Dozois, Gardner, ed. 1998. The Year's Best Science Fiction (15th Annual Collection). New York: St. Martin's.

Reviewed 21 June 1998

The Year's Best Science Fiction (15th Annual Collection) (cover) This is a rather short review of a rather long book (600 pages of stories, plus 75 pages of essential front and back matter). One can get a very interesting view of speculative fiction from either this book or David Hartwell's. I greatly prefer Mr. Dozois' format and inclusiveness; many of the best stories in this collection fall outside the view of speculative fiction Mr. Hartwell espouses in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

One of the most valuable features of this volume is its Summation, 62 pages discussing The Year in Science Fiction. Mr. Dozois does an excellent job of getting his facts straight, with only a couple of extremely minor errors (that I caught, anyway); would that his URLs were so accurate (but, given the delays inherent in the publication process, they were probably all valid at the time the book went to press).

And now, a word about the stories included: The usual suspects. I don't believe this is a sign of nepotism as much as a sign that a few authors continue to produce the majority of the memorable stories in the genre, year in and year out. There's a remarkable range of stories, although there's one area curiously absent (yet again): utopian fiction. I suspect that this is a matter of current editorial taste. Utopian fiction is even harder to sell than thoughtful fantasy, primarily because The Editors (the monolithic Commercial Editor Culture, not individual editors) don't understand it, and don't think their readers will either.

On the basis of this anthology and the table of contents in Mr. Hartwell's, science fiction is in rather a consolidation mode at this time. None of the stories in either anthology are really "new", in the sense of a Dangerous Visions or cyberpunk. Given the market, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Overall rating: 4 stars
Excellent.
This was a difficult rating, hovering between three and four stars. Last year (1997) was actually a bit of a down year for the genre in short fiction; two of the four established professional magazines printed little science fiction that was better than mental cotton candy (artificially fluffy, no nutritional value, and leaves you sticky for hours). Mr. Dozois has done a very nice job of finding excellent stories in the steadily diminishing haystack. Both the genre itself and the short-fiction subgenre are going to have to tear down the ghetto walls to survive. But that argument is for another time.


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