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The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020

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The best science fiction and fantasy stories from 2019, guest-edited by author of the mega-best-selling Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon. 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 re The best science fiction and fantasy stories from 2019, guest-edited by author of the mega-best-selling Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon. 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 spaceships 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 Diana Gabaldon, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020 explores the ever-expanding and changing world of SFF today.


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The best science fiction and fantasy stories from 2019, guest-edited by author of the mega-best-selling Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon. 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 re The best science fiction and fantasy stories from 2019, guest-edited by author of the mega-best-selling Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon. 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 spaceships 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 Diana Gabaldon, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020 explores the ever-expanding and changing world of SFF today.

30 review for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020

  1. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    I felt about this one the way I felt about the Karen Joy Fowler one: picking a guest editor who is not necessarily known for their deep engagement with speculative fiction can lead to some interesting inclusions. While I truly loved about ten of the stories in here and found another four or so to be admirable, this collection had the highest rate of stories I very much did not enjoy in any BASFF so far. There were a bunch of new authors to me, which was exciting, but I also find myself growing a I felt about this one the way I felt about the Karen Joy Fowler one: picking a guest editor who is not necessarily known for their deep engagement with speculative fiction can lead to some interesting inclusions. While I truly loved about ten of the stories in here and found another four or so to be admirable, this collection had the highest rate of stories I very much did not enjoy in any BASFF so far. There were a bunch of new authors to me, which was exciting, but I also find myself growing a little weary of JJA's editorial hand on the project. His taste is still sharp but because he functions as an editor on so many other projects, I find it oddly harder to trust that he's bringing an unbiased eye to the 80 stories that he's collecting for the guest editor to then choose from. I realize that this is meant to be the best stories of the year and so it's understandable that we'd expect to see Charlie Jane Anders and E. Lily Yu and N.K. Jemisin (whose story actually didn't make the final cut but was an "Other Notable" this year) and so forth -- but damned if I don't feel like I'm starting to see trends crop up in the stories that are being selected that favor the better-known. I also find it hard to trust a collections' "best" moniker when it doesn't have the big winners of the year included. I realize it's all personal taste and that's part of the bag with Best American and don't get me wrong I'll keep coming back..... I don't know, I feel like this was just a rough one for me as a reader and maybe that's all it was. Highlights include the CJA, the Victor LaValle, the Matthew Baker, the Rion Amilcar Scott, the Caroline M. Yoachim, the Anil Menon, the Rebecca Roanhorse.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pearse Anderson

    I ate this shit up, some great work here, with some inclusions I skipped over/didn't connect with. Gabaldon tended to focus on historical fantasy and soft sci-fi, covering topics from haircutting to cannibalism. Great contributor's notes as always. Fav pieces here: Thirty-Three Wicked Daughters by Kelly Barnhill, The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell, Between the Dark and the Dark by Deji Bryce Olukotun, Life Sentence by Matthew Baker, Shape-ups at Delilah’s by Rion Amilcar I ate this shit up, some great work here, with some inclusions I skipped over/didn't connect with. Gabaldon tended to focus on historical fantasy and soft sci-fi, covering topics from haircutting to cannibalism. Great contributor's notes as always. Fav pieces here: Thirty-Three Wicked Daughters by Kelly Barnhill, The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell, Between the Dark and the Dark by Deji Bryce Olukotun, Life Sentence by Matthew Baker, Shape-ups at Delilah’s by Rion Amilcar Scott Pieces I didn't link as much: this collection had a slump at the 75% mark, with the Yu, Menon, and Bear stories IMO. Generally an anthology that filled me with happiness. 7/10ish

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    These particular 'best of' anthologies are fun because the guest editor receives a shortlist of stories stripped of the authors' names, so he or she doesn't know who wrote them or where they were published. This means that sometimes it happens that an author has two stories in the book; this year it's Elizabeth Bear. It also means that sometimes a published source is heavily represented: when Carmen Maria Machado was guest editor it was 'Nightmare' magazine, this year it's the 'New Suns' antholo These particular 'best of' anthologies are fun because the guest editor receives a shortlist of stories stripped of the authors' names, so he or she doesn't know who wrote them or where they were published. This means that sometimes it happens that an author has two stories in the book; this year it's Elizabeth Bear. It also means that sometimes a published source is heavily represented: when Carmen Maria Machado was guest editor it was 'Nightmare' magazine, this year it's the 'New Suns' anthology edited by Nisi Shawl, with three stories, and 'Lightspeed' with four. Guest editor Diana Gabaldon seems to like stories that subvert old tropes, and she doesn't shy away from horror. There are few stories that are funny, although 'Shape-ups at Delilah's' by Rion Amilcar Scott is an exception. It will be interesting to see how many of these stories make the awards lists this year.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    The stories were all over the place. Most were romance-ish.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    Part of my attempt to read and compare all of the best of SF short story collection for 2020. It has been very interesting seeing how much cross over between the collection - and really there hasn't been a lot of stories that have appeared in more than one, and incredibly few in more than two. I guess this proves that the various titles are really influenced by the likes and dislikes of the editor. My favourite stories that only appeared in this collection are from Kelly Barnhill and Adam Troy C Part of my attempt to read and compare all of the best of SF short story collection for 2020. It has been very interesting seeing how much cross over between the collection - and really there hasn't been a lot of stories that have appeared in more than one, and incredibly few in more than two. I guess this proves that the various titles are really influenced by the likes and dislikes of the editor. My favourite stories that only appeared in this collection are from Kelly Barnhill and Adam Troy Castro, and favourite stories that appear in other collections as well are from Charlie Jane Anders and Ken Liu

  6. 5 out of 5

    James Ross

    Overall, a mixed bag, as I suppose nearly any short story collection tends to be. Sacrid's Pod was my favorite - the story of a young woman in a prison cell that gives her everything that she could ever want... except her freedom. Would we make that trade? Many of the stories were just meh. There was also a strong trend of stories wherein there was not a single redeemable male character. I am a fan of feminist literature, and I will even go so far as to say that I think women are, as a whole, be Overall, a mixed bag, as I suppose nearly any short story collection tends to be. Sacrid's Pod was my favorite - the story of a young woman in a prison cell that gives her everything that she could ever want... except her freedom. Would we make that trade? Many of the stories were just meh. There was also a strong trend of stories wherein there was not a single redeemable male character. I am a fan of feminist literature, and I will even go so far as to say that I think women are, as a whole, better people than men (just look at the numbers in violent felons, etc.), but it was so consistent a theme in these stories as to be annoying, even ridiculous.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Adored 6 out of 20 stories, which isn't a terrible average except for the fact that all 6 occurred in the latter half of the stories. I love the SF&F is not afraid to interact with tropes, classics, fanfiction, etc, but there seemed to be a LOT of adjacent work in here (though one of my absolute favorites, LaValle's "Up from Slavery" is openly Lovecraft). The Best American series also has the boon and burden of an author's notes section at the book's end--some of these were revealing, some of th Adored 6 out of 20 stories, which isn't a terrible average except for the fact that all 6 occurred in the latter half of the stories. I love the SF&F is not afraid to interact with tropes, classics, fanfiction, etc, but there seemed to be a LOT of adjacent work in here (though one of my absolute favorites, LaValle's "Up from Slavery" is openly Lovecraft). The Best American series also has the boon and burden of an author's notes section at the book's end--some of these were revealing, some of these were eye-opening, and some of them made me loathe the story even more. Utterly gobstopped by the following: Thoughts & Prayers - Ken Liu The Freedom of the Shifting Sea - Jaymee Goh The Robots of Eden - Anil Menon

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    A pretty standard series of notable science fiction and fantasy stories from 2020, in the "Best American" anthology. The only story I thought was notable was "Up From Slavery" which seems like the introduction to a cool superhero story, but from searching about I don't see anything forthcoming from Lavalle - though I will now seek out his work. Other than that, there were a lot of solid stories; oh, it also includes the Freedom of the Shifting Sea which is a great story I read sometime before th A pretty standard series of notable science fiction and fantasy stories from 2020, in the "Best American" anthology. The only story I thought was notable was "Up From Slavery" which seems like the introduction to a cool superhero story, but from searching about I don't see anything forthcoming from Lavalle - though I will now seek out his work. Other than that, there were a lot of solid stories; oh, it also includes the Freedom of the Shifting Sea which is a great story I read sometime before this came out.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Monica St. Dennis

    Overall this was a very good collection, and I'm thrilled that it was released as an audiobook. I think Diana Gabaldon and I have very different tastes in short stories, though, because there are a few things included where I've read the collection they came from and didn't think they were the best in that collection. Not a complaint, just interesting. Overall this was a very good collection, and I'm thrilled that it was released as an audiobook. I think Diana Gabaldon and I have very different tastes in short stories, though, because there are a few things included where I've read the collection they came from and didn't think they were the best in that collection. Not a complaint, just interesting.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Bock

    A fascinating selection -- a bit uneven, hence the 4 -- but worth it for a few outstanding short stories. I like sci fi grounded in reality -- including Mathew Baker's LIFE SENTENCE, S.P. Somtow's ANOTHER AVALON, Caroline M. Yoachim's THE ARCHONLOLOGY OF LOVE -- these stories re-ignited my love for speculative fiction. Planning to read more, 2021 but looking toward the future!! --Caroline A fascinating selection -- a bit uneven, hence the 4 -- but worth it for a few outstanding short stories. I like sci fi grounded in reality -- including Mathew Baker's LIFE SENTENCE, S.P. Somtow's ANOTHER AVALON, Caroline M. Yoachim's THE ARCHONLOLOGY OF LOVE -- these stories re-ignited my love for speculative fiction. Planning to read more, 2021 but looking toward the future!! --Caroline

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    You all know I'm sucker for short stories, so this was a must on my TBR pile. I felt like there was a good variety in this collection, I didn't love them all, however the ones I did love I *really* loved. Some of the standouts for me in this collection were: "Thirty-Three Wicked Daughters", Sacrid's Pod, and Up From Slavery. All phenomenal. You all know I'm sucker for short stories, so this was a must on my TBR pile. I felt like there was a good variety in this collection, I didn't love them all, however the ones I did love I *really* loved. Some of the standouts for me in this collection were: "Thirty-Three Wicked Daughters", Sacrid's Pod, and Up From Slavery. All phenomenal.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karin Schott

    There are so many great short stories in this collection it is hard to chose a favorite. I have enjoyed Rebecca Roanhorse, she has a wonderful story here. I have been meaning to read Charlie Jane Anders. She has a great story about a bookstore at the end of America. I must read more of her. Elizabeth Bear is excellent! OMG..so good.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jim O'Loughlin

    I liked the 2018 edition a little better, but this one is good as well. This collection picked up steam as it went along. There are some great stories at the end after some opening disappointments. A small gripe: the series editor's own publications get a whole lot of representation here, which seems ethically questionable to me. I liked the 2018 edition a little better, but this one is good as well. This collection picked up steam as it went along. There are some great stories at the end after some opening disappointments. A small gripe: the series editor's own publications get a whole lot of representation here, which seems ethically questionable to me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Really enjoyed this whole varied, lightly uneven collection. Good percentage of female writers, LGBTQ representation and writers of different ethnicities made for an exciting read and opened up the imaginative possibilities of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy canon.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Taracuda

    It really was great reading. Thought provoking, terrifying and exciting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jac

    A very nice collection Surprisingly good collection of short stories. Nice flow throughout the book. I recommend the entire collection. Nicely selected and sequenced.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jason Walsman

    Some intriguing concepts but few of them are brought home in a satisfying way by the end of the short story.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    The two best stories: “Life Sentence,” and “Sacrid’s Pod.”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I absolutely love these anthologies, but this was not my favorite.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rod Van Meter

    There are some good things in here, but overall I'd rate this as largely forgettable. Some of the best stories were from collections I had already read, such as New Suns. There are some good things in here, but overall I'd rate this as largely forgettable. Some of the best stories were from collections I had already read, such as New Suns.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark Catalfano

    I liked "Another Avatar" by S. P. Somtow and "A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy" by Rebecca Roanhorse. I liked "Another Avatar" by S. P. Somtow and "A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy" by Rebecca Roanhorse.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  23. 4 out of 5

    Wade

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

  25. 4 out of 5

    Travis

  26. 4 out of 5

    Megan RFA

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lanen

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chloé Glass

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sonny

  30. 5 out of 5

    Satis Spiritus

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