Review: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 8

By Josh Storey

Strahan, Jonathan, ed. The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 8. Solaris (April 10, 2014). USD $19.99, paperback. ISBN 978-1-78108-216-4.

Gathered from across publishing media – from traditional print to online magazines and single-serving digital downloads – The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 8. paints a picture of the current state of science fiction and fantasy. So, if a year’s best anthology is a snapshot of the last 365 days of fiction, what did our favorite genres look like in 2013? Well, they looked a lot like Tumblr, a little like Facebook, a bit like Twitter, and every so often, they looked just like Wikipedia. #explanation_forthcoming

Tumblr: feminist, queer, non-white Disney Princesses

Strong female characters abound in this anthology and I’m not talking about the Sarah Connor shoot-you-in-the-face kind of strength. (Though that’s in there, too; I’m looking at you, Joe Abercrombie’s “Some Desperado.”) Here there be women with depth and complexity, secrets, desires and dead-end jobs.

Girls who are geniuses when it comes to physics, gunslinging and wit. Women who go to war. Women who seek peace. And women who are doing their best to raise families from light years away. There’s also a refreshing representation of LGBT protagonists (including some gender-fluid POVs) and characters from non-white backgrounds. (See: “Zero for Conduct” by Greg Egan, “Rag and Bone” by Priya Sharma, and “The Book Seller” by Lavie Tidhar, among many others.)

Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Little Red all make appearances, as well, but do not expect songs and Prince Charmings. Instead, expect epic levels of badassery from Ms. White in Neil Gaiman’s “The Sleeper and the Spindle” and a sort of hard-boiled space-punk version of Ms. Riding Hood in CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan’s “The Road of Needles.”

Facebook: Big Zuck is Watching

When it comes to Facebook and Privacy, the relationship status is always set to “It’s Complicated.” Twice, maybe three times a year, our timelines flood with posts telling us to check and change our security settings. Of course we never do and so, we all walk around feeling a little bit exposed but not caring enough to stop sharing.

Ian R. Macleod’s “Entangled” and Ted Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” show us worlds where ubiquitous connectivity and absolute transparency make us both better than we were and less human than we currently are, both at the same time.

Twitter: #Life_In_180_Bites

Did you know that selkie stories and slices of adolescence combine in moving & poignant ways? #Sofia_Samatar #”Selkie_Stories_are_for_Losers”

Wikipedia: Citation Needed

Geoff Ryman’s touching “Rosary and Goldenstar” takes a number of theories about folk like Shakespeare, John Dee and their contemporaries, and weaves an alternate historical tale that’s as funny as it is engaging (which, by the way, is a lot).

And just as you can lose hours of your life clicking through Wikipedia’s related articles links, so, too, can you lose yourself in this volume. Editor Jonathan Strahan expertly arranges these stories in such a way that their themes feed off of and into one another, building a complex picture of love, discovery, revenge and acceptance. Most of all, the stories in this year’s anthology emphasize the human character in worlds that are at once entirely alien and completely familiar.

“Was it a good year?” Strahan asks in his introduction. No matter where you turn in The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 8, the answer seems to be “Yes.”

Bio: In his life, Josh has ever only wanted to be three things: an astronaut, Superman, and a writer. Since he’s no good at math and (as far as his parents are willing to admit) not from Krypton, he’s going with the third option. He blogs, infrequently, at and spams his Twitter followers with Goodreads recommendations @soless.