The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018
A collection of the best American science fiction and fantasy stories from 2017.Today’s readers of science fiction and fantasy have an appetite for stories that address a wide variety of voices, perspectives, and styles. There is an openness to experiment and pushing boundaries, combined with the classic desire to read about space ships and dragons, future technology and ancient magic, and the places where they intersect. Contemporary science fiction and fantasy looks to accomplish the same goal as ever—to illuminate what it means to be human. With a diverse selection of stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor N. K. Jemisin, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 explores the ever-expanding and changing world of SFF today, with Jemisin bringing her lyrical, endlessly curious point of view to the series’ latest edition.Rivers Run Free / Charles Payseur --Destroy the City With Me Tonight / Kate Alice Marshall --You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych / Kathleen Kayembe --Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities / Lettie Prell --Loneliness is in Your Blood / Cadwell Turnbull --The Hermit of Houston / Samuel R. Delany --The Last Cheng Beng Gift / Jaymee Goh --Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn / A. Merc Rustad --The Resident / Carmen Maria Machado --The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant / Rachael K. Jones --Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast / Gwendolyn Clare --Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue / Charlie Jane Anders --Church of Birds / Micah Dean Hicks --ZeroS / Peter Watts --Carnival Nine / Caroline M. Yoachim --The Wretched and the Beautiful / E. Lily Yu --The Orange Tree / Maria Dahvana Headley --Cannibal Acts / Maureen McHugh --Black Powder / Maria Dahvana Headley --Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance / Tobias S. Buckell

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 Details

TitleThe Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 2nd, 2018
PublisherMariner Books
ISBN-139781328834560
Rating
GenreFantasy, Short Stories, Science Fiction, Fiction, Anthologies

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 Review

  • Lena
    January 1, 1970
    River Run Free by Charles Payseur ★★★★☆ “Beyond the mountains and beyond the forests and farther still, there’s the sea. So vast and so powerful that the waters of it know no fear. And we’ll tell the sea of what’s happening here, and it will feel the pain of its children and it will rise and flow across the land. Over the forests and the mountains and the Dust and it will tear down the dams and the dikes and the locks and the citadel. And the Dust will be green again, and the Luteans will drown. River Run Free by Charles Payseur ★★★★☆ “Beyond the mountains and beyond the forests and farther still, there’s the sea. So vast and so powerful that the waters of it know no fear. And we’ll tell the sea of what’s happening here, and it will feel the pain of its children and it will rise and flow across the land. Over the forests and the mountains and the Dust and it will tear down the dams and the dikes and the locks and the citadel. And the Dust will be green again, and the Luteans will drown.” I hope the river people get their revenge. Obviously, this was an allegory about climate change and the moral decay of colonialism.The beginning was confusing, is this Gaia speaking? But, overall a good story.Destroy the City with Me Tonight by Kate Alice Marshall ★★★½☆ “Men and women with maps on their bones, cities that own them.” Lonely superhero story. As origins go, I like the idea of Casper-Williams Syndrome. It’s the greed of the city spirit I found off-putting.You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych by Kathleen Kayembe ★★☆☆☆ Steeped in Congolese folklore and magic, that I know nothing about, this was a painful story about a man who destroyed his family. Unenjoyable.Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities by Lettie Prell ★★☆☆☆ A murder awaiting sentencing dreams of different realities with different systems of justice and wonders if he would get a better deal there. Interesting but unenjoyable. Loneliness Is In Your Blood by Cadwell Turnbull ★★★½☆ African vampire story! Snapshot of the life cycle of a night hag/vampire who came over with the slaves and eventually has a child. The Hermit of Houston by Samuel R. Delany DNFThis was some kind of dystopia(?) about a sex switch future where you don’t talk about sex. Then there was lots of talk about sex. Not interesting, and worse, boring.The Last Cheng Beng Gift by Jaymee Goh ★★½☆☆ Mrs. Lim begins receiving odd afterlife gifts from the daughter she liked least and considered giving away. When she goes to check on that daughter she is horrified the girl has dropped out of engineering school and is living as an artist in poverty. The daughter tearfully constructs beautiful afterlife gifts for her mother. I think we are meant to believe there is resolution but it didn’t feel that way.Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn by A. Marc Rustad ★★★½☆ A little bit of Murderbot, a teaspoon of Star Wars, and a dash of Firefly have made a surprisingly low key story about a sentient ship and her crew who decide to defy the Empire.The Resident by Carmen Maria Machado ★★☆☆☆ 95% introspection.Our MC is an unnamed lesbian writer with issues at a writers retreat writing a story about a crazy lesbian in the woods, or attic, or wherever. The story ends asking you not to be judgy about the gothically weak lesbian with issues going nuts in the woods.Don’t apologize, just write something better.The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant by Rachel K. Jones ★★★☆☆ Escaped cyborg find they can’t escape their instincts to serve humans.Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast by Gwendolyn Clare ★★★½☆ Snapshot look at a Roman/Game of Thrones-type dystopian fantasy world where thousands of lives are lost for the emperors love of wine.Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue by Charlie Jane Anders ★½☆☆☆A transgender person is kidnapped by the Love and Dignity for Everyone corporation. The person must fight to stay who they are.This was less science fiction than total science nonsense used by the writer as a stepping stone for anger over normalization practices.But really? Drilling a hole in the skull and somehow that drains and reanimated a corpse with your reprogrammed personality and memories? I’ve seen made for TV Space Spider movies that try harder.Church of Birds by Micah Dean Hicks ★★★★☆ That was a great derivation of the Swan Princess that could have fit neatly in Zoe Gilbert’s Folk. In fact, I thought it was from Folk for the first two pages.ZeroS by Peter Watts ★★★★☆ The best story thus far, if a bit long. Dying soldiers are offered a second chance by becoming “zombie” soldiers. Their brains are hardwired with separation between conscious and unconscious, creating a fearless army of id - a pack of wolves.There's an interesting exploration of battlefield morality, the limits of military bioscience, and our relationship with our own minds.The gestalt villain was a nice touch too. Very creepy if you have never read one. My first was in The Rook.Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim ★★★★★ “My life has been different from the adventures I imagined as a child, but I made the most of the turns I was given, and that’s all any of us can do.” In this mountain of mediocre I was completely unprepared for a tearjerker. From the first lines I completely saw this as a Tim Burton movie, animated as A Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s a story about family, and using the time you have to be with the ones you love.And now I’m crying harder and I have to go call my mom for no reason. Read it for yourself: http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.co...The Wretched and the Beautiful by E. Lily Yu ★½☆☆☆A heavy-handed story about negative attitudes towards immigration.The Orange Tree by Maria Dahvana Headley ★★★★☆ MD Headley and Theodora Goss have carved out this lovely niche for themselves; taking tired machismo stories and giving them fresh feminist revisions. Call me a fan.Cannibal Acts by Maureen McHugh ★★☆☆☆ Just a snapshot of your basic end of the world desperation. It takes place in Alaska and that is the extent of its specialness. Black Powder by Maria Dahvana Headley ★★★★☆ “She frees herself from the job of story. She’s been the girl who tells tales nightly... She frees herself from the job of guiding men through the dark.” Only MD Headley could rewrite the story of Scheherazade; connecting wishes, bullets, love, and time.But it was choppy. It either needed one less thread or ten more stitches.The writing is lovely.“The wishes in this story are wishes built the way wishes are always built, and the way bullets are built too, to keep going long after they’ve left the safety of silence.” Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias S. Buckell ★★★★★ “I seek moral guidance outside clear legal parameters,” I said. “And confession.” “Tell me everything.” And I did. Perfect short story! Not a snapshot, not a preview, not a taste - a full story. I haven’t read one of those since Ursula Vernon’s The Tomato Thief. Due to programming obligations a robot is forced to help a murder evade custody. But with a little guidance from a higher power she will turn the tables!I’m a big fan of comeuppance stories. Great choice for a closer.I read 19/20 stories and the average was 3.184. While there were standouts, overall I was disappointed with the choices.
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  • Monica **can't read fast enough**
    January 1, 1970
    I took my time and read this anthology slowly which worked out really well for me. The stories stayed separate in my mind and didn't all run together. I was able to enjoy them more individually than if I had pushed through the whole thing straight through. Like all collections I enjoyed some more than others but they all had interesting approaches and stories. All in all an enjoyable collection of stories. I now have some new to me authors to track down other writings from. You can find me at:•( I took my time and read this anthology slowly which worked out really well for me. The stories stayed separate in my mind and didn't all run together. I was able to enjoy them more individually than if I had pushed through the whole thing straight through. Like all collections I enjoyed some more than others but they all had interesting approaches and stories. All in all an enjoyable collection of stories. I now have some new to me authors to track down other writings from. You can find me at:•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•Twitter: @MonlatReaderInstagram: @readermonicaFacebook: Monica Reeds Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase
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  • Corinne
    January 1, 1970
    I was so impressed with what the editor wrote about how the stories were curated (next paragraph) that I really looked forward to reading this and let it cut in line, ahead of all my TBRs. I thought the editors did the "heavy lifting" and I'd sit back and read some really great fiction. I am so disappointed, I ended up kinda hating this anthology. I guess what the masters of the craft read is far beyond where I'm at. I'll have to remember that going forward. I received for free from editor but w I was so impressed with what the editor wrote about how the stories were curated (next paragraph) that I really looked forward to reading this and let it cut in line, ahead of all my TBRs. I thought the editors did the "heavy lifting" and I'd sit back and read some really great fiction. I am so disappointed, I ended up kinda hating this anthology. I guess what the masters of the craft read is far beyond where I'm at. I'll have to remember that going forward. I received for free from editor but will be purging from computer & kindle. From the intro. JJA read everything pub that year that met the criteria. He created a list of 40 SF & 40 Fantasy stories he felt were the top eighty. Then the guest editor whittled it down to 10 & 10. NKJ read them not knowing who the authors were or where they were published. Those 20 are in this book. The other 60 are listed in the Notable stories section. JJA said "... I don’t have an exact count of how many stories I reviewed or considered. But as in past years, I estimate that it was several thousand stories altogether, perhaps as many as five thousand."-----------------------Rivers Run Free by Charles Payseur (orig in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. free here: http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.co...) 2.5*In NKJs intro she said "...which replaces oppressed people with dammed/diverted/drained rivers who are anthropomorphically embodied - and piiiiiissed about what humans have done to them." Her saying that helped me get started with the story because phew, I struggled with this not perfectly clear story. I could feel it trying to get me to let go and think differently. In the end, I couldn't get there.-----------------------Destroy the City With Me Tonight by Kate Alice Marshall (orig in Behind the Mask) 3* Wow. Very Fantasy. Very unique. I'm not sure my desc can do it justice. :/ Roads start appearing on people's skin and others stop seeing that person, including their families/bf/gf. They are considered infected with some virus but it seems more like a city is calling them. They use the maps on their skin to find out which city is claiming them and go there. The city takes care of them and they take care of crime and other problems in that city. They gain powers also.------------------------You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych by Kathleen Kayembe 2.5* (orig in Nightmare magazine, HERE) Wow that was a long short story and it was a lot of work, I had to really focus on the telling. It was told in 3 different POV until they all met up. Opens in the recent present by the "cousin" but it doesn't really come together until the "twins" POVs join in to explain the past. When it ends, I feel like I liked the story (or maybe I'm just happy it's over). I got an almost complete story but I am a little pissed about how it unfolded. Summary - (view spoiler)[Twins with a mother and a father living in a time of poverty and old myth & beliefs. The mother dies, the father accuses one of the twins of being a witch and causing her death. He always had his suspicion but this seals the deal for him. The father leaves for America (for some reason) and takes one of the 7 year old twins but leaves the "witch" one behind to fend for himself and die in the streets. That left behind twin has some huge resentment and uses his "witchiness" to get the chance to get back at his old piece of shit father. Doesn't quite end the way he hopes. (hide spoiler)]-----------------------Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities by Lettie Prell (orig Clarkesworld emag here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/prell...) 1* wtf was that? oh, I know, a waste of time. A criminal, due to desperation, is in a cell and for some reason he has snippets of different prosecution scenarios run through his mind. Not a story.-----------------------The Resident by Carmen Maria Machado - damn it, got about 75% done. DNF. Too dreamy with sentences that make no sense. Things happened and aren't discussed or explained. And there is an event in her past that obviously is still effecting her and we aren't privy to that. I feel like it will never be revealed. I'm done.-----------------------Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue by Charlie Jane Anders DNF I'm not fond of being dropped into a situation and then sitting in confusion as it's slowly revealed. That can work of course but I was not engaged.----------------------ZeroS by Peter Watts DNF mhm. didn't get too far. Opens with at least 4 uncommon named beings in a fight. So I get dropped into the action. This sentence makes sense when you know they are fighting but not if you don’t. “Asante goes out screaming. Hell is an echo chamber, full of shouts and seawater and clanking metal." My brain - so he is on a submarine and what, he's exiting through some chamber? And the submarine is called Hell? "The Sahilites rise from the moon pool like creatures from some bright lagoon, firing as they emerge; Rashida's middle explodes in dark mist and her top half topples onto the deck...." Me - wtf is a moon pool? I spent too much time deciphering this, I just want to read. Not in the right mind set to decipher. tapping out.---------------------Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim World Fantasy Award short story nominee 2018 Originally in Beneath Ceaseless Skies available free: http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.co... 3* Not really what I enjoy reading. Replace the wind up dolls with humans and you have realistic fiction. The story is a reminder, in a very inventive way, that we only get so much time in a day and in a life time. These characters get a certain amount of "turns" (the key on their backs) before they are done for the day. They have to make wise choices or they'll run out before the day is done. They barter, they plan, they give their turns to those in need. ----------------------Cannibal Acts by Maureen McHugh DNF apocalyptic. Science, “big” viruses, war. I tap out on those but not on the cannibalism :/----------------------Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias S. Buckell DNF I'm not sure I'm a true SF fan. Fantasy yes. Horror yes. But this may be an example of me not really liking SF. "Back then, you were downloaded into hyperdense pin-sized starships that hung off the edge of the speed of light, assembling what was needed on arrival via self-replicating nanomachines that you spun your mind-states off into. I’m sure there are billions of copies of my essential self scattered throughout the galaxy by this point." <--- what?!Skipped stories are hidden behind spoiler. (view spoiler)[Loneliness is in Your Blood by Cadwell Turnbull The Hermit of Houston by Samuel R. Delany The Last Cheng Beng Gift by Jaymee Goh Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn by A. Merc RustadThe Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant by Rachael K. Jones Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast by Gwendolyn ClareChurch of Birds by Micah Dean Hicks The Wretched and the Beautiful by E. Lily Yu The Orange Tree by Maria Dahvana Headley Black Powder by Maria Dahvana Headley (hide spoiler)]
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  • Matthew Quann
    January 1, 1970
    While reading the short stories N.K. Jemisin curated for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, I was taken aback by how substantial an undertaking it must be to create an anthology. Reading through a pile of short stories and coming up with a handful that will represent not only what you think is best, but what will appeal to the diverse eyes of an audience has got to be a real challenge.With that said, I think Jemisin and series editor, John Joseph Adams, have done a pretty good j While reading the short stories N.K. Jemisin curated for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, I was taken aback by how substantial an undertaking it must be to create an anthology. Reading through a pile of short stories and coming up with a handful that will represent not only what you think is best, but what will appeal to the diverse eyes of an audience has got to be a real challenge.With that said, I think Jemisin and series editor, John Joseph Adams, have done a pretty good job here. Some of the stories are revelatory, some just okay, some I didn't enjoy at all, and one story even got abandoned halfway through because it was the cause of some medical-grade reading stagnation. Luckily, given the diversity of subject matter--fantasy, sci-fi, horror, fables, and new weird all take some time at centre stage--it's more than likely that you'll find stories that do something for you. I'll highlight Charlie Jane Anders contribution, Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue, for being my favourite of the batch and a welcome warm-up for her new novel. Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias S. Buckell also closes the collection with a smart story brimming with excellent sci-fi premises. Though the stories do often highlight issues of social injustice (as I believe great SFF should do), some of the stories seem too focused on theme at the expense of plot. Anders' short story, by comparison, is a great example of a emotionally resonant representation of injustice with a sci-fi twist.Though I took a good few months to work my way through the entirety of the collection, the really great stories made my reading worthwhile. The last three or four stories also were strong enough that I began to forgive the stories from the start and middle that didn't quite snap into place. Definitely worth a gander for SFF fans, though I would be inclined to recommend a low story-skipping threshold!
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  • Holly
    January 1, 1970
    This book seriously needs to be retitled "Tales of Virtue for Our Times (With a Smidge of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Thrown In to Make it Genre)"This is not a book of fantasy and sci-fi short stories, as it is represented. This is actually a collection of sermons about inclusion.That being said, there is a time when the choir bores of being preached to and this book marks the watershed event.From here on out I will read only literary works that were created for literary purposes. Books that were written This book seriously needs to be retitled "Tales of Virtue for Our Times (With a Smidge of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Thrown In to Make it Genre)"This is not a book of fantasy and sci-fi short stories, as it is represented. This is actually a collection of sermons about inclusion.That being said, there is a time when the choir bores of being preached to and this book marks the watershed event.From here on out I will read only literary works that were created for literary purposes. Books that were written to tell a fascinating tale. So no more participating in group reads of crap that was published for purely commercial gain. Thankfully I borrowed a copy from a friend and read it for free. If I had paid real money of this faux literature I would be pissed.
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  • Richard
    January 1, 1970
    Pretty lame compilation. Some of it is mildly interesting, but sci-fi today - if this represents it - seems to have lost its creativity and edginess, and sadly, what made it interesting - the "science" part. The biggest disappointment is that they don't make or try to make any sense. "Rivers Run Free," the first story, is very pretty, but like the stories that follow "Destroy the City with Me," "You Will Always Have a Family," while creative and "neat", are far less interesting than science fict Pretty lame compilation. Some of it is mildly interesting, but sci-fi today - if this represents it - seems to have lost its creativity and edginess, and sadly, what made it interesting - the "science" part. The biggest disappointment is that they don't make or try to make any sense. "Rivers Run Free," the first story, is very pretty, but like the stories that follow "Destroy the City with Me," "You Will Always Have a Family," while creative and "neat", are far less interesting than science fiction from the 1970s and 1980s, as they don't any attempt to be "scientific", and don't fall into any enjoyable tropes of fantasy. I would classify most of these as "imaginative" writing - and far less interesting than Borges or Mieville. The bios in the back are cringeworthy - how cool am I? It would be nice if there were some scientists who wrote this stuff or engineers. Way too cute, way too dumb, and not even weird in a good way.I read another review of this and it said the book was a collection of "sermons on inclusion." I'm not sure that's exactly how it would phrase it - but the "message" of these stories was a large part of the content - and not the really interesting part of the genre. Sci-fi has had "messaging" throughout its history, but it was always in the context of the genre. The point was to make a "world" or a scientific point in the context of the message. As a result the stories are pretty, but empty, and fundamentally uninteresting.
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  • Ari
    January 1, 1970
    this would be a four-star collection (great stories nearly top to bottom, rare in any anthology), but for the fact that Maria Dahvana Headley's first story (of two) in this aggravated me so deeply. it's the story "The Orange Tree," which takes as its premise "what if 11th century CE Jewish poet/philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol used kabbalah to make a sex robot."It uses that to explore the ways in which women are silenced and their personhood overwritten by men, which, whatever, fine, that's #femi this would be a four-star collection (great stories nearly top to bottom, rare in any anthology), but for the fact that Maria Dahvana Headley's first story (of two) in this aggravated me so deeply. it's the story "The Orange Tree," which takes as its premise "what if 11th century CE Jewish poet/philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol used kabbalah to make a sex robot."It uses that to explore the ways in which women are silenced and their personhood overwritten by men, which, whatever, fine, that's #feminist, except what isn't so much (and what disappointed me specifically in a collection curated to contain revolutionary fiction) is depicting a Jewish man as a bitter, abusive magician who uses his powers to hurt women.The Jew as Satanic magician abusing innocent (gentile) women is a long-running trope, one that pervaded medieval Europe, and that hasn't disappeared yet. Taking a real-life Jewish poet and framing him like this isn't revolutionary, only hurtful, and I'm astonished that nobody in the writing, editing, or curating processes involved in this story's creation and selection for this anthology thought of that.(as my own personal, bitter jewish aside: I can think of one other sf/f work that has a Sephardic Jew in it, period, and it felt like a slap in the face to open this one up and see what the author had done with one of ours.)
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  • Samantha (AK)
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free review copy from the editor. Every year, John Joseph Adams compiles a list of eighty short stories that he considers to be the best American science-fiction & fantasy offerings in the previous calendar year. He then passes them--stripped of author information--to a guest editor, who weeds the list down to twenty: ten SF, ten fantasy. As this year’s guest editor (the wonderful N.K. Jemisin) mentions in her introduction: ...as Le Guin noted, most readers presume that one of I received a free review copy from the editor. Every year, John Joseph Adams compiles a list of eighty short stories that he considers to be the best American science-fiction & fantasy offerings in the previous calendar year. He then passes them--stripped of author information--to a guest editor, who weeds the list down to twenty: ten SF, ten fantasy. As this year’s guest editor (the wonderful N.K. Jemisin) mentions in her introduction: ...as Le Guin noted, most readers presume that one of these genres (and only one) is future-oriented. They aggrandize the predictive nature of science fiction while dismissing fantasy as regressive, when in fact both genres are actually about the present: science fiction through allegory, and fantasy by concatenation. The twenty stories in this volume cross the entire range of speculative fiction, from the folkloric horror of Kathleen Kayembe’s ”You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych”, to the military SF of Peter Watts’ experimental super soldiers in ”ZeroS”. Samuel R. Delany’s ”The Hermit of Houston” is the most challenging contribution to this volume: a future(ish) exploration of what stories we tell ourselves, and what is acceptable, and who controls that acceptability, all as experienced through the mundane, everyday life of an aging gay couple. The setting is alternately utopian and horrifying, and the love story surprisingly tender, but (in true Delany fashion) it’s rather opaque on the first read.Two of these I’d read (and enjoyed) in their original publications: Caroline Yoachim’s “Carnival Nine” is a tale of disability in a clockwork world. Tobias Buckell’s “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” is a clever bit of work that turns the usual robot tropes on their heads when a maintenance ‘bot finds itself beholden to a conniving human CEO.To my joy, some of the offerings are delightfully unconventional. These are genres that exist to challenge assumptions, to ask “why?” and “what if?” To push. And so we see superheroes grappling with a disease that gives them power even as it destroys their personal identities in Kate Alice Marshall’s ”Destroy the City with Me Tonight.” , and ”Rivers Run Free” in Charles Payseur’s fantastical exploration of how marginalized communities are set against each other.The creeping madness of Engineer in Rachel K. Jones’ ”The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant” shows the gory end of desperation to please the audience at any cost, a sentiment echoed (in an entirely different form) by the protagonist of Carmen Maria Machado’s ”The Resident” a kind of gothic fantasy figure who eventually embraces herself as the madwoman in her own attic, with the right to write whatever she wants.I didn’t like them all. Lettie Prell’s “Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities,” in which a prisoner catches glimpses of different justice systems while awaiting his own sentence, was a series of insubstantial vignettes, however interesting; and I found E. Lily Yu’s depiction of an ambivalent society’s response to ugly alien refugees in “The Wretched and the Beautiful” both heavy-handed and instantly forgettable.More touching for me were stories like Charlie Jane Anders’ ”Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue”, a gut-wrenching tale of a woman kidnapped by an organization who wants to ‘fix’ her, when she has no desire to be ‘fixed;’ and Maria Dahvana Headley’s ”The Orange Tree,” a story about an 11th century female golem made from wood, and how she comes into her own.The thing about anthologies is that you don’t have to like every story, but even the ones in this volume that didn’t work for me gave me something to think about. The Best American Science-Fiction and Fantasy 2018 presents a wonderful cross-section of talent, well worth reading for anyone curious as to the state of the genre(s) today.
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  • Chris Vanjonack
    January 1, 1970
    As always with the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series, I really appreciate the socially progressive themes throughout this collection (which are themed around revolution!), but I had a tough time engaging with many of these stories. There are definitely some gems throughout-- particularly "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Shoot" by Charlie Jane Anders, "Church of Birds" by Micah Dean Hicks, "The Resident" by Carmen Maria Machado, and "You Will Always Have Family: A Trptych" by Kathl As always with the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series, I really appreciate the socially progressive themes throughout this collection (which are themed around revolution!), but I had a tough time engaging with many of these stories. There are definitely some gems throughout-- particularly "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Shoot" by Charlie Jane Anders, "Church of Birds" by Micah Dean Hicks, "The Resident" by Carmen Maria Machado, and "You Will Always Have Family: A Trptych" by Kathleen Kayembe.
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  • Marie-Therese
    January 1, 1970
    Very good, wide-ranging anthology featuring a diverse mix of styles and voices, as well as authors both well-known and long published and others very new to the genre. The book stumbles a bit at the beginning (I felt the first two stories, by Charles Payseur and Katie Alice Marshall, were by far the weakest in the volume and, to my mind, not worthy of inclusion in a "best" collection) but regains its footing with Kathleen Kayembe's "You Will Always Have a Family: a Triptych", gains speed and ass Very good, wide-ranging anthology featuring a diverse mix of styles and voices, as well as authors both well-known and long published and others very new to the genre. The book stumbles a bit at the beginning (I felt the first two stories, by Charles Payseur and Katie Alice Marshall, were by far the weakest in the volume and, to my mind, not worthy of inclusion in a "best" collection) but regains its footing with Kathleen Kayembe's "You Will Always Have a Family: a Triptych", gains speed and assurance with Caldwell Turner's "Loneliness is in Your Blood" and really hits its stride with Samuel Delany's "The Hermit of Houston" (probably the best recent fictional work I've read by this veteran author). After that everything is worth reading, although not all are necessarily what I would have chosen as "best" of the year (Rachael K. Jones' "The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant" is cute but not much more, and Charlie Jane Anders' "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue" reads more like a bleeding chunk of some longer work than a fully realized, self-contained story). There are some truly exceptional stories here though: both pieces by Maria Dahvana Headley impressed me with their verbal beauty, rich imagery, and evocative historical settings; Peter Watts' "ZeroS" managed to bring the zombie trope to life in a hard sci-fi tale that was both technically and emotionally satisfying and well as being masterfully paced (need to read more by Watts ASAP!); Micah Dean Hicks' "Church of Birds" is an effective and melancholy take on what happens after the happy ever after of a familiar fairy tale; and Carmen Maria Machado's "The Resident", first published in her debut story collection 'Her Body and Other Parties', remains as emotionally resonant, surprising, and slightly disorienting as the first time I read it-I suspect this tale is going to be featured in literary anthologies for years to come. All in all, this is a very worthy installment in this newish series. If Adams keeps picking co-editors of this level of discernment there should be many more fine volumes of 'The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy' to come.
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  • Erika Holt
    January 1, 1970
    An innovative and thought provoking collection of speculative fiction stories with a literary bent. Particular favourites were: "Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn" by A. Merc Rustad, "Carnival Nine" by Caroline M. Yoachim, "The Orange Tree" by Maria Dahvana Headley, and "Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance" by Tobias S. Buckell.
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  • Joshua
    January 1, 1970
    I've read all three years of this series, and try to read as many of the magazines where many of the stories originally came from (Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, etc.); nevertheless, I'm always amazed by what the editors discover, since I've missed about 75% of these stories the first go-round, and many are amazing works of art. I've never been disappointed by any of the three extant anthologies, as the stories are chosen very carefully to capture numerous styles, authors, and points of I've read all three years of this series, and try to read as many of the magazines where many of the stories originally came from (Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, etc.); nevertheless, I'm always amazed by what the editors discover, since I've missed about 75% of these stories the first go-round, and many are amazing works of art. I've never been disappointed by any of the three extant anthologies, as the stories are chosen very carefully to capture numerous styles, authors, and points of view. Sure, sometimes a story seems to sneaky through by its politics alone, but on the whole, these are very indicative of the current market of science fiction and fantasy, and should inspire anyone to seek out the original magazines and anthologies and find more hidden gems that didn't make the cut. In some ways, this is the weakest of the three collections published so far, only in that it makes a few questionable editorial decisions regarding the content. But I'll get to that in a minute. Most of the stories are astoundingly good, with a few representing the very best that I've read in either genre. Highlights for me include:* Prell, Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities--a fun exploration as to what justice might look like in parallel universes, and whether or not there is any objective justice to be found; but also, how the term is easily abused by the people in charge.* Goh, The Last Cheng Beng Gift--a beautiful story about ghosts who receive their ancestral gifts from loved ones before moving on, and what it means to be remembered in this life and the next* Rustad, Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn--a familiar sci-fi trope, the computer with humanity, but taken to a surprising and very emotional level. In this story, a ship-computer decides to illegally hide an underage stowaway and they form a bond. The child helps the computer understand that behind very protocol and statistic lie millions of human lives. * Jones, The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Quadrant--a hilarious yet touching counterpoint to the previous story, focusing on the moment when a job becomes an art form, and what it means when an AI develops its own aesthetic. Grotesque at times, but beautifully told. * Yoachim, Carnival Nine--my favorite story of the bunch, a clever, heart-breaking metaphor for a human life. In it, everyone is literally a wind-up toy, with their day ordered by how many 'turns' you get on the key in your back. This determines what you spend for yourself and for others, and becomes poignant when a mother gives birth to a child who only gets about 10 turns a day. Truly one of the best stories I've read in years.* McHugh, Cannibal Acts--an eye-opening 'end of the world' story that reminds me a lot of Mandel's Station Eleven. In a remote Alaskan town, survivors of a deadly flu are facing the terrible reality of cannibalism; but even when faced with death, the survivors divide into the 'eaters' and the 'non-eaters.' Truly, though, I found something to admire in every story in this volume, and didn't think a single one wasn't worth my time. HOWEVER, I do quibble with the definition of "fantasy" in some of these stories. Case in point, the brilliantly written "The Resident," a very long story which is sort of given pride-of-place in this anthology. It's a fascinating story (if somewhat expected by the end), but it really isn't fantasy or science fiction (they bill it as 'fantasy,' since it follows a science fiction story, and the anthology tries to go from one story to the other. It opens up with a concession to the genre, with the residents of this town all suffering from some unexplained skin ailment, which the main character also gets, but this never really enters sci-fi territory. Again, it's a great story, but it would be published anywhere--it seems unfair to take so much space away from more legitimate sci-fi/fantasy writers. The great master, Samuel Delany, gets a story in, too, which I think is far from his best and is the only snoozer in the volume. Clearly, he got in because of who he is, and I think claiming this was one of the absolute best of the year is pushing it (but who was going to tell him no?). I also object to the anthology including two stories by Maria Headley, one which is relatively long at that. Both stories are good but not enough to warrant the inclusion of both--again, to the exclusion of many other fine writers. But these slight quibbles aside, it's an amazing volume and ultimately supports the claim that this is some of the best writing published in 2018 in either genre. I'm very thankful for this volume and I feel it;'s definitely made me a better reader of the genres, as well as a better writer when I try to approach this subject matter.
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  • Tad Callin
    January 1, 1970
    There are no "bad" stories here.There are stories here that didn't appeal to me as much as the other stories did; there are stories here that left me scratching my head and wondering if I just didn't get it - which is always a possibility, even with stories I love. But there were no stories in this collection that made me think, "If I found this in the slush pile, I would decline it." I fully expected to enjoy the majority of these, just based on the authors in the table of contents. Rachael K. There are no "bad" stories here.There are stories here that didn't appeal to me as much as the other stories did; there are stories here that left me scratching my head and wondering if I just didn't get it - which is always a possibility, even with stories I love. But there were no stories in this collection that made me think, "If I found this in the slush pile, I would decline it." I fully expected to enjoy the majority of these, just based on the authors in the table of contents. Rachael K. Jones and Caroline M. Yoachim always impress me with their work, and at least half of the authors in this collection have had stories appear on Escape Artists podcasts (if quality, free audio is your thing, you should look for those). Jones's "The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant" is a fun story, though it is not as deep or poetic as much of her other work. Yoachim's stories always find an emotional core within an odd or unlikely premise, and "Carnival Nine" delivers like literal clockwork. I found A. Merc Rustad's "Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn" to be typical of Merc's writing: a surprisingly intimate epic, told in terms that humanized the machine characters and confronted the moral quandary presented by refugees in a direct and human manner. Of the tales that did not land with me, some were making ambitious experiments with their narrative form (notably "The Resident" by Carmen Maria Machado) or were telling stories that were either smaller or larger than the short story form is readily able to tell. I found "The Last Cheng Beng Gift" and "Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities" to be of the former variety; both told stories that were small in scope and felt like they ended without telling me everything I needed to know. Samuel R. Delany's "The Hermit of Houston" felt like a much larger story than the format encompasses; attempting to outline the life story of a character that doesn't actually remember their own life story (not a spoiler) may make that unavoidable.A few of these stories moved me, but are the sort of thing that I would hesitate to recommend to someone else unless I knew the intended audience would love them as much as I did. E. Lily Yu's very short and brutal treatment of an alien encounter with Earth, "The Wretched and the Beautiful," is probably too on-the-nose for casual readers, or those who are less than sympathetic to criticism of America's and Europe's current approaches to immigration and refugees. And I think I liked Charlie Jane Anders's "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue" more than even the author did! Anders says in the Contributor's Notes of this story that it "feels like a huge primal scream on paper...when I look back at it now, I'm surprised at how much artifice there is." I frankly loved experiencing both of these stories.I was most surprised by "ZeroS" by Peter Watts. I've grown weary of military SF tropes, zombies, and environmentalism as a story conflict over the years, but Watts manages to combine these elements in a way that - for me - transcended and subverted the tropes. This was a fast, fun read with some emotional highlights, and some interesting questions about what exactly is is that we are loyal to.If I had to name a favorite, I would be torn between the time-bending weird Western flavor of Maria Dahvana Headley's "Black Powder" and the nuanced old black magic of Kathleen Kayembe's "You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych" - both of which touch on family and lore tying old worlds and new together.Overall, this is a volume that is worth your time - either as a disposable doorway to finding some authors you wouldn't otherwise have discovered, or as a collectible snapshot of what 2018 had to offer.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    It is really remarkable how superb the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series is, with this volume particularly remarkable. Every story strong and effective elements, and a few are among the most exciting work I've encountered in years. This is a bit peculiar, as I have not been impressed with the copious editing and occasional introductions of John Joseph Adams, the series editor. But here he seems to be doing an excellent job hiring stellar writers to select the final stories. In thi It is really remarkable how superb the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series is, with this volume particularly remarkable. Every story strong and effective elements, and a few are among the most exciting work I've encountered in years. This is a bit peculiar, as I have not been impressed with the copious editing and occasional introductions of John Joseph Adams, the series editor. But here he seems to be doing an excellent job hiring stellar writers to select the final stories. In this case, the remarkable NK Jemison has outdone herself. Standing out in a very strong collection is Samuel R. Delany's The Hermit of Housten, perhaps his first science fiction short story in decades.Delany's story is an extremely peculiar and excellent account of a man's lifelong romance to his male partner. You have to piece together the world they live in very slowly and painfully, in part because it because it becomes clear the protagonist has some profound confusions about basic facts. (His partner and him, for example, argue if the world is flat or round, and much later the protagonist discovers his partner spent time working in a "virtual lunar colony" and likely around a moon of an outer planet, but always understood that as part of the infinite flat plane of earth.) It is a far future scenario, with humans apparently geographically segregated by gender. It's oddness, and the difficulty of making sense of the world, is masterfully done, unique and unexpected. After being one of the best SF authors of the 1960s, Delany stopped writing the genre in the early 1980s, switching to erotic experimental semi-memoir. He wrote one major novel since with SF themes towards the end (Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders), and this story is a major historical event for the genre.The volume had several unusually beautiful and well executed stories in addition to Delany. To take three: A. Merc Rustad's "Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn," about a friendship between a star ship and a stowaway in an imperial setting; Peter Watts' "ZeroS" about a platoon of zombie soldiers, Kathleen Kayembe's "You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych" about a body possessing central African witch from the perspective of his loving relatives; and Carmen Maria Machado's "The Resident," about a writer on retreat, and a lot of almost but not quite fantastic things happen as she sort of but not really spirals into unhappiness, past trauma, and mild madness. It is very effective. Only one story I despised: Charlie Jane Anders' "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue," a terrifying story about a trans woman being tortured in a coercive and invasive conversion therapy program. As a trans woman, I found the story extremely triggering, very upsetting, and generally leaving me hating the genre. I can't see any benefit or value in torture-driven stories, and I think I am not alone in being particularly triggered and upset when it is an oppressed group I happen to be a part of. Reading it, I had a strong rage towards Anders, who I took to be a liberal cis (non-trans) do-gooder who has no idea how harmful such work can be. But I later found out she is a trans woman. This news is baffling and very confusing for me, and I have yet to really make sense of it. I really did not have a conceptual map in my head that it was psychologically possible for a trans woman to choose to write such a story and put it out in the world as published, public work. I have a lot to learn about humans. So yes, a stellar collection highlighting the best the genre has to offer this year.
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  • Ryan
    January 1, 1970
    Rivers Run Free - 4* - A short, sad story about oppression and hope.Destroy the City with Me Tonight - 5* - Incredible bizarre tale of super heroism as a disease. Turns all the concepts from the comics on their heads.You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych - 4* - Great structure and a cool idea. Some genuine horror in the first section. Redemptive ending kind of undercuts it.Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities - 5* - I love these Invisibles Cities kinds of stories. Alternate univer Rivers Run Free - 4* - A short, sad story about oppression and hope.Destroy the City with Me Tonight - 5* - Incredible bizarre tale of super heroism as a disease. Turns all the concepts from the comics on their heads.You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych - 4* - Great structure and a cool idea. Some genuine horror in the first section. Redemptive ending kind of undercuts it.Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities - 5* - I love these Invisibles Cities kinds of stories. Alternate universe justice systems are a really fun approach.Loneliness is in Your Blood - 4* - Very beautifully written story about loneliness and motherhood and love.The Hermit of Houston - 3* - I’m not sure if I like this story much, but I appreciate it. It’s about gender and aging and memory and probably a thousand other things. It’s also kind of impenetrable.The Last Cheng Beng Gift - 3* - A fun little vignette about parenthood, especially the fraught relationships of Asian mothers and their daughters. I liked it but it’s fairly forgettable.Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn - 2* - It’s fine, but the relationships that the final part hangs on are not nearly developed enough to support it.The Resident - 5* - Absolutely masterful. Shirley Jackson meets Kelly Link. Unsettling macabre body horror and haunted house and time travel and everything else. The standout story of the collection.The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant - 5* - Delightfully gruesome, funny, acerbic. Bonkers take on the quest for a 5* rating (ironic!) and the foodie scene.Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast - 3* - Cute idea to tell the story of a war through the eyes of the army’s wine snob, but overall too slight for me.Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue - 5* - Extremely upsetting gut punch of a story. Masterful but very hard to read.Church of Birds - 2* - Written well enough but the ending is both obvious and unearned.ZeroS - 5* - Very good military SF about selfhood and bodily control and war. I don’t really feel like it ended anywhere but I liked it a lot and it made me want to read more of Watts’s stuff.Carnival Nine - 3* - Already read for my Hugo review. A nice story about disability with affecting characters. Hasn’t really stuck with me.The Wretched and the Beautiful - 4* - A short little fable trembling with rage and despair. Not a subtle allegory but a strong one nonetheless.The Orange Tree - 5* - A lot of the same themes as The Mere Wife about the anger and secret knowledge of women. Also the same gorgeous prose and a really nice twist on very obscure historical events.Cannibal Acts - 3* - So dark it’s black. Not much of a story, more of a tone piece.Black Powder - 3* - Not sure I understand this story at all. It’s beautifully written as always, and the characters are fascinating, but I’m not sure it hangs together.Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance - 3* - Fun enough story. I like the cleverness of the ending and how the "robot" carefully obeys the letter of Asimov's laws but not at all the spirit.
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  • Fred Hughes
    January 1, 1970
    A disappointing collection of stories as 80% of the book is in the fantasy genre with scarcely 3 science fiction stories.Recommend more science fiction oriented anthologies
  • JamalT
    January 1, 1970
    Out of 20 stories, I loved 6, liked 9, was neutral on 3, and didn't like 2. I want to focus on what worked, so starting with the positive reviews moving to the more negative ones. Once I split the stories into those 4 categories, they should just be listed in their order of publication in the book, not as a numerical rank. Also, I'm putting my little elevator pitch of what each story is about--I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll try not to, but I think it's helpful/fun in reviews to get a be Out of 20 stories, I loved 6, liked 9, was neutral on 3, and didn't like 2. I want to focus on what worked, so starting with the positive reviews moving to the more negative ones. Once I split the stories into those 4 categories, they should just be listed in their order of publication in the book, not as a numerical rank. Also, I'm putting my little elevator pitch of what each story is about--I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll try not to, but I think it's helpful/fun in reviews to get a better idea of what's inside.Best: You Will Always Have Family: Blurb-A family emigrates to the United States from Africa and something made the trip with them. This is atmospheric and really well put together. I don't have a lot to say that wouldn't spoil it, so...it's good. Loneliness Is In Your Blood: Blurb-Hard to summarize without spoiling; it's about a monster.Pretty visceral and gorgeously written, with a nice slow reveal/mystery to it. Greatest 1 Star Restaurant . . . : Blurb-Rebel cyborgs take over a food dispensation spaceship.Most fucked up story in the collection, and maybe the best. Grotesque with a disturbingly light tone, this is the one I'm probably going to remember. Tasting Notes: Blurb-The diary of the king's wine taster on his tour of the king's vineyards.Similar to the story above, this also has a delightfully fucked up tone. Amazing ending. Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue: Blurb-About 2 childhood friends who reunite under pretty bad circumstances.What a terrific story--this was scary and disturbing. It's good.Carnival 9: Blurb-The life of a young clockwork girl.This is a beautiful story; it might be the simplest but its stunning and quietly devastating. Liked: Destroy the City With Me Tonight:Blurb-New take on superheroes. Nice story about identity. The Last Cheng Being Gift:Blurb-A story centered on Malaysian culture/beliefs, about a mother accepting a gift.Cute story! The Resident:Blurb-Writer is accepted to a residency program to write her novel and find herself. Things happen.This is the story out of the entire collection that I would want to reread and analyze the most. It's atmospheric and well written, but also very open to interpretation (or maybe I didn't get it haha). It's the story I'm most interested in trying to understand, if that makes sense.The Wretched and the Beautiful:Blurb-Aliens make first contact.The writing here is succinct, clear, and strong. Good story.The Orange Tree:Blurb-A sick old man creates a golem out of an orange tree.This was a fascinating read, and I think it would be a love if it was a little longer. Not a lot, but it's a good sign when you want to read more of something. I also really love how this writer puts ideas together (she also wrote Black Powder below and I feel the same about it). Cannibal Acts:Blurb-In Alaska, we follow a community on the edge of the end of the world. I enjoyed this, but I didn't really take anything deeply new from it. It wasn't that different a take on the end of the world or what might happen in that situation--but it was still a good read.Black Powder:Blurb-Some genies live inside a gun.This was such a cool concept, I just wanted more. Also, it's very dreamlike and there's a lot that isn't explained/well explained, and that's ok, but I wouldn't have hated a little more information either. Most of the characters don't have names, which makes it really hard to follow the action at times because then we play the pronoun game. Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance:Blurb-A human endangers a robot. Again, I don't want to spoil things--this was cute. Lighter in tone but I really loved when the human and the robot were discussing why they made certain decisions. Neutral:Rivers Run Free:Blurb- Rivers take human form to try to escape to the sea.It was ok. The biggest difference between stories I liked and ones that are neutral is my personal emotional reaction. So for these stories I got the point the author was going for, but it just didn't really resonate to me. You might really love them because they might resonate with you, art is like that.Justice Systems . . . Blurb-Imagine Einstein's Dreams but for criminal justice.This was a really cool idea, and I love Einstein's Dreams so this exploration of what justice/reform/punishment can mean was enjoyable. And if you haven't read Einstein's Dreams--do that. Do that now. It's short and should be at your library.Church of BirdsBlurb-A reimagining/epilogue to a fairy tale.I actually really love the source fairy tale here, it doesn't get a lot of attention and the ending is screwed up. I think had this been longer I would've enjoyed its payoff more. I also wanted more development with both of the female characters.Brightened Star, Ascending DawnBlurb-We follow a sentient spaceship and everything else is I think a spoiler.This was again, pretty ok. I think I was more interested in why the spaceship is sentient and less in what happens after, and the story doesn't focus on the why, which might explain my lukewarm reaction to it.Dislike:Hermit of Houston:Blurb-We follow a man living in a Mad Max/Lisa the Painful type world.This story was picked by the editors because it challenges a lot of typical writing conventions, so I feel a little bad for saying I hated the writing style, but...I did. I figured it out, but I think I missed a lot of details and more critically, I didn't really enjoy learning about the world. I have more thoughts to follow. ZeroS:Blurb-We follow a zombie spec-ops squad.The idea here is cool, and the twist was pretty cool too, but the takeaways felt stale. You kinda know where some of this is going, which lessens the impact. Also, maybe more of a problem for me, the world building wasn't great--they kept name-dropping things without any context. I found out reading the authors' notes that this is a littler story set in a bigger universe the author writes stories in. Maybe, like professors with advanced subjects, they didn't think enough about how confusing it is for a new reader to come in and follow what is happening. That's my main issue, otherwise there was a lot I did like about it. Some spoiler thoughts:I saw an angry review about how this is a collection of scolding stories about togetherness? And I wanted to address it. It's pretty important to remember that a lot of these stories were written either right after the U.S. 2016 election or right right after--which was a particularly tense time for everyone. Some of these stories are authors working through their outrage or fear, although only one is direct. The rest are allegories, and remind me strongly about the kind of sci-fi we got during the Cold War.I don't think there's anything wrong with the authors' tones, and I would say the collection's overall tone is generally more of one of catharsis than "scolding." Wretched and the Beautiful feels like the author was angry and found a healthy outlet for that anger, and I think the story has its crucial bite in that anger. But the Hermit of Houston is one of the very first stories you read, and I can see how it could upset someone. I think the writing style is interesting--and if you like it, that's great and I don't want to take that away from you. However, (and maybe this isn't how the author meant it, the story is so hard to follow), I finally understood it as this gross, almost petty revenge story. It's my least favorite because I didn't really get anything out of it except rage. That doesn't make it bad, but it doesn't really fit its framing, so that anger just sort of exists without something to anchor it to. And I compare that to Wretched and the Beautiful--another pissed off story--where the author hones her anger, writing short lines that are damning and accurate. Lastly I want to bring up Don't Press Charges because it's also a type of political story, and I think it was the most successful. This is another situation where the author focused their energy on a specific fear, and the result is fabulous. It's genuinely scary and funny and creates empathy because you want the protagonist to be ok. So if you're interested, it's worth reading, there are some total gems in this collection.
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  • Thomasallenparker
    January 1, 1970
    Hit and miss. Some of these are just hard to get into. Not a big fan of symbolism to the point of not knowing what the heck is going on.
  • Nick Orvis
    January 1, 1970
    The 2018 edition of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy is a powerful and inspiring collection, carefully curated by John Joseph Adams and this year's guest editor, the luminous N. K. Jemisin (whom SFF fans will know from her Hugo-winning "Broken Earth" trilogy as well as other books). The stories contained within have been carefully selected to reflect a wonderfully diverse array of subject matters, writing styles, and worldviews, though Jemisin is clear in her introduction about what The 2018 edition of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy is a powerful and inspiring collection, carefully curated by John Joseph Adams and this year's guest editor, the luminous N. K. Jemisin (whom SFF fans will know from her Hugo-winning "Broken Earth" trilogy as well as other books). The stories contained within have been carefully selected to reflect a wonderfully diverse array of subject matters, writing styles, and worldviews, though Jemisin is clear in her introduction about what influenced her view of the "best" in 2017: she refers to the collection as, "the twenty most revolutionary short stories from the year 2017," adding that while some of the stories treat the subject of revolution in familiar ways, she was particularly attracted to, "those that revolted against tradition, revolted against reader expectation, or revolted against the world entirely." The result is a deeply enjoyable collection, with names that are now both familiar to many fans of the genre (a short story by Carmen Maria Machado is included) and relatively new to the scene. I found practically all of the stories fascinating and rewarding in one way or another, and now that I'm reviewing the table of contents I find that despite reading it over a fairly long period of time, I remember each clearly--surely a mark of quality. The opening story, Charles Payseur's "Rivers Run Free," is one of the most delightful in its creativity and its world-building, and the second, "Destroy the City with Me Tonight" by Kate Alice Marshall, is a wonderful and thoughtful romp through a completely new perspective on superheroism. I loved the structure of Kathleen Kayembe's "You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych," (spoilers, it's a triptych), and Gwendolyn Clare's "Tasting Notes on the Varietals of the Southern Coast" is a smartly crafted, chillingly real-feeling meditation on power that unfolds slowly and expertly. I loved almost all of the stories, although my favorite is probably A. Merc Rustad's "Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn." Just a beautiful, moving meditation on the need to take action, and the storytelling is pitch-perfect both in mood and in the way that both the world and the action unfold at just the right pace. I also enjoyed both of Maria Dahvana Headley's stories (she's the only author to have two stories in the collection), which had the bonus of showing extremely different--and very engaging--sides of the same writer.A few of the stories were, I admit, less gripping: this was my first encounter with Machado's writing, and though I enjoyed her story ("The Resident") I found it a bit elliptical for my tastes. Lettie Prell's "Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities" raises important and resonant points about our criminal justice system, but feels at times like a bit of a formal writing exercise; there's less poetry and pure linguistic spark in this than in some of the other stories in the collection. Samuel R. Delany's "The Hermit of Houston" was an enjoyable read, but fundamentally hard to understand--of all the imaginary worlds in this collection, this was the one I felt I could access the least, not because it was foreign but because I simply didn't know what I was supposed to be reading into it and what was unreliable narration. Even these stories, however, were worth my time, and I'm happy to have picked up the collection when I did--it was a good way to close out 2018 and get move into 2019! I'll be keeping an eye out for future collections in this line (this is the first I've picked up, mostly because Jemisin was the guest editor), and I encourage everyone to read it and follow these writers. I plan to.
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  • Jared
    January 1, 1970
    This was, quite easily, my favorite BASFF yet.As a reader who regularly, critically, and eagerly consumes a lot of short fiction every year, Best Of collections can be tricky endeavors. Aside from bringing a new editor every year to select the stories, I think JJA, who is no stranger to putting together an anthology, has a good editor's eye. For my part as the reader, the best Best Of is one full of stories I've seen before ("Yes, I loved that story!") and ones I hadn't heard of ("This looks gre This was, quite easily, my favorite BASFF yet.As a reader who regularly, critically, and eagerly consumes a lot of short fiction every year, Best Of collections can be tricky endeavors. Aside from bringing a new editor every year to select the stories, I think JJA, who is no stranger to putting together an anthology, has a good editor's eye. For my part as the reader, the best Best Of is one full of stories I've seen before ("Yes, I loved that story!") and ones I hadn't heard of ("This looks great!"). Plus, you cannot go wrong with NK Jemisin at the helm.While most of the stories stood out to me, Charles Payseur's "Rivers Run Free" acts as an excellent opener, tense and fast-paced, with literal sentient rivers fighting for their lives. I've long been greedy for Payseur's reviews, but his fiction is also some of the best and most worth reading you can find.Lettie Prell's "Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities" may have been my favorite new story, certainly one that stuck with me for a while. A simple enough concept, parallel universe justice systems, quickly give the reader a heartrending trip that had me wondering: what would I choose, which would I want? But obviously, you don't get to choose.The wildest trip, though, is Samuel R. Delany's "Hermit of Houston." I'm surprised I slept on this story, and surprised I couldn't find more buzz about it. I bounced off it initially, but kept coming back to the dense prose, fascinatingly built world, a story about stories, and one I'll be rereading to try and wrap my head around it.Maureen McHugh's "Cannibal Acts" is not the visceral end-of-the-world story you might expect. Instead it's startlingly real-feeling, with the cannibalism almost glossed over with how much of a given it is; the characters navigating their unexpected dystopia feel among the most human of many stories I've read in this genre. Those are just the standout stories that were new to me. I'd read before, and loved, Carmen Maria Machado's "The Resident," Rachael K. Jones's "The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant," and was quite pleased to see one of my first favorite short fiction authors, E. Lily Yu, with her great Terraform story, "The Wretched and the Beautiful."All in all, this was a great year, one of many great years for vibrant, enriching, engaging short fiction. I only hope I consume as many great stories as I did in 2018, and that collections like BASFF continue to help me fill in the gaps when I don't.
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  • Becky
    January 1, 1970
    Didn't read every story, but enjoyed what I read. This collection skews toward horror, not always my cup of tea, but my two favorite stories were about cannibalism so I'm not sure I have grounds to complain.Favorites were: "The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant," a story of cyborg chefs run amok. This story is absolutely gross, yet bleakly hilarious. Then there's "Cannibal Acts," which was oddly not gross at all, but the kind of understated human drama that only Maureen McHugh c Didn't read every story, but enjoyed what I read. This collection skews toward horror, not always my cup of tea, but my two favorite stories were about cannibalism so I'm not sure I have grounds to complain.Favorites were: "The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant," a story of cyborg chefs run amok. This story is absolutely gross, yet bleakly hilarious. Then there's "Cannibal Acts," which was oddly not gross at all, but the kind of understated human drama that only Maureen McHugh can deliver. It's a short one, but the characters and dystopian setting are completely realized, and the story ends with a private, heartbreaking moment that stayed with me for some time.Another wonderful story was "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue" by Charlie Jane Anders, whose podcast I follow but whose writing I had not read before. This story reminded me of Margaret Atwood, not only in subject matter but in voice; it had the same lively, satirical quality.I also surprised myself by enjoying Samuel R. Delany's "The Hermit of Houston," which was a bit surrealistic for me, but possibly objectively the best story in the collection, an unflinching exploration of finding love and security and identity as an outsider (and probably some other things, I am not convinced I am bright enough to understand Delany).The audacious storytelling award probably goes to Maria Dahvana Headley for "Black Powder," which is your typical queer Weird West school shooting fairy tale. That's a genre, right? The mood was pleasingly reminiscent of classic Neil Gaiman, if more lyrical and literary.Oh oh oh, and I can't leave out "Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities," which was science fiction doing what science fiction does best, and on point since I've been listening to the latest season of Serial. In her biographical statement, the author talks about leaving a prestigious career in the criminal justice system, a decision informed in part (as I recall) by the self-reflective practice of writing fiction. Finally, N.K. Jemisin gets a thumbs-up for, in her introduction, delivering a one-sentence close reading of the Harry Potter series that kind of blew my mind.This best of anthology is a decent thumbnail portrait of 2017. The stories are upsetting but not nihilistic. Most aren't exactly hopeful—except in the sense that looking, recording, naming is an intrinsically hopeful act. Well done to both editors.
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  • Garrett Nicolai
    January 1, 1970
    Unfortunately, more misses than hits this time around. I often find that a majority of stories in any particular anthology are not to my taste, which is ok; I don't read anthologies to enjoy all the stories: I want to discover new authors that I might not otherwise read, and to enjoy the good stories, of which there are always at least a few.That said, I think that there were 4 stories (of 20) that I thoroughly enjoyed, and would rate 5 stars. They are:* You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych / Unfortunately, more misses than hits this time around. I often find that a majority of stories in any particular anthology are not to my taste, which is ok; I don't read anthologies to enjoy all the stories: I want to discover new authors that I might not otherwise read, and to enjoy the good stories, of which there are always at least a few.That said, I think that there were 4 stories (of 20) that I thoroughly enjoyed, and would rate 5 stars. They are:* You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych / Kathleen Kayembe A wonderful little ghost story, with some nice mythology behind it. At moments terrifying and touching.* The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant / Rachael K. Jones A funny tale that perfectly captures the narcissistic qualities of Internet attention seeking. Performers cannibalize themselves in the attempt to earn better and better reviews, while the commenters are willing to sacrifice quality, as long as it's cheap.* Carnival Nine / Caroline M. Yoachim A sad allegory for relationships that require us to sometimes sacrifice our dreams for mere existance.* Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance / Tobias S. Buckell I can't help but think that Asimov would approve.There were also a small number of stories that I liked, but felt could have maybe been improved in some way. They include:* The Last Cheng Beng Gift / Jaymee Goh Another nice ghost story, about the power of relationships.* Church of Birds / Micah Dean Hicks I'm a sucker for twisted fairy tales, and this "ever after" version of "The Six Swans" was a nice contemplation on one of the typically bittersweet endings of the Grimm stories.* The Orange Tree / Maria Dahvana Headley A feminist retelling of the story of the Golem, it was a bit dense in places, but I really like the story of Golems in literature, and feel this was a nice contribution.* Black Powder / Maria Dahvana Headley I have to say that I absolutely love the conceit of reworking genie lamps into bullets that must be fired to grant wishes; it provides a new perspective on the idea that no wish comes without a cost.Typically, my criterion for a "good" collection is that I must enjoy at least half the stories. This one just misses, with 8 out of 20 stories, but it's reinvigorated my interest in seeking out short fiction, so I think that it's worth 4 stars.
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  • Grady McCallie
    January 1, 1970
    In her introduction, 2018 co-editor N.K. Jemisin says she chose selections that, in her view, all represented or said something about revolution. I didn’t like some of them, and didn’t understand what the authors were doing in a couple - but this collection offers a truly unconventional set of selections and absolutely acheives Jemisin’s goal. Moreover, now that I’ve finished, I can remember the individual stories far better than I’ve been able to in recent years. Nearly all the stories, to the In her introduction, 2018 co-editor N.K. Jemisin says she chose selections that, in her view, all represented or said something about revolution. I didn’t like some of them, and didn’t understand what the authors were doing in a couple - but this collection offers a truly unconventional set of selections and absolutely acheives Jemisin’s goal. Moreover, now that I’ve finished, I can remember the individual stories far better than I’ve been able to in recent years. Nearly all the stories, to the extent the plots or settings involve romantic relationships, are non-heteronormative; and many are written from nonwhite perspectives. Many use post-human characters to explore themes of freedom, oppression, and resistence. It is a gift to get to read a ‘best of’ collection curated with a distinct sensibility - I hope the series editor picks future co-editors who are willing to do this, whether or not they’re coming with the same priorities as Jemisin.Favorite stories from this year for me include: Lettie Prell, ‘Justice Systems in Quatum Parallel Probabilities’, described by the author as ‘a sort of Invisible Cities of justice systems’; A. Merc Rusted, ‘Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn’, about moral choice under authoritarian imperial rule; Caroline Yoachim, ‘Carnival Nine’, which uses clockwork fantasy tropes to explore the meaning of life with a disability; Tobias Buckell, ‘Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance’, in some ways the most conventional story in the collection, but clever and fun; and two stories by Maria Dahvana Headley, ‘The Orange Tree’ and ‘Black Powder’, which deploy a golem and a djinn respectively to explore resistence to oppression and the redemptive power of love.
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  • Carly DaSilva
    January 1, 1970
    I can’t give this collection enough stars. The stories here are gripping, magical, visionary, frightening, diverse, and thoroughly real in their unrealness. Every one is its own gem. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are such powerful genres—they take us beyond ourselves to allow us to better see ourselves, and in that way they are the territory of the revolutionary, those seeking justice and hope and warming against the practices that obstruct them. Reading this collection is so inspiring. It reminded me why I can’t give this collection enough stars. The stories here are gripping, magical, visionary, frightening, diverse, and thoroughly real in their unrealness. Every one is its own gem. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are such powerful genres—they take us beyond ourselves to allow us to better see ourselves, and in that way they are the territory of the revolutionary, those seeking justice and hope and warming against the practices that obstruct them. Reading this collection is so inspiring. It reminded me why I love these genres so much, took me right back to my roots in magic and science, which it could be argued are one and the same.Charlie Jane Anders’s “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” made me cry in my apartment and should be required reading for every cis person. A. Merc Rustad’s “Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn” had me gasping as I turned each page. Both of Maria Dahvana Headley’s stories resonated deeply with me, with my womanhood and its many fears, and its many joys. Charles Payseur’s “Rivers Run Free” was such a treat to my imagination, such a brilliant concept executed so well I wanted more when I finished. And these are just a handful of highlights. I wanted to breeze through this book, but breezing wouldn’t have done it justice. I needed to sit with these stories a bit, really feel them and enjoy them, like dates wrapped in prosciutto, or marmelade spread over thick slices of cheese.Do yourself a favor and read this. Then give money to the publications that allow this work to reach its audience. I can’t wait to subscribe to as many of these mags as I can manage.
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  • S
    January 1, 1970
    Boy, did I want to like this anthology. Last year's was really good - a lot of stories that stuck with me. And of course, the amazing N.K. Jemison is the guest editor on this one!Unfortunately, though this one was good, I can't say it was as good as last year's. Is that because there really weren't as good of stories in 2018? I doubt it. Is that because, as a whole, these stories were pretty depressing? Nah - that's the world lately, right? And a story can be a downer and still be great. But for Boy, did I want to like this anthology. Last year's was really good - a lot of stories that stuck with me. And of course, the amazing N.K. Jemison is the guest editor on this one!Unfortunately, though this one was good, I can't say it was as good as last year's. Is that because there really weren't as good of stories in 2018? I doubt it. Is that because, as a whole, these stories were pretty depressing? Nah - that's the world lately, right? And a story can be a downer and still be great. But for whatever reason, this one fell a bit short of my expectations. Oh well!That is not to say there were no good stories here. > The first one was a sad winner ("Rivers Run Free"). > "Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities" and "Carnival Nine" will really make you think - both would be great for a book club discussion. > "The Hermit of Houston" was a bit jumbled, but also very thought provoking.> If you liked "Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn," then I heartily recommend you read Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice.> I was lucky to find out from a fellow Goodreads reviewer that the rest of Peter Watts' stories relating to "ZeroS" are available online at his rifters.com site under short stories!> "Cannibal Acts" was heart-wrenching.My favorites: > "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue" was very good.> "Black Powder" left me wanting more. This would be a fun series.> "Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance" was especially satisfying. Here's to next year featuring even better (and maybe less depressing overall?) stories!
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  • Shannon
    January 1, 1970
    The theme for these stories, per N.K. Jemisin, was revolution, and I can definitely see that. Of course, that made for a rather heavy read over all. I wonder if I would have liked some of these stories more in isolation rather than reading them as one heavy voyage. My favorites from the bunch: Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn by A. Merc Rustad, Loneliness is in your blood - by Cadwell Turnbull, Justice Systems in Parallel Probabilities. By Lettie Prell, Destroy the City with Me Tonight, The Resid The theme for these stories, per N.K. Jemisin, was revolution, and I can definitely see that. Of course, that made for a rather heavy read over all. I wonder if I would have liked some of these stories more in isolation rather than reading them as one heavy voyage. My favorites from the bunch: Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn by A. Merc Rustad, Loneliness is in your blood - by Cadwell Turnbull, Justice Systems in Parallel Probabilities. By Lettie Prell, Destroy the City with Me Tonight, The Resident by Carmen Maria Machado. After reading these, I'm especially interested in reading the short story collections by Merc Rustad and Carmen Maria Machado.As a writer learning from these stories, I have to say that I prefer my "thought experiment" pieces to concisely end in horror or some clever bite - while with the more character driven piece I find myself a much harsher judge. I want the full arc, and wow that can be hard to do. I really wasn't able to enjoy the more confusing pieces by Maria Dahvana Headley and Samuel Delany. The reward didn't justify the effort of rereading, though I know that's just my opinion.
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  • Adam
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent collection this year! NK Jemisin is the guest editor, she of course choose intriguing and unique stories that aren't overly committed to traditional tropes of sci fi and fantasy. Of particular interest to me: - Destroy the City with Me Tonight: awesome take on being a superhero. - The Last Cheng Beng Gift: daughter mother ghost story; funny and magical. - The Resident: scary psychological thriller in short story form, disturbing, tightly written. - Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue: Excellent collection this year! NK Jemisin is the guest editor, she of course choose intriguing and unique stories that aren't overly committed to traditional tropes of sci fi and fantasy. Of particular interest to me: - Destroy the City with Me Tonight: awesome take on being a superhero. - The Last Cheng Beng Gift: daughter mother ghost story; funny and magical. - The Resident: scary psychological thriller in short story form, disturbing, tightly written. - Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue: a future world of transphobic surgery but kick ass adventure fun and there's at least 5 others that were entertaining and thought provoking in their own right, I just didn't identify as closely with them. You might. Like almost all collections, there are some stories that are not so great, but I read at least 18 of the 20. Also, I enjoyed procuring this book - EJ got me "Water Knife" for Christmas, but I've read it, and I had to wrangle an exchange at Barnes & Noble to get this copy. Worth the effort.
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  • Lettie Prell
    January 1, 1970
    I won't comment on my own story in this volume of course, but I read all the others and found a stunning, diverse array of excellently executed stories. Just a few of my favorites:* Rivers Run Free, by Charles Payseur. I loved those water beings and the issues brought forward in this fantasy.* You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych, by Kathleen Kayembe. The Congolese culture in this dark tale made for fascinating reading, imbuing it with the required discomfort, while also providing the logic f I won't comment on my own story in this volume of course, but I read all the others and found a stunning, diverse array of excellently executed stories. Just a few of my favorites:* Rivers Run Free, by Charles Payseur. I loved those water beings and the issues brought forward in this fantasy.* You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych, by Kathleen Kayembe. The Congolese culture in this dark tale made for fascinating reading, imbuing it with the required discomfort, while also providing the logic for a satisfying resolution.*Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn, by A. Merc Rustad. The prose soars like the sentient starship in this science fiction delight.My least favorite? Samuel R. Delany's "The Hermit of Houston." It's outrageous. It made me really uncomfortable. But then I'd turn the page and go "whoa" because I'd find a gem of speculative genius. I had to follow the trail to the end.
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  • Jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    I normally love these kinds of collection but this one was a disappointment for me. First of all I found too many of the stories to be unfocused, difficult to follow or simply not enjoyable. Some seems like thought experiments more than stories. I hate to say it but I feel like the guest editor did a bad job picking which stories to include. Instead of picking stories that were fun or interesting, the main criteria used seems to be whether the story contains any LGBTQ content. Don't get me wrong I normally love these kinds of collection but this one was a disappointment for me. First of all I found too many of the stories to be unfocused, difficult to follow or simply not enjoyable. Some seems like thought experiments more than stories. I hate to say it but I feel like the guest editor did a bad job picking which stories to include. Instead of picking stories that were fun or interesting, the main criteria used seems to be whether the story contains any LGBTQ content. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for inclusion (especially in these genres) but with this book I felt like I was being beaten over the head with near constant homosexual and trans references even when they didn't add anything to the story. Which made the stories where such references were integral to the plot less impactful. This is one of the weaker collection of its type, not recommended.
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  • Val
    January 1, 1970
    My personal favorites of the collection were: Destroy the City with Me Tonight by Kate Alice Marshall You Will Always Have a Family: A Triptych by Kathleen Kayembe The Last Cheng Beng Gift by Jaymee Goh* Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn by A. Merc Rustad The Resident by Carmen Maria Machado* Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sure by Charlie Jane Anders (heavy transphobia tw) Cannibal Acts by Maureen McHugh*Had read previously
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