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The Strangest Things

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Tenth Annual Collection  (The Year’s Best Science Fiction, volume 10)

Edited by Gardner Dozois 

27 Sep, 2022

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1993’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Tenth Annual Collection is the tenth volume in Gardner Dozois’ annual anthologies of noteworthy science fiction1.

As one might expect of an anthology of this vintage (about half the current human population was not born when this volume first appeared), a number of the stories focus on issues pressing at the time but long since put aside in favour of newer topics. In particular, nothing ages as quickly as pop culture references. Humane interrogation of random passersby would reveal, I believe, that neither John Lennon nor Elvis Presley enjoy the stature they did ten to fifteen years after their deaths. In contrast, other stories (like the Kress offering) address issues which, while transformed by the passage of time, are still with us in recognizable form. 

Any tome this large will have entries that diverge wildly from my preferences. In cases like the Willis, this is no doubt merely a matter of taste. However, I simply cannot fathom why Dozois included the Clarke, which is tedious and forgettable even at story length (and was somehow even worse as a novel). 

Stoned undergrads everywhere may find pondering the Egan story particularly diverting (I remember heated discussions back in the days of USENET). 

With the exceptions noted above, this volume is generally of a high quality. However, as has been true of previous volumes, what I found most fascinating was the history of the field as presented in the annual summation. While Dozois is openly cautious about how he tackles any subject about which he might be seen to have a conflict of interest due to being editor of Asimov’s, the summation is an enjoyable stroll through events either then unknown to me then or long since forgotten. 

(I just wish there had been a parallel series focusing on the SF by women that Dozois consistently overlooked. Ah, well. A job for Journey Press when Gideon Marcus and company reach the 1990s.)

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Tenth Annual Collection is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo). While The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Tenth Annual Collection is listed here (Book Depository), it’s not actually available. 

Stories in detail:

Summation: 1992 • essay by Gardner Dozois

Dozois’ annual report on the state of the industry in 1992. Publishing was beset by the first Bush recession, but the situation does not appear to have been as calamitous as it was immediately after the liquidation of the American News Company.

These essays are always highlights of each volume in the series. Dozois does not seem much impressed by SF in 1992 (especially not by fan-favourite Babylon 5), but, having seen doldrums before, expects the field will somehow turn itself around as it had in the past. Interestingly, when he mentions past creative cycles Dozois inexplicably overlooks the women SF authors of the 1970s. On a not unrelated note, three quarters of the stories in this volume are by men, not atypical for the series.

Each story is accompanied by an extensive and informative bio for the story’s author.

Griffin’s Egg • (1991) • novella by Michael Swanwick

An unexpected romance on the Moon is complicated by an equally unexpected nuclear war down on Earth. Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. 

Even the Queen” • (1992) • short story by Connie Willis

A youthful relative’s enthusiastic embrace of a dotty political movement seems alarming, but of course in the end she will realize that her older relatives know best. 

This story is, despite being centered on a radical new medical technology, incredibly conservative. 

The Round-Eyed Barbarians” • (1992) • short story by L. Sprague de Camp

A proud Chinese functionary in China’s New World colony encounters and is not much impressed by a European expedition. The Europeans are as proud as the Chinese, but not as well armed. 

This is an alternate history in which the turning point is the continuation of the Treasure Fleetsand the consequent discovery of the New World by China well before the Europeans arrive. 

Dust • (1992) • novelette by Greg Egan

An experiment in artificial intelligence leads to revelations about the nature of reality. 

Two Guys from the Future” • (1992) • short story by Terry Bisson

The appearance of two conniving time travellers presents an artist with a valuable professional opportunity.

The Mountain to Mohammed” • (1992) • short story by Nancy Kress

A doctor struggles to provide health care without losing his practice to the impediments imposed by the nightmarish American healthcare system of tomorrow.

Single payer health care is like the metric system, in that Americans will use anything else rather than resorting to it. Points to Kress for inventing something a bit worse than the system in place in 1992.

The Coming of Vertumnus • (1992) • novella by Ian Watson

An art scam places the protagonist in the sights of a secretive but powerful Habsburg conspiracy. 

A Long Night’s Vigil at the Temple • (1992) • novelette by Robert Silverberg

This is a story by Robert Silverberg. 

The Hammer of God • (1992) • short story by Arthur C. Clarke

One stalwart crew of forgettable stock characters stands between Earth and standard METEORIC DOOM.

Late Clarke works are usually not all that great. No idea how this story made the cut to be included. 

Did Deep Impact and Armageddoncrib from The Hammer of God?

Grownups • (1992) • novella by Ian R. MacLeod

Nothing young people can do will save them from dread maturity.

Graves” • (1992) • short story by Joe Haldeman

Dispatched to deal with a peculiar corpse, an American soldier encounters an Asian phenomenon that will haunt his nightmares. 

The Glowing Cloud • (1992) • novella by Steven Utley

Time travellers play a cat-and-mouse game, aware that Mt. Pelée will soon erase the community in which they find themselves.

Gravity’s Angel” • (1992) • short story by Tom Maddox

A scientist tries to warn the Superconducting Synchrotron Collider staff of impending calamity, only to be dismissed because she is but a mere woman. A correct mere woman, as it turns out. 

If you’ve not heard of the SSC, it may be because funding was cancelled in 1993 and it was never completed. Other aspects of the story have not become as outdated as one might hope. 

Protection • (1992) • novella by Maureen F. McHugh

A petty criminal is transformed, thanks to reeducation in the socialist America of tomorrow.

The Last Cardinal Bird in Tennessee” • (1990) • short story by Neal Barrett, Jr.

A short play set in the rather disappointing America of tomorrow. 

Not as bleak as some Barretts I have read but, given how bleak Barrett can be, that is not saying much. 

Birth Day” • (1992) • short story by Robert Reed

The Singularity has come and gone but humans are still humans, now forced to live alongside their godlike creations.

Naming Names • (1992) • novelette by Pat Cadigan

A very special young woman struggles to avoid becoming her father’s puppet. 

The Elvis National Theater of Okinawa” • (1992) • short story by Lukas Jaeger and Jonathan Lethem

An episode in the thrilling Elvis Impersonator field of tomorrow.

Remember when Elvisin the future was a thing? 

The Territory • (1992) • novella by Bradley Denton

His brother’s murder steers Samuel Clemens down a dark path during the Slavers’ Rebellion. His incompetence and essential good nature save Clemens in the end.

The Best and the Rest of James Joyce • (1992) • novelette by Ian McDonald

An exploration of the James Joyce that might have been, had history played out differently. 

Naming the Flowers • (1992) • novella by Kate Wilhelm

An encounter with an odd little girl entangles the protagonist in a struggle between stock humanity as represented by the FBI and the new species that may well replace us. 

Snodgrass • (1992) • novelette by Ian R. MacLeod

A disgruntled John Lennon has an unexpected and unwanted encounter with former colleagues in the band from which he walked away back in the 1960s.

Remember when John Lennon in the future was a thing?

This isn’t an implausible alternate history. Lennon (inadvertently) avoids assassination at the cost of obscurity. 

By the Mirror of My Youth” • (1992) • short story by Kathe Koja

A monstrous man exploits an unjust law so that he may possess the clone of his terminally ill ex-wife. While the original of the clone is convinced that this injustice can be prevented by slow but sure legal means, the clone is considerably less patient. 

Outnumbering the Dead • (1990) • novella by Frederik Pohl

A doomed entertainer struggles with mortality, little helped by immortal kinfolk for whom death is an incomprehensible oddity. 

Honorable Mentions: 1992 • essay by Gardner Dozois

A lengthy summation of works that were almost but not quite good enough for inclusion. The quantity of material Dozois got through each year is impressive.

1: At least one volume in the series used the title Best New SF 7. Confusing. Bad publisher.