Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 ToC Released


Series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor N.K. Jemisin have released their selections for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018.

From the large number of stories that series editor John Joseph Adams screened for this year’s collection, he picked the 80 best pieces to submit to editor N.K. Jemisin for a blind reading, so that the prestige of the venues or bylines were not a factor. (The ones Adams designated as notable are shown in a table at the link). Jemisin then selected 20 for publication (ten science fiction, ten fantasy, highlighted in green on the table.)

Here is the Table of Contents — including the 20 stories they thought the best:

2018 Table of Contents

FANTASY

  • Loneliness is in Your Blood by Cadwell Turnbull
    from Nightmare Magazine
  • The Resident by Carmen Maria Machado
    from Her Body and Other Parties
  • Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim
    from Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Rivers Run Free by Charles Payseur
    from Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast by Gwendolyn Clare
    from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • The Last Cheng Beng Gift by Jaymee Goh
    from Lightspeed Magazine
  • You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych by Kathleen Kayembe
    from Nightmare Magazine
  • Black Powder by Maria Dahvana Headley
    from The Djinn Falls in Love (ed. Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin)
  • The Orange Tree by Maria Dahvana Headley
    from The Weight of Words (ed. Dave McKean and William Schafer)
  • Church of Birds by Micah Dean Hicks
    from Kenyon Review

SCIENCE FICTION

  • Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn by A. Merc Rustad
    from Humans Wanted (ed. Vivian Caethe)
  • Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue by Charlie Jane Anders
    from Boston Review: Global Dystopias
  • The Wretched and the Beautiful by E. Lily Yu
    from Terraform
  • Destroy the City with Me Tonight by Kate Alice Marshall
    from Behind the Mask (ed. Tricia Reeks and Kyle Richardson)
  • Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities by Lettie Prell
    from Clarkesworld Magazine
  • Cannibal Acts by Maureen F. McHugh
    from Boston Review: Global Dystopias
  • ZeroS by Peter Watts
    from Infinity Wars (ed. Jonathan Strahan)
  • The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant by Rachael K. Jones
    from Lightspeed Magazine
  • The Hermit of Houston by Samuel R. Delany
    from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias S. Buckell
    from Cosmic Powers (ed. John Joseph Adams)

[Thanks to Eric Wong for the story.]

23 thoughts on “Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 ToC Released

  1. Excellent stories!

    But I can’t help wondering, where is Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience (TM), winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for best short story (and finalist for the World Fantasy, Sturgeon and Locus Awards)?

  2. @ULTRAGOTHA

    Indeed, although all the Years Bests missed it. I did see a comment from Jemisin to the effect that if she’d seen it in time she’d have asked for it to be included.
    I wonder if the twist structure didn’t work as well for more prolific (or possibly more jaded) readers.

  3. Indian Experience was a good read but not mind blowing, maybe put me down for Jaded Reader.

    What a wide array of publishers! None from Asimov or Analog, yet many from MF&SF… I loved that Peter Watts story.

    Noting Eric Wong is the source… how did these stories fare in RSR?

  4. I must be Jaded Reader (am certainly prolific) b/c I saw the entire twist and most everything else of “Welcome to Your…” coming on rails, to the point that I thought, “That’s too obvious, the story can’t possibly be going to end like that… huh. Meh.”

    I’d have voted the heck out of it in the 70s and maybe 80s, but now? I was Meh.

    F&SF is the best of the Big 3 magazines now, IMO.

    (Has anyone seen Shoggoth? My date stamp says 597.)

  5. I didn’t realize ‘welcome to…’ was supposed to have a twist, seemed a perfectly straight forward tear jerker. And it was moving. Can’t remember now where I ended up putting it on the ballot, but I certainly considered it for number one spot.

  6. I wasn’t bothered by whether the ending of “Your Authenic Indian Experience” was or wasn’t a surprise. For me, it was a story where it wasn’t the destination, but the journey I appreciated, and the inevitability of the ending added to the mood and the weight of the story. As well as increasing the tension, in a Hitchcock surprise vs. suspense sort of way. I didn’t relate to it as a tearjerker, either, but more of a mood piece, with that mood being a sort of grim resignation at the toll cultural appropriation takes.

    I’m here in 6501 myself, and blast it, we’re still trying to figure out how to get past the damage done by colonialism all those centuries ago.

  7. bookworm1398: I didn’t realize ‘welcome to…’ was supposed to have a twist, seemed a perfectly straight forward tear jerker. And it was moving.

    While the ending was not necessarily a surprise to me, it took me a bit to really understand the significance: not only did the “cultural tourist” get to experience what it was like to be a person of marginalized ethnicity whose life options are extremely limited due to the lingering effects of colonialism, but they got to experience what it was like to have other people take over their life, appropriate their culture, and steal what should have been theirs.

  8. @JJ: That’s odd, I interpret the twist of that story differently from you. My interpretation is one of continued marginalization and cultural appropriation – the end of the story is Jesse’s experience, not the tourist’s. In the beginning of the story the protagonist works giving others Hollywood-style fake Indian experiences, then the tourist squeezes him out of his job and causes him to have the more authentic experience of losing his home, and sliding into alcoholism and homelessness.

  9. My short fiction reading continues to be minimal. I’ve only read one of these and have heard of only three others. This probably means I should buy it. 😉

    [spoilers]

    @Various: Roanhorse’s story was good, but fifth on my final ballot. The ending didn’t really work for me; not the twistiness, but the magical realism aspect (no explanation of how the evil tourist became the native guide/took over his life). BTW I see it kind of like @Johan P; this made it depressing, though not a tear jerker.

    One could interpret it as a delusion or dream of the protagonist’s till the ending, though. I generally dislike explanations like that and it’s not how I read it. Heck, maybe that is what happened. But that’s what bugged me – no explanation of what actually happened or how, so maybe it’s this or my reading or something else entirely.

    [/spoilers]

    Regardless, Roanhorse’s story was good and showed her potential as a writer, plus I get the impression her novel is great. It’s on my list to read a sample of. 🙂

  10. Johan P: I interpret the twist of that story differently from you. My interpretation is one of continued marginalization and cultural appropriation – the end of the story is Jesse’s experience, not the tourist’s.

    I interpreted the ending as Jesse actually being the tourist — he has become so immersed in the experience that he believes he is the Native American, and he ends up getting to experience exactly what it is like to be a Native American.

  11. @Greg, interesting, thanks. Agreed on the Roanhorse. For the Watts four is fair, though I an tempted I guess to objeect on the grounds that an sf story that information dense can’t attempt to do everything character-wise. I haven’t read all the others here that you rank at three, but your mini review comments suggest you may have different criteria for a great story than these editors.

  12. Different reviewers do have different criteria for recommending stories. It’s a good idea to seek out a reviewer who matches your own tastes, if possible. A reviewer who agrees with you half the time is actually doing pretty well.

    That said, as a group, reviewers (and I’m counting anthologists and even award finalist list as “reviewers”) have a certain consistency. The very best stories are highly acclaimed by multiple sources, far beyond the simple Poisson distribution you’d expect if reviewers were uncorrelated.

    The best way to put it is that we’re correlated but we’re not highly correlated. That’s as it should be; tastes vary, but the very best generally stand out for (almost) everyone.

  13. Greg Hullender: as a group, reviewers (and I’m counting anthologists and even award finalist list as “reviewers”) have a certain consistency. The very best stories are highly acclaimed by multiple sources, far beyond the simple Poisson distribution you’d expect if reviewers were uncorrelated.

    With regard to the editors of the Year’s Best anthologies, they all have several cultural factors in common, so it is hardly surprising that they tend to pick a lot of the same stories. This is as much a result of their common cultural factors as it is of the quality of the stories they select.

    It would be foolish — or dishonest — to pretend that the quality of the stories is the only reason that there tends to be a great deal of overlap among the Year’s Best anthologies.

  14. I know a lot of people believe those cultural factors are important, but I’ve never seen a convincing argument for it. If that were so, the acclaimed stories would always involve thinly-disguised American protagonists, generally white. Minorities would only appear as tokens.

    But, in fact, stories that really do highlight different cultures routinely gather lots of recommendations. We’re SF/F readers, after all; we like seeing new and different things that take us to exciting places we’ve never been to.

    So the “they’re all from the same culture” argument doesn’t wash. It’s one of those things that sounds convincing, but only if you don’t actually look at any data.

  15. Greg Hullender: I know a lot of people believe those cultural factors are important, but I’ve never seen a convincing argument for it. If that were so, the acclaimed stories would always involve thinly-disguised American protagonists, generally white. Minorities would only appear as tokens.

    Nice try, but that isn’t what I said.

    I didn’t say that the editors of the major Year’s Best anthologies selected stories with common cultural factors. I said that those editors themselves shared numerous common cultural factors.

    Gardner Dozois: white male, born 1947 in Massachusetts
    Rich Horton: white male, born 1959 in Illinois
    Neil Clarke: white male, born 1966 in New Jersey
    John Joseph Adams: white male, born 1976 in New Jersey

    All of these men grew up reading the SF mags in a time when they were a predominant source of science fiction and fantasy short fiction stories. There is no question that this would have influenced their taste in SFF. I haven’t bothered looking further, but I know that Neil Clarke lists Dozois as one of his admired role models. To claim that the common cultural factors these men share does not influence the stories they select is, as I said, either foolish or dishonest.

  16. Greg Hullender: If you’re going to descend to name calling, I’m not going to engage with you.

    You’re the one who chose to engage after I had already pointed out that denying a connection was either foolish or dishonest.

    If you “not engaging” means that you discontinue posting any more obviously false claims, then I’d call it a win.

  17. @Greg Hullender–Perhaps you could point out the “name-calling” you think you see in JJ’s comment , because I can’t find it.

  18. I doubt the editors would deny it, either. Of course they don’t have exactly the same tastes. But someone from a very different background is likely to have rather more difference in taste. Look at the difference between American SF and non-American, and particularly non-anglophone SF. I have read that golden age American SF (by which the writer probably meant white male golden age American SF) assumed there was a way to win/ solve the problem in the story. Exceptions like “The Cold Equations” were shocking and unusual. Stories written by writers in other countries didn’t necessarily assume that. I believed that analysis, because I remembered the reactions at the 1987 Worldcon to the Metropole hotel manager’s obnoxious treatment of us. The Brits made up rude jokes about the manager, while the Americans indignantly said there must be something to be done. Attitudes are affected by background. That doesn’t mean you won’t like any of the same stories, but it does mean you will probably overlap less than you expect.

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