The 18th volume in this venerable series is marked by changes in format (formerly mass market), publisher (formerly Harper Voyager), and the return to solo editing by Hartwell (formerly paired with Kathryn Cramer). A gender-balanced selection of 28 stories draws primarily on the talents of American authors, though authors from Britain, Canada, India, and France also appear. Hartwell acknowledges the emergence of a new crop of SF writers and does include relatively new talents like Yoon Ha Lee and Indrapramit Das, but the focus is on veterans with decades of experience, like Gene Wolfe, Megan Lindholm, and Pat Cadigan. Stories of particular note include Lee’s mannerist space opera, “The Battle of Candle Arc”; Sean McMullen’s informed steampunk tale, “Electrica”; and Linda Nagata’s elegant police procedural, “Nahiku West.” Hartwell’s introduction laments the decline of particular elements of short SF, but this anthology makes it clear that the field is still well able to surprise and entertain. (Dec.)
An editor extraordinaire.” Publishers Weekly on David Hartwell
“We are in the hands of a loving expert.” John Updike on The Hard SF Rennaissance
“Hartwell has produced a pool of anthologies that attempt to stand as definitive volumes. The Science Fiction Century is another such successful landmark collection.” Publishers Weekly
“This ranks as one of the definitive anthologies of the genreand it makes the perfect introduction to the field of science fiction. . . . The Science Fiction Century shows great breadth and range. . . . Editor Hartwell succeeds by including a wide range of authors, styles, and themes.” The Des Moines Register on The Science Fiction Century
Award-winning editor/anthologist Hartwell rounds up a sparkling selection of science-fiction stories from 2012. Standouts: Gregory Benford's "The Sigma Structure Symphony," about a future where CETI's problem is no longer detecting alien signals, but interpreting them; Yoon Ha Lee's "The Battle of Candle Arc," a splendid space-warfare yarn; Gwyneth Jones' "Bricks, Sticks, Straw," in which virtual personalities become cut off from their human primaries; and Aliette de Bodard's "Two Sisters in Exile," covering the wrenching death of an intelligent spaceship. All four cry out to be expanded into novels and perhaps will be. Not far behind are Paul Cornell's unusual and thoughtful time-travel variant; Linda Nagata's chilling look at a future where it may be a crime not to die; Sean McMullen's charming Napoleonic steampunk yarn; and Eleanor Arnason's clever and subtle "Holmes Sherlock: A Hwarhath Mystery," wherein an alien who understands human literature investigates a mystery--no prizes for guessing what the inspiration is. Elsewhere, Megan Lindholm looks at the future of smart cars; Robert Reed ponders smart guns, artificial intelligence and war; a young female investigator enters an ultralibertarian future. Also here: AIs as human therapists; a tidally locked planet with alien life; artificial reality; future medicine; humor from Lewis Shiner (a PC's revenge), Catherine Shaffer (an ex-CIA operative joins a literary society and gets more than she bargained for) and C.S. Freidman (virtual reality); Andy Duncan stomps on the traditional advice not to write about UFOs; Ken Liu extrapolates humanity into the far future; Paul McAuley observes Antarctica as the ice retreats; plus precognition, satire, physics, ecological collapse, the nature of marriage on Mercury (it's stranger than one might think) and more. Almost uniformly excellent--but then when was an anthology from Hartwell ever less?
In "Old Paint," Megan Lindholm illustrates the bond between people and their "cars," while Bruce Sterling's "The Peak of Eternal Light" explores the necessarily formal bonds between genders in a far-future colony inside the planet Mercury. Together with 26 other short (or short short) stories by today's best sf writers, award-winning editor Hartwell's latest entry in his popular series presents a feast of fine writing, scintillating thoughts, and intriguing tales, all grounded in scientific possibilities. VERDICT One of the best collections of the year, without a weak tale in its list, this is highly recommended for fans of the short story and of sf in general.