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The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019

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This omnivorous selection of stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and World Fantasy Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado is a display of the most boundary-pushing, genre-blurring, stylistically singular science fiction and fantasy stories published in the last year. By sending us to alternate universes and chronicling ordinary magic, introducing us to mythical This omnivorous selection of stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and World Fantasy Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado is a display of the most boundary-pushing, genre-blurring, stylistically singular science fiction and fantasy stories published in the last year. By sending us to alternate universes and chronicling ordinary magic, introducing us to mythical beasts and talking animals, and engaging with a wide spectrum of emotion from tenderness to fear, each of these stories challenge the way we see our place in the cosmos. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 represents a wide range of the most accomplished voices working in science fiction and fantasy, in fiction, today—each story dazzles with ambition, striking prose, and the promise of the other and the unencountered.  


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This omnivorous selection of stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and World Fantasy Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado is a display of the most boundary-pushing, genre-blurring, stylistically singular science fiction and fantasy stories published in the last year. By sending us to alternate universes and chronicling ordinary magic, introducing us to mythical This omnivorous selection of stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and World Fantasy Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado is a display of the most boundary-pushing, genre-blurring, stylistically singular science fiction and fantasy stories published in the last year. By sending us to alternate universes and chronicling ordinary magic, introducing us to mythical beasts and talking animals, and engaging with a wide spectrum of emotion from tenderness to fear, each of these stories challenge the way we see our place in the cosmos. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 represents a wide range of the most accomplished voices working in science fiction and fantasy, in fiction, today—each story dazzles with ambition, striking prose, and the promise of the other and the unencountered.  

30 review for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mike Reinking

    I don’t get the 5 star reviews. The stories in this collection are universally terrible. Not uplifting or positive, generally depressing. The only “thought provoking moment” that I had while reading this book was “why am I reading this book?” The stories are dull and a labor to get through. If this represents the future of these genres, then the future is not very bright. There are plenty of imaginative stories here but not fun, entertaining ones.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

    Maybe 2.5 stars. This anthology is so weighted with unsuccessful, awkward, sometimes seemingly unfinished work that I have to go beyond calling it uneven to labeling it poor overall. Only two stories here strike me as outstanding: P. Djèlí Clark's brief, beautifully restrained yet fully imagined "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" and Sofia Samatar's "Hard Mary", which is probably the best thing I've ever read by her (haven't really been a fan up to now, finding most Maybe 2.5 stars. This anthology is so weighted with unsuccessful, awkward, sometimes seemingly unfinished work that I have to go beyond calling it uneven to labeling it poor overall. Only two stories here strike me as outstanding: P. Djèlí Clark's brief, beautifully restrained yet fully imagined "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" and Sofia Samatar's "Hard Mary", which is probably the best thing I've ever read by her (haven't really been a fan up to now, finding most of her work too diffuse, always promising more than it delivers). Usman Malik's "Dead Lovers on Every Blade, Hung" is good, although it moves into overwritten, slightly turgid territory by the end, losing a considerable amount of its power and momentum, and Daryl Gregory's "Nine Last Days on Planet Earth", while nothing new in terms of theme or style for him, is a solid story nonetheless. The rest of the material here ranges from ambitious and moderately interesting but ultimately unsuccessful ("Skinned" by the talented Lesley Nneka Arimah, "Dead Air" by Nino Cipri, "Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women" by Theodore McCombs, and "Through the Flash" by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah) to desultory, standard genre magazine filler (some of it by writers who can do much better!) to utter dreck. I think this may be the worst of the five volumes making up this series so far. Oh well, there's always next year.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael J.

    Overall, I'm disappointed with this collection. However, it remains a good cross-section of some of the themes concurrent to contemporary science-fiction and fantasy short fiction. There are two stories in here that deserve a bigger audience: my absolute favorite "Nine Last Days On Planet Earth" by Daryl Gregory and "Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing The Stumps Down Good" by Lashawn M Wanak. I just expect to find more "above average" and "beyond expectations" stories than I did here Overall, I'm disappointed with this collection. However, it remains a good cross-section of some of the themes concurrent to contemporary science-fiction and fantasy short fiction. There are two stories in here that deserve a bigger audience: my absolute favorite "Nine Last Days On Planet Earth" by Daryl Gregory and "Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing The Stumps Down Good" by Lashawn M Wanak. I just expect to find more "above average" and "beyond expectations" stories than I did here. Of course, that is my personal opinion. Keep in mind this collection is also subjective, the personal opinion of the editor. I can't fault the selection process with a preliminary series editor (John Joseph Adams) selecting 80 stories, removing the author's name and the sources and then having the yearly editor (for 2019 it's Carmen Maria Mahado) pick the final 20 to publish in the collection. Of 20 stories, only 11 hit the mark with me. While 55% is not a bad average and I don't regret reading this - - my expectations are much higher for a collection labeled "Best". Here's the breakdown. Five Star Rating = 2 stories (what I consider exceptional) Four Star Rating = 6 stories (what I consider above average) Three And One-Half Star Rating = 3 stories Three Stars = 5 stories (what I consider good, meets my expectations) Two And One-Half Stars = 2 stories (what I consider below average) One Star = 2 stories (what I consider mediocre, don't bother) If you want to know more and don't mind reading a lengthy review (my apologies) then keep going . . . . . . . The collection opens up with "Pitcher Plant", a short but engrossing tale of a thief/killer/escape artist breaking into an ever-changing fortress of traps in order to dispatch an ancient foe. There are some fascinating descriptions and images and writer Adam-Troy Castro is incredibly skillful. This story straddles the genres of fantasy and science-fiction and raises more questions than it tries to answer. Very mysterious, and I would love to know more. In the afterword, Castro mentions returning to both the setting and characters for a future story/novel, and I would certainly welcome that. Four Stars. Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite authors, and "What Everyone Knows" is a good story. But I question its placement in a Best Of anthology. Really? One of the year's best? A godzilla-like monster is nuked to death and a young girl watching on television sees something to make her curious. That prompts her to become a scientist and explore the same site fifteen years later. Three Stars. I feel the exact same way about "The Storyteller's Replacement" by N.K. Jemisin. Another good story, but surely not one to designate as one of the best. If this is what's in store in the remainder of this anthology, then I conclude it must have been a really lean year (2018) for short fiction. Jemisin puts her spin on an Arabian Knights type of fable. Three Stars. "Poor Unfortunate Fools" by Silvia Park is different and creative in both subject and the manner in which the story is told from scientific reports. A clinical approach, yet the emotions behind the objects of study (marrows, a.k.a. male and female mermaids) manages to leak through. The objects of study have more personality than the reporters. Mating habits, sex life and reproductive cycles are the subject. Good, not great. Three Stars. An unexplained event in 1899 Boston makes women invulnerable and impossible to die. This causes problems for the criminal justice system and the wife of the constable comes up with a role-reversal (for the times) solution. Interesting, especially the side notes on six male criminals hanged for vicious crimes against women (who did not die) but I can't determine the authors intent or point of the story. I give "Six Hangings In The Land Of Unkillable Women" by Theodore McCombs Three Stars. Finally, an above average story emerges in "Hard Mary" by Sofia Samatar. A group of young Amish women discover an abandoned a.i-enhanced robot behind a barn, keep it hidden amongst themselves, converse and teach it Amish ways, and proceed to make opportunistic Amish modifications to its structure and put it to work in menial servitude. There's more to the story under the surface, including a devastated future earth that's hinted at more than its explored, and the differing principles and values among the group. The name of the manufacturing corporation that developed the robot is quite ironic. Four Stars. I like the concept behind "Variations On A Theme From Turnandot" by Ada Hoffman but feel the story-telling style made it seem tedious and mundane. A soprano in a popular stage opera changes her lines in the final scene, driving the director crazy and building a repeat audience who want to see the latest variation. She feels a connection between herself and the character she portrays and works towards changing the ending to a more satisfactory conclusion. Apparently, the actors become the actual characters they are portraying. Too repetitive and choppy. Two And One-Half Stars. "Through The Flash" by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah reminded me of the movie GROUNDHOG DAY as if it took place following a nuclear fallout. Everyone in the story is confined to the "grid" in which they resided, cannot venture outside of those boundaries, and is doomed to wake up everyday in the same place just like the time loop in the movie. People get frustrated and start killing each other in vicious ways, only to repeat the murder-ressurection cycle again and again. Main character Ama is interesting but her values and actions seem to be contradictory. I like this concept but not the way it's executed. Nothing is really resolved and the ending just reflects the beginning, like a loop. Maybe that was the author's point. Yet the comments in the afterword reveal much higher ambitions. Those did not come across to me in the story. Two And One-Half Stars. At last! A story that I can recommend to others: "Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing The Stumps Down Good" by Lashawn M. Wanak. That is a very descriptive title and a pretty succinct elevator pitch for the story - - but there's so much more to it than that. This is suspenseful, mysterious, contains action and a plot that moves forward, and provides engaging reading. During World War II airborne spores migrate indoors, congeal into stumps that resemble human figures and are widespread enough that a government agency is created to contain them. It's a crazy and inventive premise, but Wanak molds that into something special with a reflection of the racism of the times and likable characters with heart. It's about the power of music: to heal, to inspire, to embolden, to ease the troubled times. Five Stars. This is more like it. Two good entries in a row. "The Kite Maker" by Brenda Peynado is a solid story. A mass migration of aliens escaping a doomed planet land on Earth, allow themselves to be subjugated by humans, and live in segregated housing although they do mingle and interact despite some general prejudice along with frequent abuse by neo-Nazi like gangs. A single mother and toy shop owner feeling guilty for their treatment does her best to understand and accept the differences. Four Stars. "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" starts out strong with an interesting concept. Writer P. Dejeli Clark throws a fantasy element into his historical fiction. An actual historical document notes the purchase by George Washington of nine teeth from Negro slaves. Clark adds a fantasy element about removed teeth retaining the spirit of their original owner, and their memories passing onto whoever wears the teeth. He then gives a backstory to each slave and what images and physical feelings their teeth brought to Washington. In the afterword, Clark mentions using fiction "to illuminate the larger truths of our fractured past." However, his storytelling method wrings too much emotion out of the story as he relates these events as if the reader were perusing a facts-only entry on Wikipedia. No dialogue. No internal thoughts expressed. Yes, Washington does experience the memories of the former owners but doesn't go any further. If Clark had only shown us what indirect impact this had on the beliefs and values of Washington and what lessons he learned of the fractured past -- this could have been an incredible story. Alas. Three Stars. There is some fascinating interplay as a friendship develops between an intelligent robotic drone and a crow in "When Robot And Crow Saved East St. Louis" by Annalee Newitz. They even find a common language and can converse and understand each other. The story takes place during a future depression when funding has been cut for many federal programs, including the CDC infectious disease early detection of which Robot was a part. A nice commentary on reaching across the aisle and learning to understand different points of view. Three And One-Half Stars. I was absolutely fascinated by Unman Malik's version of Pakistan in "Dead Lovers On Each Blade, Hung" in a blend of reality with fantasy which grows darker and darker as the story moves forward ending in some scenes of pure horror. Ritualistic medicine, junkies, and snake fantasists. What a mix.! Four Stars. I'm sure there are better stories from Sarah Gailey than "Stet". Why that story was included in a "Best" collection baffles me. Thankfully, it's mercifully short - just six pages. It's one highly academic paragraph on artificial intelligence in motor vehicles of the future peppered with footnotes every sentence, and followed by five pages of those footnotes with written commentary from alleged editor and writer. More tedious to read than it is clever. You can easily skip this one. In the author afterword, Gailey states that she wrote this in anger following a heated discussion of genre fiction versus literary fiction. It's her attempt to blend the two, and it just doesn't work. One Star. "What Gentle Women Dare" by Kelly Robson is an engaging read with an extreme solution proposed on the final pages. A bit of diatribe seasoned enough with engaging conversation to make the medicine go down. In 1763 Liverpool, a street whore meets the Devil in the guise of a gentlewoman and bartering ensues. Three And One-Half Stars. "Nine Last Days On Planet Earth" by Daryl Gregory tells a dysfunctional family saga over the course of 53 years from the point-of-view of a ten-year-old budding scientist with an admirable sense of wonder through his final days. What makes this such a wonderful story, and succinctly told, is the overlay of an alien invasion of Earth in 1975 by a meteoric shower of seed pods. Throughout the story the conspiracy theories speculate this is the advent of an alien invasion of earth, sending plants first in order to infiltrate the environment and provide an alien food source for the conquerors. Turns out the theories were wrong. It's something completely different and positive rather than negative, passive rather than aggressive. I'd recommend this story to everyone. It's heart warming and uplifting. Five Stars. "Dead Air" is another story that I disagree with its inclusion in this anthology. You have probably read more than one spooky/paranormal/ghost story similar to this. The only difference is in the storytelling method employed by Nino Cipri. It's told in short entries, a series of transcriptions taken from phone and video recordings of two female lovers, one obsessed with a "social experiment" interview process who falls in love with the other, who harbors a dark secret. The characters are not endearing. The story is contrived in many places in order to make it work. One Star. The societal norm in Lesley Nneka Arimah's "Skinned" is for women to go about completely nude from the age of puberty until married. That makes it easy to identify single women from married women (except for the servile class of women who must always be naked and display identifying body markings) and puts extreme pressure on those who remain unmarried as they grow older. Main character Ejem isn't interested in the married life and finds herself disrespected and ostracized by her childhood friends. She finds a solution to her problem, yet even this is not entirely satisfying. A powerful story. Four Stars. Martin Cahill's "Godmeat" is an interesting fable-like story of a chef serving up the remains of old gods to the wanna-be new gods, with a twisty yet predictable ending. Three And One-Half Stars. The final story, "On The Day You Spend Forever With Your Dog" by Adam R. Shannon will surely bring a tear to the eye of any pet owner who's had to put down an aging and terminal animal companion. Told in second person, it gets a bit repetitive (although that is one of its points) as a pet owner utilizes time travel to revisit the beginning and ending days of a beloved dog. Four Stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

    I will admit that I did not read every story in its entirety. When it comes to anthologies, I view them like a buffet. At this buffet, I'm looking to sample a bunch of different things before deciding what I want more of. I certainly discovered some great new authors from this collection, but if I felt like a story's plot or writing style weren't working for me, I would move on. That being said, these were some of the highlights from the collection: The Storyteller's Replacement by N.K. Jemisin - I will admit that I did not read every story in its entirety. When it comes to anthologies, I view them like a buffet. At this buffet, I'm looking to sample a bunch of different things before deciding what I want more of. I certainly discovered some great new authors from this collection, but if I felt like a story's plot or writing style weren't working for me, I would move on. That being said, these were some of the highlights from the collection: The Storyteller's Replacement by N.K. Jemisin - I had read this before from her collection of stories, but it was well worth a revisit and a standout from the collection. She's not a new-to-me author, but this served as a gentle reminder that I need to read more from her backlist. Hard Mary by Sofia Samatar - One of the longer stories in the collection. I am very intrigued to read more by this author, particularly her collection, Tender. The Kite Maker by Brenda Peynado - She has a collection called The Rock Eaters coming out soon that I'm eager to read. This was a heartbreaking story that involved gentle praying mantis like creatures that try to co-habitate with humans on earth. But humans suck so it isn't easy for them to belong. STET by Sarah Gailey - This is a short story that takes place in the footnotes and editorial notes of a paragraph about autonomous cars. It is so well-executed in terms of craft, easily my favorite story in the collection. Dead Air by Nino Cipri - A horror story that takes place in the form of interview transcripts. You get to see a queer relationship evolve while slowly getting closer to a dark secret. I thought it was propulsive and cinematic, even given the format. Now I NEED to read Finna.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard Thomas

    Really hit or miss for me. But I suppose it always is. Here are the stories that I loved. I am teaching these in my Advanced Creative Writing Workshops this year. Through the Flash by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz Hard Mary by Sofia Samatar What Gentle Women Dare by Kelly Robson Godmeat by Martin Cahill Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung by Usman Malik On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog by Adam R. Shannon Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillab Really hit or miss for me. But I suppose it always is. Here are the stories that I loved. I am teaching these in my Advanced Creative Writing Workshops this year. Through the Flash by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz Hard Mary by Sofia Samatar What Gentle Women Dare by Kelly Robson Godmeat by Martin Cahill Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung by Usman Malik On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog by Adam R. Shannon Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women by Theodore McCombs

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joe Crowe

    This year's collection is a terrific plethora of short stories, the best one in years. Carmen Maria Machado has put together stories that color outside the lines, and stories that color excellently inside the lines. Choosing a favorite is tough, but luckily, you don't have to. My personal one is Adam-Troy Castro's "Pitcher Plant," an enthralling, lingering horror story. Wait. On second thought, my favorite is Annalee Newitz's "When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis." I'm not just saying that b This year's collection is a terrific plethora of short stories, the best one in years. Carmen Maria Machado has put together stories that color outside the lines, and stories that color excellently inside the lines. Choosing a favorite is tough, but luckily, you don't have to. My personal one is Adam-Troy Castro's "Pitcher Plant," an enthralling, lingering horror story. Wait. On second thought, my favorite is Annalee Newitz's "When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis." I'm not just saying that because of my last name. I'm also not just saying it because of this excellent quote: "The crows think humans are idiots, but they appreciate your garbage." Best of all, this collection is a showcase of authors you've never read before. If you came to the book for Martin Cahill, you'll come away looking for more from Nana Kwame Adjai-Brenyah, or any of the other 18 authors. This book is a win all around. It's not just a must-have, it's a must-have-right-now.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jacks McNamara

    I really enjoyed this anthology. All kinds of inventive and brave authors taking risks in their worldbuilding, and a lot of stories by or about folks of color and other frequently marginalized identities. Many of the stories are pretty dark - I would not describe this as an uplifting book - but I would describe it as a fascinating one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pearse Anderson

    A fucking STRONG antho for what SFF looks like and reads like in 2019. Radical, violent feminism, Eldritch forces mixed into everyday lives, and the slow misreadings of beautiful things by the modern world emerged as themes. Carman Maria Machado emerged as a great guest editor and selector of fairy tales, which is unsurprising. Some of the fantasy stories selected had paces I wasn't vibing with: "Dead Air', "Pitcher Plant", "Hard Mary", for example. But having stories like that is expected. What A fucking STRONG antho for what SFF looks like and reads like in 2019. Radical, violent feminism, Eldritch forces mixed into everyday lives, and the slow misreadings of beautiful things by the modern world emerged as themes. Carman Maria Machado emerged as a great guest editor and selector of fairy tales, which is unsurprising. Some of the fantasy stories selected had paces I wasn't vibing with: "Dead Air', "Pitcher Plant", "Hard Mary", for example. But having stories like that is expected. What this antho had in addition was aaaaawesome pieces. "Godmeat" by Martin Cahill? Bright, brilliant aesthetic and details. "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" by P. Djèlí Clark? Fantastic use of historical language and details with summary instead of scene. "The Kite Maker" by Brenda Peynado? Great alien worldbuilding and story concept to explore soft power and xenophobia. "Through the Flash" by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenhyah? Incredibly bold and difficult story to write that did not feel cheap or disgusting. "Nine Last Days" on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory? Gay and heartwarming piece about invasive species that I smiled throughout. "Poor Unfortunate Fools" by Silvia Park? One of the best stories I've read this year. One of the best, no doubt in my mind. Stellar. Thank you editors! I liked this. Connection: Carman Maria Machado was an instructor at the Iowa Young Writer's Workshop when I attended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan Altomare

    Probably closer to 2.5. The quality of story was pretty varied and I just couldn’t get into most of them. Made finishing the book feel like a chore.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marlee

    I liked the 2018 edition better, but the stories in this volume are excellent as well. While nothing in here was bad, there were a few that stood out more than others. Below are my mini reviews of the ones that make the book worth reading: -What Everyone Knows by Seanan McGuire I have it from reliable sources that Seanan McGuire is amazing, but despite my faith in my friend's recommendations, this is my first encounter with their work. That is going to have to change. This story is a clever divers I liked the 2018 edition better, but the stories in this volume are excellent as well. While nothing in here was bad, there were a few that stood out more than others. Below are my mini reviews of the ones that make the book worth reading: -What Everyone Knows by Seanan McGuire I have it from reliable sources that Seanan McGuire is amazing, but despite my faith in my friend's recommendations, this is my first encounter with their work. That is going to have to change. This story is a clever diversion from typical monster tropes and meditation on the nature of love and parenthood. -Poor Unfortunate Fools by Sylvia Park I normally have a difficult time with stories written in footnotes, but this one is so unique I couldn't help but love it. Park's take on merpeople lore is hyper realistic and strange. I wanted to know so much more about this universe. -Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women A little hard to follow sometimes, but +10 points for the title. Also the concept is too cool to not mention, even if it gets a tad convoluted. -Through the Flash by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah Again, difficult to follow, but I loved the random bursts of extreme violence. In that regard it reads more like a slasher fic. -Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good by LaShawn M. Wanak This was the anthology of amazing titles with quality stories to match. I so loved everything about this concept. The characters felt alive and had voices that leapt off the pages. -The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djeli Clark This story is alone is worth the price of the book. The prose is astonishingly gorgeous, fraught, and emotional. It's definitely one that I want to revisit in the future, as well as locate anything else this author has written. -Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung by Usman Malik I honestly didn't love this story as much as the others. It was good, just not one of my favorites. However, once again, I needed to mention the title, because it is my favorite in this whole anthology. -Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory Mo the alien plant is awesome. Sure, I could talk about the nuanced discussions of life, aging, and family dynamics in the context of being queer, which are also present, but mostly, Mo the alien plant is awesome. -Dead Air by Nino Cipri Much like Poor Unfortunate Fools, I have a difficult time with stories written in the style of an interview. But Dead Air is downright creepy, a true testament to supernatural horror. Plus, starting an audio diary/interview series with all my sexual partners in the name of art sounds like something I would at least entertain the thought of doing, even if I didn't actually go through with it. -On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog by Adam R. Shannon I recently lost my childhood dog to old age. Reading this story in the wake of his death made me wish this was a nonfiction anthology, so I could replicate the plot. I, too, want to invent time travel so I could relive the years I spent with my old man pupper.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    It was a great experience to read such diverse and thought-provoking modern sci-fi stories, from a range of authors both familiar and not. However, this collection took quite a bit of energy to get through. Almost all the stories involved heavy social and/or political themes, which of course is a great element to have, but they began to weigh on me as I went from story to story. I think it's a case where the whole is *lesser* than the sum of its parts. Anyway, here's a rating and impressions for It was a great experience to read such diverse and thought-provoking modern sci-fi stories, from a range of authors both familiar and not. However, this collection took quite a bit of energy to get through. Almost all the stories involved heavy social and/or political themes, which of course is a great element to have, but they began to weigh on me as I went from story to story. I think it's a case where the whole is *lesser* than the sum of its parts. Anyway, here's a rating and impressions for each story: Pitcher Plant - 4/5 - Amazing atmosphere and a good “twist” but the ending was a little unconvincing. What Everyone Knows - 5/5 - Now I want to read the anthology this story came from. The Storyteller's Replacement - 2/5 - I feel like I didn't have enough brain cells to fully get the message. Poor Unfortunate Souls - 3/5 - Pretty engaging, but also kind of grotesque. Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women - 3/5 - Had a great premise and nice prose, but I'm disappointed it just stopped before reaching the denouement. Hard Mary - 2/5 - Eh. Variations on a Theme from Turandot - 2/5 - A little too pretentious for me. Through the Flesh - 5/5 - Probably my favorite overall. Great exploration of a Groundhog Day-esque idea with an apocalyptic twist. Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie - 3/5 - I was expecting the twist to be more anti-capitalist than anti-war/anti-government but the story was still pretty neat. The Kite Maker - 4/5 - Not the most unique premise, but good execution. The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington - 2/5 - Just wasn't very engaged with this one. When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis - 4/5 - Really fun story, I liked the humor as well as the satire. Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung - 4/5 - Absolutely bonkers, had a hard time understanding it at first, but the climax was very tense and exciting. STET - 1/5 - Way too trite for me. What Gentle Women Dare - 1/5 - Why? Nine Last Days on Planet Earth - 5/5 - Started slow but got super emotional by the end. I think it would work as a full novel or at least novella. Also I wish it would’ve stopped sooner - people aging and nearing death is big sad :’( Dead Air - 3/5 - Creepy to some degree but too vague on the details. Skinned - 3/5 - This one was kind of exhausting in how not subtle it was. Points for having good class commentary though. Godmeat - 3/5 - Cool premise and ending, but the execution was a little lacking I guess. On the Day You Spend Forever With Your Dog - 2/5 - Maybe if I was a dog person I would get it, but... eh.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Getty Hesse

    I took so long to work through this collection that I don't even remember how I felt about all the early stories. What I can say is that "Hard Mary" by Sofia Samatar was probably my favorite. There was I think only one story I actively disliked, a few others that I had mixed feelings about. I was expecting this collection to be my favorite in the series thus far-I adore Carmen Maria Machado's work and trust her literary taste. I'm not sure if this collection just isn't as good as some previous y I took so long to work through this collection that I don't even remember how I felt about all the early stories. What I can say is that "Hard Mary" by Sofia Samatar was probably my favorite. There was I think only one story I actively disliked, a few others that I had mixed feelings about. I was expecting this collection to be my favorite in the series thus far-I adore Carmen Maria Machado's work and trust her literary taste. I'm not sure if this collection just isn't as good as some previous years' (was 2018 a meh year for genre short stories?) or if my own taste has become more demanding. To be clear, this is still an excellent collection overall, with some truly exemplary stories. It just wasn't as good as I remembered, say, 2016 being.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christine McCune

    As with any collection of essays or short stories, there will be some that you really enjoy and some that you don't like as much. My favorites, in no particular order: -Godmeat by Martin Cahill -What Gentle Women Dare by Kelly Robson -When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz -On the Day you Spend Forever with your Dog by Adam Shannon -Variations on a Theme from Turandot by Ada Hoffman This review is more for my own recollection than an attempt to provide insight to other potential rea As with any collection of essays or short stories, there will be some that you really enjoy and some that you don't like as much. My favorites, in no particular order: -Godmeat by Martin Cahill -What Gentle Women Dare by Kelly Robson -When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz -On the Day you Spend Forever with your Dog by Adam Shannon -Variations on a Theme from Turandot by Ada Hoffman This review is more for my own recollection than an attempt to provide insight to other potential readers, for which I apologize. On the whole, this collection was wonderful and surprising, it made me gasp and cry and smile in vindication.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Abe

    Didn't read them all, but favorites were: Pitcher Plant - Adam Troy-Castro Godmeat - Martin Cahill Dead Lovers On Each Blade, Hung - Usman Malik Hard Mary - Sofia Samatar The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington - P Djeli Clark Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good - LaShawn Wanak Didn't read them all, but favorites were: Pitcher Plant - Adam Troy-Castro Godmeat - Martin Cahill Dead Lovers On Each Blade, Hung - Usman Malik Hard Mary - Sofia Samatar The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington - P Djeli Clark Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good - LaShawn Wanak

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tim Hicks

    I didn't like all of them, and it occurs to me that this indicates a good selection process in the two tiers of editing. I'm sure a lot of people liked different stories than I did. Samatar's "Hard Mary" and Clark's "Nine Negro Teeth" stood out. I think I'll go and look for the 2009 or 1999 versions and compare ... I didn't like all of them, and it occurs to me that this indicates a good selection process in the two tiers of editing. I'm sure a lot of people liked different stories than I did. Samatar's "Hard Mary" and Clark's "Nine Negro Teeth" stood out. I think I'll go and look for the 2009 or 1999 versions and compare ...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nayad Monroe

    It’s hard to give a rating for this entire anthology, since - as usual for an assortment of stories by different authors - I loved some of the stories, liked most of them, and could not get into a few. To keep things positive, I’ll mention only the three stories I loved the most: - “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz - “What Gentle Women Dare” by Kelly Robson - “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory As far as I’m concerned, it would be worthwhile to buy the book It’s hard to give a rating for this entire anthology, since - as usual for an assortment of stories by different authors - I loved some of the stories, liked most of them, and could not get into a few. To keep things positive, I’ll mention only the three stories I loved the most: - “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz - “What Gentle Women Dare” by Kelly Robson - “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory As far as I’m concerned, it would be worthwhile to buy the book just for these three stories! But luckily, there are many more good stories included, and even the ones that didn’t suit my taste might become your favorites. 😊

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    This book gets all the stars. I've been reading this anthology since its start. I like how there is a different guest editor every year because the collection definitely reflects the editor's tastes. This one was my favorite (my second favorite was the first installment, when Joe Hill was guest editor). This collection had such incredible diversity. Stories from a variety of racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as queer and genderfluid folks, and each story was saturated with talent. This book gets all the stars. I've been reading this anthology since its start. I like how there is a different guest editor every year because the collection definitely reflects the editor's tastes. This one was my favorite (my second favorite was the first installment, when Joe Hill was guest editor). This collection had such incredible diversity. Stories from a variety of racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as queer and genderfluid folks, and each story was saturated with talent. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Awallens

    This book had some great stories in it. There were a few duds, but overall an excellent collection.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anna Marie

    All of these stories won't be for everyone. But they will definitely make you think ... what it means to be human or maybe just humane. All of these stories won't be for everyone. But they will definitely make you think ... what it means to be human or maybe just humane.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    First time I've ever read an anthology like this and overall I really enjoyed it. Pretty wide variety of stuff, a lot of it really good. And I really enjoyed the author's notes at the end. First time I've ever read an anthology like this and overall I really enjoyed it. Pretty wide variety of stuff, a lot of it really good. And I really enjoyed the author's notes at the end.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laine

    excellent excellent collection. loved nearly all of the stories. def checking some of these authors out again.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Luke Reynolds

    "Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women" by Theodore McCombs-2.5 out of 5 stars: I was disappointed in this one, not gonna lie. Interspersed throughout news reports of men killing women to no avail (with women even having their bodies morphed due to their conditions) is the story of a woman who's living as an unkillable woman incognito convinces her husband to let her covertly kill the unkillable women. Unfortunately, the reader is left to themselves to figure out if this was accomplished. "Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women" by Theodore McCombs-2.5 out of 5 stars: I was disappointed in this one, not gonna lie. Interspersed throughout news reports of men killing women to no avail (with women even having their bodies morphed due to their conditions) is the story of a woman who's living as an unkillable woman incognito convinces her husband to let her covertly kill the unkillable women. Unfortunately, the reader is left to themselves to figure out if this was accomplished. "The Kite Maker" by Brenda Peynado-5 out of 5 stars: What a beautiful short story. In a world fifteen years after aliens fell to Earth and humans killed most of them, defenseless and unresisting, a protagonist owns an antique shop that gets frequented by alien customers. As she fights herself to repent for what she did fifteen years ago, her sons live detached lives and skinhead rebels rage. "Skinned" by Lesley Nneka Arimah-3.5 out of 5 stars: In a world of clothed and unclothed women, the clothing signifying their position in both class and marriage, Ejem, an unclothed women, faces rejection at the hand of her best friend and the world around her for being older, naked, and unclaimed. After attempting to hold down several jobs, the wealthiest clothed and unclaimed woman in the city takes Ejem under her wing, into a household of other women who don't belong in society. Although a safe haven for Ejem to finally self-clothe, it breaks once she reaches outside, forcing her to confront not only the law she's breaking but how she still must rely on servant women, the osu, to tend to the building she resides in, their nakedness not by choice.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Overall Review: 3.63/5... Rounding up to 4 stars. Reoccurring themes: Life as a Woman, The Nature of Time, Queerness My favorite stories ranked! 1. On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog (5/5) - A beautiful masterpiece communicating the love for one’s day and the nature of time in terms of encryption. 2. The Storyteller’s Replacement by N.K. Jemisin (5/5) - Game of Thrones with more feminism. 3. Poor Unfortunate Souls by Silvia Park (5/5) - I am really in to cryptozoological tales and mermaids. Overall Review: 3.63/5... Rounding up to 4 stars. Reoccurring themes: Life as a Woman, The Nature of Time, Queerness My favorite stories ranked! 1. On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog (5/5) - A beautiful masterpiece communicating the love for one’s day and the nature of time in terms of encryption. 2. The Storyteller’s Replacement by N.K. Jemisin (5/5) - Game of Thrones with more feminism. 3. Poor Unfortunate Souls by Silvia Park (5/5) - I am really in to cryptozoological tales and mermaids. 4. Hard Mary by Sofia Samatar (4.5/5) - Rural, religious, Amish sci-fi is a thing I didn’t know I wanted. It would have ranked higher had parts of the story been less confusing. 5. Sister Rosetta Thorpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Done by LaShawn W. Wanak (4/5) - Very well done, but I think the ending was a little ill-explained. 6. When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz (4/5) - This story was very cute like a mix between Big Hero 6 and Wall-E 7. Pitcher Plant by Adam- Troy Castro (4/5) - I am a sucker for personifications of death. 8. Skinned by Lesley Norma Arimah (4/5) - This story reminded me so much of Americanah! 9. Godmeat by Martin Cahill (4/5) - A modern Greek Epic 10. The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington (4/5) - The story of replacement body parts and transplants are always an interesting thought study. 11. Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women by Theodore McCombs (4/5) - The idea of women as endless survivors! 12. Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory (4/5)! - An environmental take on aliens is kind of cool. 13. STET by Sarah Galley (4/5) - Interesting format. To tell a story using footnotes and a scholarly article. I had to google STET. 14. When Gentle Women Dare by Kelly Robson (3/5) - A crass story that gets a little wild. Reminds me of The Grownup by Gillian Flynn. 15. Dead Air by Nino Ciprl (3/5) - This one was super interesting, but boy I wish I knew what happened. I wish it had been more detailed. 16. The Kite Maker by Brenda Peynafo (3/5) - Very Ender’s game in terms of feeling Xenophobic guilt. 17. Variation on of Theme from Turandot by Ada Hoffmann (3/5) - I just really don’t feel one way or another about this story. Perhaps knowing the Opera would have helped. 18. Dead Lovers On Each Blade Hung by Usman Malik (3/5) - The portrayal of drug addicts was amazing and unique. The mythology and child bride components just went to far. 19. Through the Flash by Nana Kwame Adjei- Brenyah (2.5/5) - The lore behind this story really needed more type than the short story form permitted. It was also gross and brutal at times.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eli Poteet

    i made it most of the way thru this collection of stories but honestly found it very difficult. it was thicker than id anticipated, the quality of paper intentially a thin quality. i acknowledge this is a collection but i feel like the subject matters and subgenres varied to such a degree i couldnt make concrete effort to register each seperate creation appropriately. the collection of authors social locations is phenomonal though. and the editor of this years book is someone whos work i wish to i made it most of the way thru this collection of stories but honestly found it very difficult. it was thicker than id anticipated, the quality of paper intentially a thin quality. i acknowledge this is a collection but i feel like the subject matters and subgenres varied to such a degree i couldnt make concrete effort to register each seperate creation appropriately. the collection of authors social locations is phenomonal though. and the editor of this years book is someone whos work i wish to read. my favorite story was in the first half, the one about merpeople. i found the story to be very queer and unexpected. i expected it to be trite but instead was impressed to find it a touch horrifying and violent and sad. i would recommend that spec story to others.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    A tantalizing collection of fantasy and science fiction that vivaciously bleed through genre, form, and style. Vicious mer-people are observed in reports by human biologists seeking to protect and understand them; mennonite children covet a fallen robot to be a secret friend and new community member, from an insidious corporation; a boy with shifting parental alliances grows to an openly gay man and biologist in the nine decades of Earth subsumed by alien flora; an eighteenth century prostitute A tantalizing collection of fantasy and science fiction that vivaciously bleed through genre, form, and style. Vicious mer-people are observed in reports by human biologists seeking to protect and understand them; mennonite children covet a fallen robot to be a secret friend and new community member, from an insidious corporation; a boy with shifting parental alliances grows to an openly gay man and biologist in the nine decades of Earth subsumed by alien flora; an eighteenth century prostitute encounters a vision of Satan or of womanhood avenged; a young woman and a new partner reflect on their relationship and a haunted childhood town in found audio tape; the final year of the 1800’s in Boston sees all women bear immortality and the murkiness of becoming avengers against patriarchal violence; a young black girl is the most powerful and feared person in a time locked suburb; a Pakistani man is wrenched from streets of addiction to the mysteries of venom derived cures, to the eeriness of lost family and lost demons; the story of the enslaved people that rebelled against George Washington even as he took their teeth for his own. The kind of collection that makes me remember why I fell in love with the fantastical.

  26. 4 out of 5

    doggirl butler

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Since anthologies are only as good as the stories in them, I'll say whether or not I read each story or put it down and my thoughts on each. "Pitcher Plant" by Adam Troy-Castro: Read. It's spooky and grim, but doesn't last long enough to get tiring instead of novel. I've heard complaints that this anthology is too dark, and I see where that could come from, but I don't mind that much. "What Everyone Knows" by Seanan McGuire: Read. Seanan McGuire was the writer who first got me interested in specul Since anthologies are only as good as the stories in them, I'll say whether or not I read each story or put it down and my thoughts on each. "Pitcher Plant" by Adam Troy-Castro: Read. It's spooky and grim, but doesn't last long enough to get tiring instead of novel. I've heard complaints that this anthology is too dark, and I see where that could come from, but I don't mind that much. "What Everyone Knows" by Seanan McGuire: Read. Seanan McGuire was the writer who first got me interested in speculative fiction, so she'll always be special to me, but this has a fundamental problem that distracts the reader. It's based on McGuire's thoughts about "ugly" animals that are demonized and skipped over by conservation efforts--but she explores that with an actual apocalyptic monster. You can't write a boy-and-his-dog story about a weapon of mass destruction! It makes the protagonist seem foolish and unlikable, to overlook how many people this animal will hurt. "The Storyteller's Replacement" by N.K Jemisin: Read. Not much to say. It's a good story, with a great timeless feel. "Poor Unfortunate Fools" by Silvia Park: Read. It's interesting enough to finish, but Park has some NERVE making me read about merman dick at noon on a wednesday. There's just, a lot of mermaid fucking in this. I'm not sure how to feel about it. "Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women" by Theodore McCombs: Read. It's not bad, but it doesn't stand out. "Hard Mary" by Sofia Samatar: Unfinished. It's just not compelling. Halfway through I checked how many pages I had left, and dropped it. "Variations on a theme from Turandot" by Ada Hoffmann: Read. It's got a pleasant, experimental form and cyclicality that makes it fun to read. The idea of two women escaping a fairy tale-type scenario and its false prince reminds me of Revolutionary Girl Utena. I got my hopes up that the two sopranos would kiss, but that's just lesbian wishful thinking. "Through the Flash" by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: I can't remember if I read this one or not. If I did it wasn't very memorable. "Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good" by LaShawn M. Wanak: Unfinished. I gave it a chance and put it down when I still wasn't enjoying it. "The Kite Maker" by Brenda Peynado: Unfinished. Its racism allegory is embarrassing. In the author bios at the back of the book Peynado says it's about "white and white-passing guilt" and compliance with oppressive systems, but it has the Zootopia Problem. People of color are not subjugated because they're inhuman, people of color are subjugated are devalued humans. Equating them to animals or aliens shows poor understanding of how racism works, and usually backfires! But what really got to me was how the anti-dragonfly people are explicitly Nazis. You couldn't have come up with an equivalent xenophobe group? It HAD to be Nazis? 0/10 your allegory is bad and you should feel bad. "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" by P. Djèlí Clark: Read. It's a good story, and does a great job of prodding into the hypocrisy of the founding fathers. "When Robot and Crow Saved East. St. Louis" by Annalee Newitz: Read. The conflict centered around an outbreak of respiratory disease reads WAY different post-covid, but it still has a fun and interesting take on epidemiology. "Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung" by Usman Malik: Read. This has the most traditionally literary style out of all the stories, which is what drew me in to start. It's also the most disturbing story in the anthology (content warnings for drug addiction, pedophilia, and gore/body horror to the end). I almost put it down when I realized one of the leads that I was supposed to sympathize with was a pedophile, but I skipped to the end and saw that his victim murders him, so I gave it another shot. It's nice, I just didn't expect it to be that intense. "STET" by Sarah Gailey: It's short enough that its footnote writing style is novel enough to carry the story, but I forgot about it as soon as I was done. "What Gentle Women Dare" by Kelly Robson. Read. Easy enough to finish, but I'll never forgive Robson for making me read the word "suckstress." The story's conclusion, that the world would be better if all men were killed, is short-sighted. "Nine Last Days on Planet Earth" by Daryl Gregory: Unfinished. This isn't related to the story's quality, I'm just uncomfortable with alcoholism in fiction for personal reasons. "Dead Air" by Nino Cipri: Read. I finished this because there were wlw in it. I was surprised by how overjoyed I am to see a casual f/f couple, even one that's doomed. The story itself gives me The Magnus Archives vibes, but that's low-hanging fruit. Of course I'd think a horror story in audio transcript format centered on a gay couple is like The Magnus Archives. Of course. "Skinned" by Lesley Nneka Arimah: Read. This is the least outwardly fantastical story, which isn't bad. I was worried the tension between the protagonist's bourgeois feminism and the freedom she sees in the horribly-mistreated female servants wouldn't be addressed, but it was. I got my little gay hopes up again, for a story about the power the power of female allyship and relationships (INCLUDING romantic ones as well as platonic,) but I'm not upset that it didn't happen. "Godmeat" by Martin Cahill: Read. The protagonist's monstrous cooking, which will literally cause the apocalypse, is lovingly-described. The Wild World itself is something you can get a feel for with just the little information we're given about it. I wasn't expecting the ending, since the protagonist was previously too bitter and vengeful for me to imagine him turning a one-eighty and giving himself to save others, but I guess it works thematically. It's also the only story with mlm representation! And I think Spear is neat. "On the Day you Spend Forever with your Dog" by Adam R. Shannon: Read. I'm sure it'd hurt to read if I'd ever lost a pet. The anthology overall has a better balance of stories I like to stories I dislike than most. I could revisit this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cary

    Another wonderful BASF&F. The stories collected here are wide-ranging; I didn't love every one of them, but the joy of a collection like this is that it lets you sample a wide swath of stories you might otherwise have missed out on. My favorite was THROUGH THE FLASH, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, which I would do a disservice by trying to summarize, but I can't remember the last time a short story affected me so much. Another wonderful BASF&F. The stories collected here are wide-ranging; I didn't love every one of them, but the joy of a collection like this is that it lets you sample a wide swath of stories you might otherwise have missed out on. My favorite was THROUGH THE FLASH, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, which I would do a disservice by trying to summarize, but I can't remember the last time a short story affected me so much.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Owen O'Reilly

    This book was an excellent collection of short stories of the fantasy and sci-fi genres. The topics of the story vary wildly, from scientific documentations of alien creatures to chilling, second-person accounts. All of the stories had the intangible quality of believability mixed with surrealism, the sort that creates compelling and engaging narratives. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction or fantasy, as some stories manage to weave both together most convincingly.

  29. 5 out of 5

    C.E. G

    Wow, I really loved most of these stories. Carmen Maria Machado edited this year's edition, and I thought it showed - a lot of the stories were creepy in ways that the stories from Her Body and Others Parties were creepy. A good chunk of them also had a gender/women's focus. My favorites included: On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog by Adam Shannon. I'm obsessed with my own dog, and the idea of inventing time travel just so you can go back to when your dog was alive over and over felt so Wow, I really loved most of these stories. Carmen Maria Machado edited this year's edition, and I thought it showed - a lot of the stories were creepy in ways that the stories from Her Body and Others Parties were creepy. A good chunk of them also had a gender/women's focus. My favorites included: On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog by Adam Shannon. I'm obsessed with my own dog, and the idea of inventing time travel just so you can go back to when your dog was alive over and over felt so understandable. Hard Mary by Sofia Samatar. An Amish community finds some AI from an evil corporation. Variations on a Theme from Turandot by Ada Hoffman. Opera singers compulsively messing up an old sexist/racist opera as the characters themselves try to create a truer ending. Through the Flash by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. A family stuck in a time loop reliving the last day and a half before the world ends, as the somewhat sociopathic 14 year old daughter develops superpowers over the course of the iterations. The Kite Maker by Brenda Peynado. A human kitemaker tries to protect the aliens dragonflies from xenophobic human-first skinheads, while grappling with the violence of her own history with the alien arrival. STET by Sarah Gailey. This story about self-driving cars played out as edits in the citations of an academic abstract. I didn't feel much about the actual story behind the form, but I thought the form itself was great. Dead Air by Nino Cipri. A transcription of audio recordings between two women starting a relationship, while something is clearly off about one of them. It's the most like a horror movie anything I've ever read has ever felt. Skinned by Lesley Nneka Arimah. There's not anything particularly science-y or fantasy-y about this story, which is part of why I really liked it. Just a "what if" question about "what if women weren't allowed to wear clothes until they were married?" It's simplicity was perfect. Highly recommend reading the whole thing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bryan S. Glosemeyer

    Having read four of the five volumes of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy (series editor John Joseph Adams), it has repeatedly become clear how big of an impact the guest editor—in this volume, Carmen Maria Machado—has on the final collection. While 2019’s offering doesn’t quite reach the eclectic heights of the premiere 2015 anthology, it doesn’t fall into the one-note doldrums of 2016 either. I’d say it’s much on the same par as the 2018 anthology. To be certain, this has Machado’s touc Having read four of the five volumes of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy (series editor John Joseph Adams), it has repeatedly become clear how big of an impact the guest editor—in this volume, Carmen Maria Machado—has on the final collection. While 2019’s offering doesn’t quite reach the eclectic heights of the premiere 2015 anthology, it doesn’t fall into the one-note doldrums of 2016 either. I’d say it’s much on the same par as the 2018 anthology. To be certain, this has Machado’s touch all over it. If you’re familiar with her short stories, you can see her aesthetic preferences throughout—a sense of magical realism, surrealism, and the weird, even in the sci-fi stories; a tendency towards female and/or queer protagonists; and a pervading melancholy. As a whole, the collection works quite while. There are some truly powerful and moving stories. But there are a handful that are … fine. Just fine. I wouldn’t say they rose to the level of best of the year, but are otherwise fine. And one story that was neither science fiction nor fantasy and I don’t think had any place here. However, even though the anthology is supposed to be 10 stories of science fiction and 10 stories of fantasy, the sci-fi element still ended up being quite thin in this one. Nothing I’d call ‘hard sci-fi’ at all and a noticeable lack of anything taking place in the far future, or outer space—which is definitely something of let down. There are some beautiful standout stories, though, that make the whole volume worth the read: N.K. Jemisin - The Storyteller’s Replacement Sofia Samatar - Hard Mary Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah - Through the Flash LaShawn M. Wanak - Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good P. Djeli Clark - The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington Annalee Newitz - When Robot and Crow Saved East St Lous Usman Malik - Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung Daryl Gregory - Nine Last Days on Planet Earth Nino Cipri - Dead Air Martin Cahill - Godmeat

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