. The editors have done a solid job of selecting a wide array of different sorts of science fiction stories. Alternate pasts, alternate presents and possible futures all play their part in these 24 stories. They all do what is my main reason for loving science fiction as a genre, they speculate on the what might have been or what might be. The themes are different, but the stories all have that common core of good storytelling and of speculation. A collection well worth reading.
Book Beginnings on Friday is a bookish meme sponsored by Katy at A Few More Pages.
Here’s what you do: share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section . Include the title and author so we know what you’re reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and if you liked or did not like that sentence. Link-up each week at Katy’s place.
I guess my contribution this week might be regarded as cheating as it’s the beginning of a short story instead of a novel. I’ll go ahead with it anyway.
The beginning is from the short story The Unstrung Zither by Yoon Ha Lee and you can find it in the short story collection Year’s Best SF 15, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. So far it’s a really good collection and I’m reading it on my Kindle.
“They don’t look very dangerous,” Xiao Ling Yun said to the aide. Ling Yun wished she understood what Phoenix Command wanted from her. Not that she minded the excuse to take a break from the compositon for two flutes and hammered dulcimer that had been stymieing her for the past two weeks.
Through a one-way window in the observation chamber, Xiao Ling Yun saw five adolescents sitting cross-legged on the floor in a semicircle. Before them was a tablet and two brushes. No ink, these were not calligraphy brushes. One of the adolescents, a girl with short, dark hair, leaned over and drew two characters with quick strokes. All five studied the map that appeared on the tablet.
“Nevertheless”, the aide said. “They attempted to assassinate the Phoenix General. We are fortunate to have captured them.”
It’s a beginning that makes me curious. That’s always a good thing.
The New Space Opera 2 was edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan and contains 19 stories by different authors.
It always takes me forever to finish a short story collection. I think I might have finished this one a bit quicker than usual as I’ve decided to read at least 52 short stories this year, but it still took a long time. The result is that when I look through the titles of the different short stories there are some that I can hardly remember. I’m also discovering that it’s harder to look back on stories when you’ve read the book on a Kindle, p-book short story collections are usually full of post-its so I can find the different stories again without too much bother.
Oh well, I still have some thoughts about the book.
My favorite stories were “Utriusque Cosmi” by Robert Charles Wilson, “Defect” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, “Shell Game” by Neal Asher, “Fearless Space Pirates of the Outer Rings” by Bill Willingham, “Chameleons” by Elizabeth Moon, “The Tenth Muse” by Tad Williams, “The Tale of The Wicked” by John Scalzi and “Catastrophe Baker and a Canticle for Leibowitz” by Mike Resnick.
My what-what-what? stories are “The Island” by Peter Watts, “Punctuality” by Garth Nix, “Join the Navy and See the Worlds” by Bruce Sterling, and “The Far End of History” by John C. Wright.
So this means I end up with 8 really good stories, 4 I dislike and 7 that I liked but didn’t find outstanding.
All in all this makes for a good collection. The thing about readers are that we all respond favourably to different things and this collection has stories for lots of different tastes. Even some of the few I don’t like seem to be solid work, it’s just that they’re not for me. I do have a preference for real people and spaceships in a good action story and therefore don’t much care for some of the “posthuman” stories. They seem to get so wrapped up in their own weird idea that they leave me not caring for the characters, and I do need to care to like the story. “Posthumans” I can care for I can handle just fine, like Carlotta in “Utriusque Cosmi”, while the planet-personalities in “The Far End of History” leaves me completely cold. Too bad that that’s the last story in the collection. I guess it was placed there because it’s the longest, but for me it would have been better to end the book on a funny note with Catastrophe Baker.
All in all I end up with giving the book 4 out of 5 stars, and I’ll definitely read The New Space Opera 3 if it ever appears.
Danai and I decided that when we grew up, we would work for MuIndia rather than the white madam. We spoke of him in one breath as MuIndia waMainin‘Juliana, and talked of him as intimately as we did the members of our very large family, wondering at the peculiar singularity of his ways, his refusal to advance salaries even when there was illness, his habit of picking his nose when he thought that no one was looking, the leftover Zambia cloth and bent out of shape Kango plates and cups with missing handles that he gave Juliana and his other assistant, Timothy, as Christmas bonuses, the yellow plastic comb that he tucked behind his ear and next to his hair, and his house in Belvedere, which we pronounced Bharabhadiya.” (p. 177)
When I first got to know Balcescu, I didn’t like him much. A snob, that’s what I thought he was, an way too stuck on himself. I was right, too. One of the things that drove me crazy is that he talked like George Sanders, all upper-crust, but I didn’t believe for a moment he actually knew who George Sanders was. Old Earth movies wouldn’t have been high-brow enough for him.
He also loved the sound of his own voice, whether the person he was talking to had time to listen or not.
“There you are, Mr. Jatt,” he said one day, stopping me as I was crossing the observation deck. “I’ve been looking for you. I have a question.”
This weeks morsel comes from The New Space Opera 2, a collection of science fiction short stories.
“The young woman is her own ancient self, the primordial Carlotta Boudaine, dewed with sweat in the hot night air, her legs caught up in a spindled cotton sheet. The bedroom’s small window is cranked open, and in the breezeless distance a coyote wails.
Well, look at me, Carlotta marvels: skinny girl in panties and a halter, sixteen years old – no older than a gnat’s breath – taking shallow little sleep-breaths in the moonlit dark. Poor child can’t even see her own ghost. Ah, but she will, Carlotta thinks – she must.
The familiar words echo in her mind as she inspects her dreaming body, buried in its tomb of years, eons, kalpas. When it’s time to leave, leave. Don’t be afraid. Don’t wait. Don’t get caught. Just go. Go fast.
Her ancient beloved poem. Her perennial mantra. The words, in fact, that saved her life.
She needs to share those words with herself, to make the circle complete. Everything she knows about nature of the physical universe suggests that the task is impossible. Maybe so…but it won’t be for lack of trying.”
From the short story Utriusque Cosmi by Robert Charles Wilson.