1. "The Devil You Know" - Poppy Z. Brite
The last of Poppy Z. Brite's horror short story collections and the first of her restaurant short story collections, at the same time. I was always a fan of her horror stuff before she decided she didn't want to write that sort of thing anymore, but the cute gay boys in a restaurant theme is even better. I mean, you have cute gay boys and delicious food - what could be better?
2. The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 16 - ed. Gardner Dozois
This is not new at all, but it's one of the two books I couldn't get at the time due to lack of money or something like that. The Mammoth Books of Best New SF only exist in the shops for a handful of months after they're released, meaning that if you miss one, you're looking at second-hand booksellers to pick them up. And as they tend to be pretty good, they're hard to get hold of.
I've decided that I should make a list of the short stories in each volume that I particularly liked, so that I can identify the authors I like most and look for more of their work. So these are the ones in 16:
- Breathmoss: Ian R. MacLeod. A fascinating world where women and men live entirely separate lives.
- The Passenger: Paul J. McAuley. Creepy.
- Presence: Maureen F. McHugh - VERY creepy. Probably helped by the fact I read it in the waiting room of my doctor's surgery.
- Halo : Charles Stross. At least, I think I liked it. The ending was weird, in that slightly hysterical way that some SF short stories are.
- In Paradise: Bruce Sterling. A slightly silly "love" story (which may actually just be lust).
- The Old Cosmonaut and the Construction Worker Dream of Mars: Ian McDonald.
- Singleton: Grey Egan. Amazing. He has a fantastic way of mixing science in with people. Actually, I think there has been a Greg Egan story in every volume of The Mammoth Book of Best New SF that I own, and I think I have enjoyed every one.
- The Potter of Bones: Eleanor Arnason. Set in a mediaeval/pre-scientific world. Some of Arnason's other stories in this world have left me wondering why they counted as science fiction rather than fantasy, but this one is about a woman who finds fossils in rocks and works out evolution for herself.
- The Whisper of Disks: John Meaney. The kind of SF story that is many short scenes as excerpts through time, rather than one continuous narration. Some stories in this style annoy me, but this one was very well done.
- The Millennium Party: Walter Jon Williams. A microstory, at barely two pages long. And oh, my, I Do Not Want To Live In That Future, k'thanx?
- Turquoise Days: Alastair Reynolds. About two sisters who swim with an alien presence. I wasn't expecting that ending.
I should also mention Slow Life by Michael Swanwick, which I would have enjoyed if not for the wretched bloody science! I don't know whether it's the author, or the editor, or the typesetter to blame - but one of these people has a fecking awful understanding of some basic scientific concepts (chemical, physical and mathematical), to the extent the story made me angry. After some debate about whether my rant about it should be part of this post, I posted it separately. But I would very much like the opinions of people who have read the story or have read other stories by him. I would especially like to compare the version of the story as published in The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 16 with the original from Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2002.
3. The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 14 - ed. Gardner Dozois
- The Juniper Tree: John Kessel. Set in a slightly alarming futuristic society on the Moon, in which men are treated similarly to how women were treated in earlier parts of this century - nice to mate with, not so good at being in charge.
- The Birthday of the World: Ursula K. Le Guin. Again, not sure what makes this SF rather than fantasy; and downbeat, like virtually all of Le Guin's stories that I've read.
- Reef: Paul J. McAuley. Extremely biological world-building with a sideline of woman fights bureaucrats.
- Going After Bobo: Susan Palwick. Not sure why this is SF rather than... ordinary fiction. There's very little science or technology in the story, it's entirely about humans and human nature. (Is it SF just because it's set a few years in the future?). But it's a great story. The part where the teachers think the teenager is going to **MASSIVE SPOILER** and how it upsets his family yet brings them back together is... very ordinarily human.
- Snowball in Hell: Brian Stableford. I think I must have read one of Brian Stableford's books when I was too young to fully appreciate it, or something, because I have in my head that I don't like "hard SF". Yet this story was about genetics and humanity and whether it's our DNA or our behaviours that make us human, which is totally the sort of thing I enjoy reading. Now I have to reconsider that I might have missed hundreds of good stories because of a prejudice I had.
- Patient Zero: Tananarive Due. Creepy AS HELL. It's about a young child who is the only known survivor of a deadly disease, writing from his isolation unit in hospital. And it becomes so very creepy due to the fact that you, the reader, can see what the narrator of the story can not - because you're an adult with an adult's understanding of the situation, and he is a child. It literally sent shivers down my spine.
- The Great Goodbye: Robert Charles Wilson. Another microstory of 2 pages long. Awesome anyway and especially for the twist at the end.
- Tendeléo's Story: Ian McDonald. Wow. Futuristic alien "plague" that enables the developing world to fight back. Has a few parts in the middle where it shifts narrator where I was thinking "get on with it", but as a concept? Wow.
I realise that I want to make a list of the stories in the other volumes that I liked, but I barely remember some of them. I know I've read 12 & 13 a lot of times, but I could swear I hadn't read 15 at all if not for one very memorable story. This is probably due to my mental state at the time rather than the stories themselves, though. Hrm.