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Acclaimed editor and anthologist David G. Hartwell is back with the sixth annual collection of the year's most impressive, thought-provoking, and just plain great science fiction.
Last year I said that 1999 was one of the legendary years of the science fiction future, and we have lived through it. So of course was 2000, the turning point, the end of a thousand year period of growth and change and a significant moment in the Christian Era (AD). Well, the world didn't end, nor did the Second Coming come, nor the aliens in whatever form. Nor was there a socialist civilization in Boston, Massachusetts as envisioned by Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward in the 1880s. And now that that millennium is gone, we live in the Year One CE, and all the SF written about the 80s and 90s is just fictionnow robbed of most of its significant prophetic powerand must stand or fall as fiction, on the merits of its execution and/or historical importance.Even Arthur C. Clarke, whose special year is 2001, will have to wait a while longer for commercial travel to the Moon. It is a sobering thought to consider that fifty years ago 2000 looked like the relatively distant future, a time of wonders and radical difference. Now the year 2000 looks somewhat like the 1950s, plus computers and minus the Cold War. Most of the same buildings are standing in most major cities.
Some things don't change fast enough, other changes leave us breathless or shocked. Fifty years is not so long, less than the career of Jack Williamson for instance, who published in 1929 and this year too, in the course of seven decades of writing SFand barring unforeseen circumstances, Williamson will be inhis eighth decade of writing when you read this. I leave you again with the thought that we should set our SF stories further ahead in time, lest we become outdated fantasy too soon.
As to the quality of the year's fiction, 2000 was a particularly fine year, with grand old names and hot new talents competing for attention. It was a good year to be reading the magazines, both pro and semi-professional. It was a strong year for novellas, with fifteen or twenty of them in consideration for the limited space allowed in this book by length constraints; you'll have to go to the competing Year's Best in fat trade paperback to sample more novellas. And there were a hundred shorter stories in consideration, from which this rich selection was chosen. So I repeat, for readers new to this series, my usual disclaimer: this selection of science fiction stories represents the best that was published during the year 2000. I could perhaps have filled two or three more volumes this size and then claimed to have nearly all of the bestthough not all the best novellas. I believe that representing the best from year to year, while it is not physically possible to encompass it all in one even very large book, also implies presenting some substantial variety of excellences, and I left some writers out in order to include others in this limited space.
Which is not to say that I choose one kind of science fiction'I try to represent the varieties of tones and voices and attitudes that keep the genre vigorous and responsive to the changing realities out of which it emerges, in science and daily life. This is a book about what's going on now in SF. The stories that follow show, and the story notes point out, the strengths of the evolving genre in the year 2000. I hope that this book and its companions are essential reading in SF.David G. HartwellPleasantville, NYThe New York Review of Science Fiction (www.NYRSF.com or c/o DragonPress, PO Box 78, Pleasantville, NY 10570) is a monthly 24p journal ofessays and reviews on SF and fantasy.