Dozois, Gardner (Ed.)
The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Ninth Annual Collection (1991)
(My edition published as, ‘The Giant Book of Fantastic SF’; also published as ‘Best New SF 6’)
SF has come a long way.
The closest comparison I can perhaps find in my personal library is The Giant Book of Science Fiction Stories (Edited by Martin Greenberg) – 101 50s-70s magazine SF stories – and the difference is chalk and cheese. This may be an unfair comparison: Dozois’ collections’ stories are generally a few thousand words longer, however they add more than quantity. They still all have that key short SF story element, a novel ‘What if?’ idea – but the way they realise these ideas is much more impressive than the bare bones of their predecessors. Maybe Greenberg was filling up space (although there are some excellent stories within the deluge), but Dozois was picking the cream from 1991. I could pick out some favourites, but each of these stories are undeniably well written. They all have individual recognisable characters – rather than stock ones. They can write potent settings, can pace a story. Alas these virtues are more the exception than the rule in much earlier fiction I’ve read. Maybe SF hasn’t come a long way, rather I’m just fortunate to have found a good filter in Dozois which I didn’t find in Greenberg.
You could validly look at a collection like this as a sampler to suggest whose novels might be worth seeking out. However I found myself really relishing the short story format again – rather I’m pleased that this is the 9th in a series, and I’ll be seeking out other collections. If they’re of this calibre – and this impressive consistency – I’m in for some excellent reading.