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10th Annual Edition: The Year’s Best S‑F  (The Year’s Best S‑F, volume 10)

Edited by Judith Merril 

5 Dec, 2023

Judith Merril’s The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy


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1965’s 10th Annual Edition: The Year’s Best S‑F is the tenth volume in Judith Merril’s The Year’s Best S‑F reprint anthology series. 10th Annual Edition was also published as 10th Annual S‑F and The Best of Science Fiction 10. Best SF annuals present a selection of the best SF from the previous year. In this case, that year stretched from 1946 to 1964.

There are thirty-three stories and two essays in this anthology (of which at least twenty-one stories were reprinted in later anthologies and collections). One story is by a woman, one is by a person whose gender is unclear (M. E. White), and the rest of the stories are by men. Both essays (as well as the abundant ancillary material) are by Merril. While Merril was definitely not a pioneer for including women in her Best SF anthologies, I think this is a record for Merril one-sidedness.

I saw only one award finalist, Zelazny’s Hugo nominee A Rose for Ecclesiastes. As long-time SF fans are no doubt aware, Zelazny was cheated out of a Nebula nomination due to the technicality that the Nebulas were not founded until 1966.

Unlike the gender balance, Merril’s sources are wonderfully diverse. I count twenty-two different magazines and books from which she drew material. Who knows how many books and magazines she winnowed down to the lucky twenty-two? How the postman must have delighted in hauling heavy packages to Merril’s home.

A historical note: Fantastic was edited by Cele Goldsmith, about whom I need to write at greater length at some point.


Amazing – 1

Analog – 2

The Bulletin – 1 

The Carleton Miscellany – 1

Cosmopolitan – 1

Di goldene keyt – 1

If – 1

Fantastic Stories of Imagination – 4

Galaxy Magazine – 1

Harper’s Magazine – 1

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction – 6

Motive – 1

New Directions – 1

New Worlds – 2

The New York Times – 1

Nugget – 1

Phantoms and Fugitives – 1

Playboy – 1

Saga – 1

Short Story International – 1

Vampires, Ltd – 1

Worlds of Tomorrow – 2

Many of the stories were reprinted during my personal golden age. Accordingly, even when the titles were not familiar, the stories themselves often revealed themselves as old friends (“The Shining Ones,” and Joe Lee”). I did encounter some new friends: Reed’s Automatic Tiger” (which I must have read in 2013’s The Story Until Now but don’t remember). On the whole, this is one of the stronger entries in the series. SF seems to have recovered from the doldrums of the early 1960s.

As for the stories themselves…

Automatic Tiger” • (1964) • short story by Kit Reed

A gift intended for a spoiled relative provides a timid man with much needed confidence … too much, as it turns out.

The Carson Effect” • (1964) • short story by Richard Wilson

A newsman struggles with how to properly frame the last story he will ever write.

This story revolves around journalistic ethics, which I lack space to define for modern readers. Don’t worry about it. They won’t be relevant to your life.

The Shining Ones” • (1964) • short story by Arthur C. Clarke

Who is sabotaging the Soviet oceanic thermoelectric project off Ceylon/Sri Lanka? Or rather, what is sabotaging the project?

When I read this in The Wind from the Sun, what stood out was how Clarke presented the Soviets as just plain folks, rather than baby-eating monsters intent on crushing freedom and puppies.

Pacifist” • (1964) • short story by Mack Reynolds

An idealist belatedly comprehends the futility of solving structural social issues by focusing on individual instances of said issues.

The New Encyclopaedist” • [New Encyclopaedist] • (1964) • short story by Stephen Becker

Encyclopedia entries detailing the absurd history that is to come.

The Legend of Joe Lee” • (1964) • short story by John D. MacDonald

A journalist summoned to witness a thrilling car chase finds himself in a ghost story.

According to this online source [Link to this review once it is up] about a third of late-night highway encounters involve ghosts.

Gas Mask • (1964) • short story by James D. Houston

A driver’s life is transformed by a huge, never-ending traffic jam.

This was adapted for Michael Hanson’s Mind Webs radio show. Just by typing Mind Webs,” I can hear Michael Hanson’s voice.

A Sinister Metamorphosis” • (1965) • short story by Russell Baker

Musings on dehumanization.

Sonny” • (1963) • short story by Rick Raphael

A simple-minded hillbilly draftee reveals that he and his kin possess a very useful psionic knack that the US is not slow to put to use.

Show hands, everyone surprised that this psionics tale is one of two stories from Analog in this volume. What is surprising is the use to which the powerful gift is put: petty sabotage of a Soviet prestige project.

The Last Secret Weapon of the Third Reich” • (1964) • short story by Josef Nesvadba

A doctor is horribly traumatized by his encounter with the last Nazi wonder weapon.

Descending” • (1964) • short story by Thomas M. Disch

A man descending a staircase discovers the descent is much longer than expected.

I am not sure this is New Wave but you can see the New Wave from here. This was also adapted to Mind Webs (which featured a number of stories about lengthy ascents and descents).

Decadence” • (1946) • short story by Romain Gary (translator of Décadence” unknown)

Eager to restore a hero of the labor movement to his old position, representatives are alarmed to discover their chum has since embraced fine art.

In the labor hero’s defense, when he was murdering people in droves to solidify syndicate rule, he tried to kill them artistically. His friends just saw that as a harmless quirk.

Be of Good Cheer” • (1964) • short story by Fritz Leiber

A complaints department fields grumbles about robots about as helpfully as one might expect.

It Could Be You” • (1962) • short story by Frank Roberts

All America watches one game show … because any American could find themselves featured on the show. But only once.

A Tor essay about entertainments in which people are killed would be trivial to compose. I’d have to find some other element to narrow down the candidates.

A Benefactor of Humanity” • (1958) • short story by James T. Farrell

The inspiring tale of how one visionary freed publishing from the onerous burden of needing writers.

Well, this one aged really well. The quest to unemploy all writers is ongoing as I type.

Synchromocracy” • (1964) • short story by Hap Cawood

Glorious technological developments deliver near-perfect democracy, uninhibited by mere human factors.

The Search • (1964) • poem by Bruce Simonds

A decades-long effort to replace humans with indistinguishable replacements succeeds at its every goal … save that of demonstrating that it was necessary.

The Pirokin Effect” • (1964) • short story by Larry Eisenberg

Ham radio enthusiasts reveal a hitherto forgotten episode in Jewish history.

The Twerlik” • (1964) • short story by Jack Sharkey

Contact with a human space probe provides an alien with an epiphany about its place in the universe.

A Rose for Ecclesiastes • (1963) • novelette by Roger Zelazny

An Earthman finds true love on Mars. True love declines to give him her phone number.

Aware that space probes were going to transform our knowledge of the Solar System, Zelazny forsightfully wrote a number of Old Solar System stories. This is the one for Mars.

The Terminal Beach • (1964) • novelette by J. G. Ballard

A grieving man seeks solitude on a former hydrogen bomb test site. A celebration of entropy ensues.

Problem Child” • (1964) • short story by Arthur Porges

Bitterly disappointed by a seemingly mentally subnormal child, a man discovers he misunderstood the child’s true issues.

It’s a pretty safe bet that any anthology of this vintage will offer some pronounced ableism.

The Wonderful Dog Suit” • (1964) • short story by Donald Hall

A convincing fur-suit proves to have an unfortunate design flaw.

The Mathenauts” • (1964) • short story by Norman Kagan

Bold forays into mathematical vistas transform society.

Family Portrait” • (1964) • short story by Morgan Kent

Parents are delighted by their son’s development.

Yeah, this is a psionics story. But it’s not from Analog.

The Red Egg” • (1964) • short story by José María Gironella

A cancer takes on a life of its own.

The Power of Positive Thinking” • (1964) • short story by M. E. White

An innocent child alarms the authorities with tales of her homelife.

A Living Doll” • (1964) • short story by Robert Wallace

A marvelously constructed doll proves the very thing to deal with an unruly child’s misbehavior.

Training Talk” • [Training Talk] • (1964) • short story by David R. Bunch

A stern parent is alarmed when a simple demonstration fails to produce the intended lesson.

There are two stories in this series. The second is called Training Talk No. 12”. Best not to wonder how many readers went looking for Training Talks 2 through 11.

A Miracle Too Many” • (1964) • short story by Alan E. Nourse and Philip H. Smith

A humble doctor gains a healing touch, with disruptive and ultimately tragic results.

The Last Lonely Man” • (1964) • short story by John Brunner

A charitable gesture is its own punishment.

The Man Who Found Proteus” • (1964) • short story by Robert Rohrer

A rustic has an escalating series of undesirable encounters with a ravenous shape-shifter.

The rustic can’t extrapolate or he’d have seen how this would end.

Yachid and Yechida” • (1964) • short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer

A celestial being is sentenced to death … or as humans perceive it, life.

This was an interesting inversion of perspective.

Summation (10th Annual Edition: The Year’s Best S‑F) • (1965) • essay by Judith Merril

A commentary on 1964’s SF, Anthony Boucher being unavailable. One important detail: it was easier for writers to make a living at this stuff in 1964 than when Merril began the series.

Honorable Mentions • (1965) • essay by Judith Merril 

Stories almost good enough to be included. Authors like Dorman and Brackett may be found here.