Last week we named our picks for the best science fiction and fantasy books of the year so far, but discerning readers will have noted that every entry was a novella, novel, or similar—not a short story collection or anthology to be found. No slight against the formats was intended; rather, it has been such a good year for short form SFF that we thought these categories deserved there own list.
Here are the best science fiction and fantasy short story collections and anthologies of 2019… so far.
Exhalation, by Ted Chiang
Ted Chiang’s fiction has won four Hugo, four Nebula, and four Locus awards, and his debut collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, was translated into twenty-one languages (one entry, the novella “Story of Your Life,” was adapted into an Oscar-winning film). Chiang’s long-in-coming followup includes nine short stories, and it is nothing short of a luminous read. A master of the short form, Chiang’s stories offer a powerful blend of exquisite craft, literary prose, and audacious genre experimentation, hoping between multiple perspectives to explore mind-bending SF-nal ideas. It should go without saying that this is a must-read for fans of science fiction, but it’s also the kind of deeply considered genre work that still welcomes readers in from the outside.
Hexarchate Stories, by Yoon Ha Lee
Yoon Ha Lee’s novels set in the Hexarchate—Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, and Revenant Gun—have been nominated for three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel, and rank with the most inventive and original science fiction published in recent years. The new short story collection Hexarchate Stories brings together all of the author’s short fiction set in this universe—20 stories and one novella (the novella and two of the short stories are new, the others were first published elsewhere, including in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, various anthologies, and on Yoon Ha Lee’s blog). Hexarchate Stories also includes author’s notes for each story and a timeline for the overall series. The tales give tantalizing new perspectives and depth to the world of the Hexarchate, and make for thrilling reading for old fans and new.
The History of Soul 2065, by Barbara Krasnoff
This epic mosaic novel, made up of 20 connected short stories, is a literary gem, both profoundly moving and deeply human as it delves into the supernatural, fantasy, the real historical horrors of the Holocaust, and even science fiction. It begins just before World War I when two Jewish girls—one from Russia, the other from Germany—meet in a magical forest glade. Though they never meet again, their connection continues through the intertwined lives of their descendants. Krasnoff blends an earthy sense of realism with delicate strands of the fantastical, showing us how “ordinary” lives are never quite as ordinary as we might believe, and revealing the quiet, subtle magic that runs through the world. In the end, her stories explore how lives can intersect and affect each other, how people can be connected through time and space, and how we all matter to others in ways we don’t always understand. The History of Soul 2065 includes “Sabbath Wine,” a finalist for the 2016 Nebula Award.
Collision, by J.S. Breukelaar
Breukelaar’s novel Aletheia is a darkly fascinating ghost story that blends literary depth and complexity with bone-chilling horror. That same talent for finding the uncanny cracks in the seemingly everyday world are evident in Collision, where she spins 12 fantastical and eerie tales that move between fantasy, science fiction, Gothic horror, and points in-between. It’s a collection that hooks the reader with its daring imagination, masterful prose, and characters that feel both utterly real and beguilingly odd. As author Angela Slatter observes in the collection’s introduction, “There’s a spark of magnificent strangeness and a strange spark of magnificence in each and every one.”
Sooner Or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea, by Sarah Pinsker
Sarah Pinsker’s eagerly awaited first collection features 13 stories, including a brand new tale, and shows off the depth and breadth of her considerable talents. Pinsker is a four-time finalist for the Nebula Award; her fiction has also won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and has been shortlisted for the Tiptree Award. She won the 2016 Nebula Award for Best Novelette for “Our Lady of the Open Road,” included in this collection alongside the Hugo award nominated novelette “Wind Will Rove,” about a generation ship, and a gloriously inventive nod to Agatha Christie in the sci-fi, murder mystery “And Then There Were (N-One),” in which the author visits a convention for all of the Sarah Oinskers from throughout the multiverse. Pinsker’s stories always bring unexpected new perspectives and twists on speculative fi tropes, infusing her imagined worlds and futures with a real emotional heft; she has a wonderful knack for making even a subduedstory absolutely compelling.
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl
In his moving foreword to this anthology, LeVar Burton praises the book’s “vibrant, authentic voices bursting to weigh in on the human condition and our journey of human evolution.” It’s a fitting description of a book that is decidedly eclectic and audaciously imaginative. With original stories by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Hiromi Goto, Kathleen Alcalá, Chinelo Onwualu, and Alberto Yáñez, New Suns offers the reader outstanding fiction by some of the best and brightest writers in speculative fiction today, allowing their imaginations to roam freely across genre lines, from fantasy, to horror, to science fiction and all the facets in between. The title is taken from a line in Octavia E. Butler’s unfinished novel Parable of the Trickster: “There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” It’s a line that captures the spirit of this anthology: the way it allows readers to explore new and different worlds, futures, wonders, and horrors.
A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
This anthology packs a lot of literary power into its pages: 25 stories by some of the most acclaimed working writers of speculative fiction, including award-winning bestsellers like N.K. Jemisin, Daniel José Older, Charlie Jane Anders, Tobias S. Buckell, Catherynne M. Valente, and Seanan McGuire. It is edited by Victor LaValle (author of The Ballad of Black Tom and The Changeling) and John Joseph Adams (the mind behind the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology series, as well the periodicals Nightmare and Lightspeed). The authors were asked to contribute stories that “explore new forms of freedom, love, and justice” and “give us new futures to believe in.” (Said stories were also requested to be, and again I quote, “badass.”) A People’s Future of the United States delivers on all counts, serving up a wide and varied selection of memorable stories that are sometimes hopeful, occasionally cautionary, and often flat-out terrifying.
Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance, edited by Lesley Conner and Jason Sizemore
Edited by Lesley Conner and Jason Sizemore, the editorial team behind Apex Magazine, this powerful and politically charged anthology features science fiction and fantasy short stories about those who resist, chronicling “the fight for what is just and right… from leading revolutions to the simple act of saying no.” There are devastating stories here, filled with immense lyrical beauty and power; though many of them delve into vividly drawn futures and imagined worlds full of darkness and despair, there is also a glimmer of hope to light the way. Do Not Go Quietly features stunning stories and poetry by John Hornor Jacobs, Brooke Bolander, Cassandra Khaw, Fran Wilde, Rich Larson, Mary Soon Lee, Sarah Pinsker, Meg Elison, and many more—strong voices here, filled with passion and rage and lyrical power.
Broken Stars, edited and translated by Ken Liu
A sequel of sorts to the anthology Invisible Planets, published in 2016 and also edited and translated by Ken Liu, Broken Stars is an eclectic and compelling collection of science fiction. It features 16 contemporary science fiction stories translated from the Chinese, ranging in length from the very short to novellas, and demonstrating the diversity and depth of sci-fi being written in China. Different shades of the genre are on display here: hard science fiction, cyberpunk, time travel, science fantasy, and space opera, as well as stories that delve into alternate Chinese history. Included are tales by Liu Cixin and Hao Jingfang, both Hugo winners, and others by writers being published in English for the first time. This exceptional anthology also features three essays that explore the history of Chinese science fiction and offer insight into the lives of fans and writers in China.
Mythic Journeys, edited by Paula Guran
There are a lot of wonderful “Best of…” anthologies being published in speculative fiction, but this one, edited by Paula Guran, stands out thanks to an especially captivating theme and purpose, and an especially exciting selection of authors—among them Neil Gaiman, Angela Slatter, M. Rickert, Brooke Bolander, Darcie Little Badger, Catherynne M. Valente, and Yoon Ha Lee. Guran compiles some of the best “modern short mythic retellings and reinventions of legend” by award-winning authors and exciting new voices, bringing together tales of the trickster Coyote; snake-haired Medusa; Kaggen, creator of the San peoples of Africa; the Holy Grail; Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and beauty; Ragnarok; Jason and the Argonauts, and more. I love how deep these stories go, and how wide a world of myth and legend they cover.
What’s your favorite SFF collection or anthology of the year?