Last night I finished reading The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy
2016 & 2015, the only two years they've done the anthology so far. They accomplished what I hoped for, which was to include some excellent stories and to help me get a better sense of the contemporary SF/F short-fiction landscape by introducing me to new(-to-me) U.S. authors (who are not all white men) and magazines.
I thought 2016 was stronger than 2015, or maybe the stories were more my taste; but 2015 closed with a story that made me cry, and I want to recommend it to everybody, because it's about robots and people who like robots and people who wish they could be robots and autism and asexuality and polyamory and depression and struggling with suicidal ideation and it's just really moving. While I was reading it I heard many friends' experiences echoed in the text, but I know that can make something difficult to read, so, you know, assess the rec and warnings accordingly.How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps
by A. Merc Rustad
(Follow the link in the author's blog to a podcast transcript. The short story is reprinted a little ways down the page.)Other favorites from the 2015 collection
"The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever" by Daniel H. Wilson - A frightening and touching apocalypse story with a father/daughter relationship at the core, featuring a protagonist who may be a man or may be a robot, but who, if he is a robot, clearly has human emotions about family.
"A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i" by Alaya Dawn Johnson - Vampires who farm different "grades" of humans after taking over the world! Nice worldbuilding in a few strokes.
"Tortoiseshell Cats are Not Refundable" by Cat Rambo - Did what most film/TV stories about female-coded A.I.s should do but don't do.
"How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" by Neil Gaiman - An enjoyable romp of a revisit to some Neverwhere
characters, even though I don't recall liking Neverwhere
"The Bad Graft" by Karen Russell - Classic-feeling, spooky tale about a Joshua tree that tries to take root inside a young woman.Favorites from the 2016 collection
2016 had a strong start, with:
"Meet Me in Iram" by Sofia Samatar - Which felt too smart for me to understand, certainly not on first reading -- it felt like the sort of story we would have read in a college class followed by a discussion question of "What is Iram?" -- but was deep, beautiful and memorable.The Game of Smash and Recovery
by Kelly Link - Siblinghood, personhood, artificial intelligence and the detritus of interstellar colonization. Or: two strange kids and their robots on an abandoned moon.Planet Lion
by Catherynne Valente - Alien life corrupted by human civilization, and the humans don't even realize what they've done until it's too late.
Then a dip, when "Interesting Facts" by Adam Johnson failed marginaliana
's "a dude wrote this" test
. [Note: link includes mention of fictional sexual assault]
Then a recovery with stories such as:
"The Mushroom Queen" by Liz Ziemska - Joins the rank of "wonderfully creepy stories about humans merging with fungi"; see also auburn's SGA fic The Taste of Apples
something else I just forgot The Girl with All The Gifts
by Rachel Swirsky - Alice in Wonderland
fanfiction with a striking prose style that reinforces how the Mad Hatter and March Hare exist outside of time. Also, bestiality.
"Rat Catcher's Yellows" by Charlie Jane Anders - In which the protagonist struggles with her wife's decline from a brain-degenerating plague and the question of whether a VR game sweeping the world is a balm for plague victims or some kind of conspiracy.
And several others.
However, I really don't know what to do with "The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History" by Sam J. Miller. Told in the format of a newspaper article featuring witness testimonies, it's an alternate history of the Stonewall uprising where the bar patrons revolt against police using pyrokinesis. Is that an empowering fantasy, or does it undercut the bravery of real people who stood up for themselves without the safety net of supernatural abilities? By focusing on gay male characters, does it not also erase the real trans women who have struggled so hard to get the credit they deserve in the long fight for civil rights? Would the story have been better or worse if set in a totally fictional scenario? I struggled against this narrative and am interested in looking around to see if people have written about it.
Any recommendations for other short stories or authors to continue to catch up on what's happening these days in SF/F?