Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Best Short Story Anthologies

They can’t all be the best

The Best Science Fiction of the Year, edited by Gardner Dozois; The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, edited by Jonathan Strahan; The Best American Fantasy, edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, and a host of other anthologies of science fiction and fantasy all have superlative titles to try to entice readers into purchasing their product. But how many compilations--covering the same time frame--can truly contain the best material?

If they all had 'the best' literature then surely then would have near identical table of contents… but they don't. I'm aware that, "The Best…" is a much stronger title, "What I think was the Best whatever publishing in 2009" but as a consumer, what makes a person choose on collection over another?

I’ve had a few subscriptions to literary magazines in the past and for me it took a year long subscription to learn which editors at which journals published stories that coincided with my interest. In the case of the anthologies, there is--as the titles implies--one published a year per editor. So using the same logic as magazines, I would have to purchase an editors' anthology every year for six years (the magazines I’m refereeing are bi-annual productions) before learning whether or not I truly like the stories that the editor touts as the years ‘best.’

Do you purchase 'years best' anthologies of short stories? While I'm always hard pressed not to buy something with Michael Swanwicks's name on the cover it does take more than a potentially awesome table of contents to get me to open my wallet when it comes to anthologies. (Okay, maybe if the cover had Swanwick's and Daniel Abraham's name on it…) Perhaps the 'best' thing about about this quandary is the fact that the sf/f short story market is alive and kicking.

How do you decide which anthology to purchase and why?

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