I’m reading The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12 at the moment, which is edited by Jonathan Strahan. I actually gravitated toward this book based mostly on the cover by a book-cover illustrator named Dominic Harman. It is an atmospheric image of a spaceship coming in to land on some high-tech installation, with a giant planet or moon in the background. I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I guess it’s okay to be swayed by nice art, now and again.

I have always been a big fan of The Year’s Best Science Fiction series, edited by Gardner Dozios, and I was interested to see if this was in the same league. One of the great pleasures of the Gradner Dozios collection is his introductions, and I was interested to see how the intro to this book compares. In fact it holds up pretty well, with a general round up of world events before getting into the minutiae of the developments in sci-fi and fantasy over the year. It is entertaining and informative, and has a lot to say about the increasing interest in novellas in the publishing world at the moment. I tend to write longer stuff, but that part certainly got me thinking about whether I shouldn’t try turning my hand to shorter books. He specifically highlighted a Kickstarter novella called Prime Meridian by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia that I will have to put on my to read list.

Before we go any further I should plug my own book with some Amazon links. I have usually kept this to the end of the post, but it seemed a good idea to move it up to nearer the beginning. My musings on The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12 will continue after this advertising message.

Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy) Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy

The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.


Okay, back to the book I was talking about. The first story in the collection has a great title. It’s called Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias S Buckel. It starts with the thoughts of a being, freshly becoming an individual again after being joined to the rest of the crew of a huge spaceship in a hive mind specially for battle. That’s a very nice idea, and the story is full of them. The spaceship the creature is crewing is very inventive, too, and the story talks of the complex spaceship design without spoon feeding you enough information to really understand what’s going on, so to enjoy the story you just have to gaze at the spectacle and be carried along. If you do, you will be richly rewarded. The ideas hinted at are breathtaking in scale and fleshed out just enough to catch the imagination. I hope this story is set in a shared universe so I can read other stories with the same setting. The story goes on to places that are more about robotics and free will, mixed with some heady ideas about politics, rather than the starship maintenance of the title, but it is engaging and thought provoking and I certainly mean to read more by this writer.

Next up is a story called Probably Still the Chosen One by Kelly Barnhill. From the first couple of lines it felt like it was going to be a fantasy story, and I haven’t actually ever read many fantasy short stories. I have read a heck of a lot of sci-fi short stories but I usually consume my fantasy in huge doorstop books of hundreds of pages, sometimes even thousands, so I was interested in experiencing what a bite-size chunk of fantasy would taste like. But then it veered away from fantasy in another direction. The story is anchored around the present, making it feel like literary fiction. In the end it is a hard to pin down story with a hint of sci-fi, a hint of fantasy, and a hint of something else, something dreamy, like a story by Clark Ashton Smith. In short, it’s great.

Next up is The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata. The little intro before the story begins says that Nagata started out writing military sci fi, which is a genre close to my heart. This story, however, starts with an eighty-year-old woman walking along Pacific cliffs, which doesn’t seem like military sci fi on the face of it. It is set in a future where the Earth is dying from all the same causes we already know about, but taken to their logical conclusion. For example, overuse of antibiotics means infection can no longer be effectively fought and so surgery is, as Nagata beautifully puts it, an art of the past. It turns out that the old lady is in charge of a project on Mars, and she gets a message that something strange is happening out there, on the red planet. I loved this story because the protagonists are faced with an enjoyably crunchy, hard-science scenario that needs a solution, but that is laden with so much moving symbolism about the dying Earth, a process that has already begun.

Next up is A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad. In my mind sci-fi should be about spaceships and robots, but I guess that’s just a function of the era I started reading it in. This story is about 3D printing beef, which is certainly sci-fi, at least for now, but can the author make a subject like this exciting? I would say that’s a tall order, but this story comes close to carrying it off. The author is based in Singapore, a fascinating country I spent a couple of days in, and the place does feel a little like an advanced but dystopian future, which I think bleeds through into the writing of this story. The author also knows her stuff, for example comparing the fake beef to a forged painting, using technical terms like chiaroscuro.

Next up is Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim. This story starts with characters that quickly turn out to be clockwork. These characters live in a closet and the tension of the story comes, initially, from working out what is going on. But after a while all the information that is going to be given has been given, and the story just keeps on going. There isn’t a twist ending and there isn’t much plot or character. It’s a weird one, and I’m scratching my head about why it was included, but the great thing about a collection like this is you can just roll on into the next story. Even if the last one didn’t catch your fancy, the next one might.

That next one is Eminence by Karl Schroeder. The little introductory blurb to the story says that Karl comes from the same Mennonite community as A. E. Van Vogt, which is interesting. The story is another strange one. It includes concepts that are no longer sci-fi such as a cryptocurrency, along with some pretty dated slang, like normcore and couch surfing. It’s like sci-fi written by your granddad. The speculation isn’t even based that much on science, but rather on economics, making this more like an econo-fi story, if it is anything.

Then comes The Chameleon’s Gloves by Yoon Ha Lee. This story has some interesting stuff about tracking ships through hyperspace. In this setting it is possible, but takes skill and a lot of computational resources. It is an ability valuable enough to found a noble house on. These are all interesting ideas, but the story has its issues. The story takes pages setting up an infiltration mission, then one paragraph getting the stealth dropship to its target. That’s the wrong way round in my estimation. In fact this story was a bit of a low point for me, even though it was the nearest thing to space opera in the book, and space opera is my jam.

The Faerie Tree by Kathleen Kayembe is up next.

The story features some truly great descriptions. One man that the main character doesn’t like is described as:

tall and skinny, a beanpole of a man with straw for hair and black buttons for eyes, and rough gunnysack skin.

It carries on like a piece of magical realism, rather than sci fi or fantasy, and pretty much carries on that way. I’m not sure it’s a perfect fit for this collection, but it is a great story. I love the way it escalates and the way the main character thinks fairies are going to be the answer to all her problems. I think it is not a spoiler to hint that this turns out to be very far from the truth. This post is getting very long, and I haven’t even talked about half the stories in the collection, suffice it to say it is a great selection of fantasy, sci-fi, and some less definable stuff, and well worth your time. Go buy it from Amazon, or wherever you get your books from. Now here is my ad again, in case you had forgotten about it.

Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy) Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy

The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.