Book excerpt

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Eighteenth Annual Collection

Year's Best Science Fiction

Gardner Dozois

St. Martin's Press

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Eighteenth Annual Collection
Summation: 2000Well, the millennium is definitely at hand (cue the swell of ominous, Apocalyptic music in the background), and even calendar purists can no longer deny that we're living in the twenty-first century.It'll probably be hard to convey to younger readers a sense of how downright strange that seems to old fogies like me. For most of my life, the twenty-first century was THE FUTURE, that unimaginably distant territory in which most science fiction stories took place; now I find myself living there, in the remote, glittering FUTURE ... (which somehow feels different than you thought it would, more mundane and less goshwow fantastical, once you're actually rubbing up against it, in spite of technological innovations all around us that would have dropped the jaw of anybody in 1950--a lesson many SF writers and futurologists could usefully learn). To paraphrase Mark Twain, I wish the new century well, although I doubt I'll get to see all that much of it--but it's not my century. My century was the previous one.But the twentieth century is gone, taking its freight of unprecedented and unanticipated horrors and wonders with it, and even dinosaurian refugees from that century, like me, must learn to look ahead, not back. We can go ahead, if we're lucky, for a while anyway--but back there's no returning.The temptation to try to predict what the new century ahead is going to be like is almost irresistible, and I'll succumb to that temptation here and there in the pages that follow, but what makes me hesitant to really give in to it is realizing how poor a job prognosticators at the beginning of the twentieth century did peering ahead at what lay in store for them. In almost every case, even those who thought that they were being wildly daring and outrageous in their predications fell far short of what actually happened, missing both the marvels and the miseries, the triumphs and the tragedies, the unimaginable progress and the equally unimaginable atrocities that waited ahead. For someone standing in 1901 and peering ahead, these things were literally unimaginable; it was beyond the power of the human imagination to predict or fully appreciate how radical the changes that lay ahead really would be, changes that would come to alter almost out of recognition every aspect of the nineteenth-century world, sweeping it aside and replacing it with a new world instead. And I suspect that people at the beginning of the twenty-second century--if there are any people, as we understand the term, still around by then--will look back at today's predictions of what the twenty-first century is going to be like with similar amusement (if not outright scorn) at how naive and limited our imaginations turned out to be. So then, let's mostly content ourselves with taking a look at 2000, which is safely past, and thus can be confidently examined with 20/20 hindsight.It was a pretty quiet year, for the most part. Once again, the science fiction genre didn't die, much to the disappointment of some commentators. In fact, the genre seems to be fairly stable at the moment commercially (knock wood!); artistically, even taking into account all of the tie-ins and media and gaming-associated books that crowd the shelves, there are still considerably more science fiction novels of quality being published now than were being published in, say, 1975 (including a few that would probably not have been allowed to be published at all back then), in a very wide range of styles and moods, by a spectrum of writers ranging from Golden Age giants to Young Turks with one book under their belts--quite probably more quality material (including a wide range of short work) than any one reader is going to be able to read in the course of one year, unless they make a full-time job of it. The last couple of years have been dominated by Merger Mania, but this year the corporations were mainly quiescent, like huge snakes digesting the goats they'd swallowed; there were no major changes in publishing, at the genre level, anyway, except in the troubled magazine market--no print SF lines lost or gained. (Most of the major action, both positive and negative, was in the online market, about which see more below.) There were no major changes in editorial personnel this year either, although last year saw a vigorous round of the traditional game of Editorial Musical Chairs, with several Big-Time players leaving the scene (most of whom have yet to return in any significant way).Most of the serious action this year was going on behind the scenes, like the legal battle over Napster--at first glance, something far removed from the SF world ... but not really, eh?, as I strongly suspect that if you want a good model for the problems that the book-publishing business is going to encounter tomorrow, you take a look at the problems that the music industry is dealing with today. (Already, the Science Fiction Writers of America is embroiled in a legal battle with pirate Web sites, with Harlan Ellison--good for you, Harlan!--being one of those leading the rush to the battlements ... although I suspect that as yet we've only seen some very early skirmishes in what's going to be a long and bloody war.) The turmoil in the stock market over the faltering dot.com market--with many big Internet players failing to meet expectations by huge margins and being forced to close up shop, and possible major trouble ahead forecast for others, like the online book-selling (and everything else-selling) superservice Amazon.com--also cast a long shadow into the SF world.Major changes are looming over the publishing world like thunderheads coming up over the horizon, fundamental changes in the way that books reach the general reading public. This year you could hear those storms of change growling and rumbling off in the distance, mostly as yet producing only occasional gusts of wind and fitful bursts of rain, but not too many commentators would deny that those storms are going to break sooner or later--although you'll hear a wide range of predictions of how severe the weather is going to get, from soak-your-clothes-to-your-skin downpours to barely-wet-your-lawn passing showers. Print-on-demand publishers are appearing like mayflies--as are online sites that sell downloads to PCs, portable handheld computers, and other electronic text-readers--and they may turn out to have the life span of mayflies, too ... but it's a good bet that there will be others coming along behind them to replace those that falter and fall bythe wayside. And just behind these are marching other waves of change: new generations of better and more sophisticated handheld computers and electronic text-readers of all sorts (some of which may already be in stores by the time you read these words); print-on-demand systems in most major bookstores that can print most books in their extensive catalogues for you right on the spot, while you wait, "electronic paper"; genuinely reprogrammable "e-books" that will look and feel as much like print books as possible, and be as easy to carry around (even today, you can call into the Internet with a wireless modem and get new novels or stories downloaded into your handheld, as easily as making a phone call). And, no doubt, behind these changes there'll be coming other innovations and technologies that will end up having a major effect on the publishing world, stuff we haven't even heard of yet.None but the most wild-eyed prognosticators believe that all this is going to make print books, or regular trade publishers, or bookstores that exist in the physical world, disappear (that's not going to happen in the foreseeable future, and likely will never happen at all). But it is going to mean big readjustments in market share, something that's already happening, and which isn't going to stop anytime soon.Although cyber-optimists of the "Print books will be extinct by 2004! With Internet shopping, nobody will ever bother leaving their homes again!" sort may have been a bit too giddy, those semi-Luddites who have spent the last few months smugly anticipating the forecast demise of Amazon.com (proving that all this Internet stuff was "just a fad") are probably going to be disappointed as well. Amazon.com may (or may not) die, but there will still be online booksellers. That's not going to change, not now; too many people have become accustomed to the ease of ordering books online, one of the most rapidly growing areas in the whole book-selling industry, and somebody will appear to take up the slack and provide that service for them, even if Amazon.com and all the other present online booksellers went down. Books will continue to be produced and sold online, in one form or another, in one way or another, no matter how the fortunes of an individual publisher rise or fall; the technology is just too easy and too seductive not to use, and sooner or later somebody will figure out a reliable way to make money doing so. Although it may not be the Milk-and-Honey Promised Land of starry-eyed would-be dot.com millionaires, the High Road to Effortless Business Success, the Internet is not going away. It--or its successor technologies--will be a part of our lives (probably an ever-more-integral, indispensable, and yet taken-for-granted-and-largely-ignored part) for the foreseeable future, and for our children's future as well. Barring all-out war, an asteroid strike, a universally potent pestilence, environmental collapse, or some other disaster that sends civilization reeling back to the Dark Ages or worse, things are not going to go back to The Way They Were. The clock cannot be turned back, once you set it ticking--your only option is to smash the clock altogether.So fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy decade. But it just might--with luck--end up taking us to some places worth going to. 
 
It was another bad year in the magazine market, with sales down again almost across the board (in areas far outside the genre, as well), and with only a few hopeful notes to be found here and there.There were two major losses in the magazine market in 2000, the demise of Science Fiction Age (which happened early enough in 2000 that we covered it in last year's anthology) and then, toward the end of the year, the death of Amazing Stories--which was axed in its recent incarnation as a glossy mixed SF/media magazine soon after parent company Wizards of the Coast was sold to Hasbro (Hasbro also axed its card-gaming magazine, Top Deck; apparently a severe slump in the card-gaming market was responsible for both decisions). This was perhaps not quite as much of a hammer blow to the market as the cancellation of Science Fiction Age, since Amazing Stories in its current version was less central and important to the genre than Science Fiction Age had become, but it still sent shock waves through the field. There was a flicker of hope late in the year, as the online site GalaxyOnLine announced that they were going to buy Amazing Stories and reinvent it as an online site selling versions of the magazine in CD format, but this deal fell through when GalaxyOnLine itself died (see below). Amazing Stories has died and then come miraculously back to life several times in the twenty-five years I've been editing Best of the Year anthologies, but this may finally be the end of the line for the grand old magazine, which has existed in one form or another (with occasional breaks in continuity), since 1926. (On the other hand, I've said that before, only to watch the magazine rise from the ashes again, so we'll just have to wait and see, and hope that Amazing Stories can somehow pull off the Lazarus trick one more time. That probably wouldn't be the way to bet it, though.)The other big change in the magazine market this year is potentially positive: late in the year, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction was bought by its current editor, Gordon Van Gelder, from its longtime owner and publisher, Edward L. Ferman. If Gordon can cope with the extra work and problems that will come with assuming the role of publisher as well, and if he has deep enough pockets to weather any financial setbacks that might be caused by the transition, then this might well give F&SF a new lease on life--the Fermans were getting near retirement age, and there has been speculation as to what would happen to the magazine when they did retire. Without someone like Gordon willing to assume the stewardship of the magazine, a big job, it might well have died. Now it has a decent chance of surviving, for as long as Gordon can keep it going, anyway.The news in the rest of the magazine market was no more cheerful than it has been for the last several years. Overall sales were down almost everywhere, with Asimov's Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Realms of Fantasy reaching all-time lows (sales were down across the entire range of the magazine market, in fact, far beyond genre boundaries--it shows up more noticeably with the genre magazines because their initial audience bases were lower to begin with). Asimov's Science Fiction registered a 12.3% loss in overall circulation in 2000, 3,348 in subscriptions, and 1062 in newsstand sales. Analog Science Fiction & Fact registered a 7.5% loss in overall circulation in 2000, 1461 in subscriptions, and 2,435 in newsstand sales. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction registered an 8.1% loss in overall circulation,1,294 in subscriptions, and 1,360 in newsstand sales. Realms of Fantasy registered a 12.1% loss in overall circulation, rising 2,313 in subscriptions, but dropping by 7,157 in newsstand sales. As it has for several years, now, Interzone held steady at a circulation of about 4,000 copies, more or less evenly split between subscriptions and newsstand sales.I've mentioned before that these figures probably look worse than they actually are. Most of the subscriptions that have been lost, to date, are not of the core subscribers who regularly renew their subscriptions at full rate, the most profitable subscribers for a magazine, but rather Publishers Clearing House-style cut-rate stamp-sheet subscriptions, which can actually cost more to fulfill than they actually bring in in revenue. The good news, then, is that the core subscribers who do remain seem loyal, dedicated, and, according to surveys, enthusiastic about the product that they're receiving. Helping also to keep the digest-size or near-digest-size magazines (Asimov's, Analog, F&SF) profitable in spite of declining circulation, is the fact that they're so cheap to produce in the first place that you don't have to sell very many of them to make a profit, the advantage that has kept digest-size magazines alive for decades when more expensive-to-produce magazines, which need to sell a far greater number of copies in order to be profitable, have faltered and died. Nevertheless, this continued decline in circulation is distressing, and if the slide continues long enough, must ultimately threaten the existence of these magazines; without at least a trickle of new subscribers coming in, you can't counterbalance the inevitable attrition of your subscriber base due to death and circumstance, and sooner or later you're left with no subscribers at all, or at least not enough to keep the magazine in the black.One mildly hopeful note is that in the last couple of years most of the SF magazines are pulling in at least a trickle of new subscribers over the Internet from audiences that probably haven't been tapped much by them before, including people who had probably never heard of the magazines before coming across them online (most people, even many habitual science fiction readers, have no idea that the SF magazines--which receive no advertising or promotion at all, in most cases--even exist), and people from other parts of the world, where interested readers have formerly found it difficult to subscribe because of the difficulty of obtaining American currency and because of other logistical problems. Asimov's, Analog, and F&SF have also all made deals with PeanutPress (http://www.peanutpress.com) that enables readers to download electronic versions of the magazines into Palm Pilot handheld computers, with the choice of either buying an electronic "subscription," or of buying them individually on an issue-by-issue basis, and a small but steady flow of new subscribers drawn from new audiences is coming in from this source as well.With today's chaotic newsstand situation, which keeps most SF magazines off most newsstands, I have a feeling that if anything is going to save the magazines, it'll be the use of the Internet as a promotional tool, using Web sites to push sales of the physical product through subscriptions, and so I'm going to list the URLs for those magazines that have Web sites: Asimov's site is at http://www.asimovs.com. Analog's site is at http://www.analogsf.com. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction's site is at http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/. Interzone's site is at http://www.sfsite.com/interzone/. (Realms of Fantasy doesn't have a Web site per se,although content from it can be found on scifi.now.com ... although you could surf the whole site and be hard-pressed to find even a mention of the magazine's name; if you persist, though, you can eventually find a place to subscribe to it online.) The amount of activity varies on these sites, with the Asimov's and Analog sites perhaps the busiest and the Interzone site perhaps the least active, but the important thing about all of the sites is that you can subscribe to the magazines there, electronically, online, with just a few clicks of some buttons, no stamps, no envelopes, and no trips to the post office required. It would be hard for us to make it any easier for you.All of these magazines (and a half dozen others) deserve your support. One of the best things you can do to ensure that short science fiction remains alive and plentiful in the market is to subscribe to whatever magazine you like best. In fact, subscribe to as many of them as you can--it'll still turn out to be a better reading bargain, more fiction of reliable quality for less money, than buying the year's hit-or-miss crop of original anthologies could possibly supply. Do it now, while you're thinking about it, and while it still has a chance to help. If you're a fan of short SF, as someone reading this book presumably is, and you don't bother to do it, you're taking a chance that there could be a lot less short SF around to enjoy in the future.There were another couple of upbeat notes in this troubled market this year. The year 2000 saw a very impressive and promising debut made by a new Scottish SF magazine, Spectrum SF, edited by Paul Fraser, which published four issues in 2000. By rights, since the circulation is still low, this should be mentioned in the semiprozine section, but as Spectrum SF was not only totally professional in content, but very high-end professional at that, featuring two of the year's best stories, by Charles Stross and Alastair Reynolds, as well as good work by Jack Deighton, Eric Brown, Garry Kilworth, Mary Soon Lee, and others, and the serialization of the late Keith Roberts's as-yet-otherwise-unpublished last novel, Drek Yarman, that I'm going to go ahead and list it here in the professional section instead, and you can send me complaining letters about that if you want. Spectrum SF was certainly the most promising debut of a British magazine since Interzone--and, like Interzone, one that's especially welcome to me because it's one of the few British magazines to concentrate on core science fiction; most British magazines emphasize slipstream and/or horror instead. Fraser clearly doesn't have a lot of money to work with--this is obviously a labor of love--so let's hope that he can build a subscription base quickly before he runs out of funds, cash, and hope, since this is a tasty little magazine that deserves to survive, and another magazine that deserves your support.PS Publishing (http://www.editorial-services.co.uk/pspublishing), a British small press, brought out some of the year's best novellas, in individual chapbook form, as part of a series, edited by Peter Crowther, that included Tendeléo's Story, by Ian McDonald, Watching Trees Grow, by Peter F. Hamilton, Making History, by Paul J. McAuley, Reality Dust, by Stephen Baxter, and others, with more to come next year. These novellas will eventually be gathered in omnibus collections, first published in Britain, and then in the United States. Keep your eye out for them, and for the new novellas that will be coming out, for so far they've included some of the best work to be found anywhere in the genre this year.As usual, short SF and fantasy also appeared in many magazines outside genre boundaries, from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine to Playboy. The science magazine Nature, in honor of the millennium, published a very short science fiction story (some of them by very Big Names) in every weekly issue for the past 52 weeks--most of them were too short to have much impact as fiction, but they certainly managed to introduce some sophisticated genre conceptualization and concepts to wide nongenre audiences that were probably unfamiliar with them, and the staff of Nature is to be commended for that. On the other hand, on a sour note, Playboy fired longtime fiction editor Alice Turner, saying that maintaining a full-time fiction editor was "a luxury" that they could no longer afford, and that future stories would be selected by a committee. They didn't ask me, and don't care what my opinion is, but I think that this was a mistake--at a time when endless numbers of photos of naked women can be downloaded from the Internet for far less than the cost of an issue of Playboy, they need to emphasize those touches of class and quality that differentiate them from the average online porn site if they want to survive, not throw them away. At any rate, Alice will be missed.(Subscription addresses follow: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Spilogale, Inc., PO Box 3447, Hoboken, NJ 07030, annual subscription--$38.97 in U.S.; Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, P.O. Box 54033, Boulder, CO 80322-4033--$39.97 for annual subscription in US; Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Dell Magazines, P.O. Box 54625, Boulder, CO 80323--$39.97 for annual subscription in US; Interzone, 217 Preston Drove, Brighton BN1 6FL, United Kingdom, $60.00 for an airmail one-year (twelve issues) subscription. Realms of Fantasy, Sovereign Media Co. Inc., P.O. Box 1623, Williamsport, PA 17703--$16.95 for an annual subscription in the U.S.; Spectrum SF, Spectrum Publishing, PO Box 10308, Aberdeen, AB11 6ZR, United Kingdom--17 pounds sterling for a four-issue subscription, make checks payable to "Spectrum Publishing". PS Publishing, 98 High Ash Drive, Leeds L517 8RE, England, UK--$17 each for Tendeleo's Story, by Ian McDonald, Watching Trees Grow, by Peter F. Hamilton, Making History, by Paul J. McAuley; and Reality Dust, by Stephen Baxter. Note that many of these magazines can also be subscribed to online, at their various Web sites.)It was a wild year in the young field of "online electronic publishing," with some upbeat stories to partially balance some major reversals and disappointments--things change so fast in this ephemeral market, though, that what I write here is likely to be already obsolete by the time this book sees print, so if you're interested, keep that in mind, and keep a close eye on the markets themselves.The big stories here this year were probably the terminal decline of GalaxyOnLine, and the rise of SCI FICTION. GalaxyOnLine, supervised by veteran editor/writer Ben Bova, and introduced in early 2000, was perhaps the most glossy and ambitious such site to date, featuring a distinguished lineup of columnists such as Harlan Ellison, Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, Jack Dann, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and many others, running scientific articles and book and movie reviews as well as original short SF stories, and promising eventually to provide everything from downloadable novels to online movies to animation to Web TV. By the middle of the year, though, their money had run out, their venture capitalists had dried up (the same thing that had killed the Event Horizon site the year before),new investors could not be found--and GalaxyOnLine was dead before the end of the year. A major disappointment, and another major blow to the dream that such sites can be made self-sustaining. Another ambitious fiction site, which was creating an anticipatory buzz and already drawing the work of top authors, The Infinity Matrix, to be edited by SF writer Eileen Gunn, also ran out of backing money, and had the plug pulled on it just before we went to press, losing the SF online world a site of great potential. It was the same story with yet another site with large-scale plans, Bookface, which was making books available to the online community for free (as long as you read them on screen online, the idea being to entice people into buying a download of a book, after they'd "browsed" it), and which was also "publishing" some original short fiction by young writers, but which also ran out of money, and was unable to find sufficient amounts of "Web advertising" revenue to replace it, and had also closed down shop by the end of the year.The faltering of the "dot.com" market, one of the year's big financial stories, is probably the proximate cause of the failure of most of these sites. All of them were funded by big initial rushes of money from venture capitalists back when the market was hot (amounting to multiple millions of dollars in some cases), all ran through their money without being able to find an effective way of bringing any money back in, and then, once the market had soured and venture capitalists had become cautious and conservative again, were unable to find new investors to keep things going.The big problem in this market is still a simple one: nobody has yet figured out how you can reliably make money "publishing" fiction online. The Last Great Hope here, the model that suggested that you could draw in enough income with "Web-advertising" to pay your expenses and even make a profit, seems to have been pretty thoroughly discredited, and the "patronage model," that big companies will support the arts online as part of their Public Relations campaigns, to improve their image, depends on a prosperous and growing economy; once belts start being seriously tightened, art for the sake of improving your image is probably the first thing to go. For the most part, with fiction sites, you either support it yourself, as what amounts to a hobby (an old tradition among print semiprozines, where magazines like Crank! were paid for for years out of the editor's own pockets), you absorb the costs because you hope to get an equal value in promotion, publicity, and prestige for some other product back out of it, you use it as a place to sell subscriptions or some other physical product that exists in the real world--or you find some way to make the customers pay for accessing the fiction, and hope you can get them to cough up in sufficient numbers to keep you afloat. This last is the tricky one, although many are working on it. Sites that sell "e-books" and even individual stories, to be downloaded to various "Palm-Pilot"-type platforms, may be on to a potentially successful model, especially as a wave of new and supposedly greatly improved technology in this area is just about to break upon us.Although we've run through a lot of grim news so far, not all the stories in this market were negative, though, by any means. Early in 2000, the Sci-Fi Channel site (scifi.com) went through an extensive expansion and renovation, which included buying the long-running e-zine Science Fiction Weekly (the new editor of which is former Science Fiction Age editor Scott Edelman, replacing Craig Engler,who has moved up the corporate ladder in the SCI FI organization), and also launching a major new Web site, SCI FICTION, a fiction site within the larger umbrella of the Sci-Fi Channel site, edited by Ellen Datlow, the former Fiction Editor of Omni, as well as of the now-defunct web sites Omni Online and Event Horizon. As she did before with those other sites, Ellen has quickly established SCI FICTION as one of the best places on the Internet to find reliably professional-quality short fiction, putting up one new story and one "classic reprint" story every week (all of which are kept archived). This year SCI FICTION published good original stories this year by Severna Park, Steven Utley, Nancy Kress, Howard Waldrop, Robert Reed, Elizabeth Hand, A. R. Morlan, Linda Nagata, and many others, most of this work at a level of quality and professionalism unrivaled almost anywhere else online. Since the Sci-Fi Channel seems to be operating here on the "promotion, publicity, and prestige" model, SCI FICTION is not expected to make money (nor is there any real way for it to make money), which makes it far less vulnerable than Omni Online or Event Horizon had been, and the chances are good that it will probably survive as long as the parent company itself remains prosperous and healthy. Certainly the Sci-Fi Channel is getting its money's worth as far as promotion, publicity, and prestige is concerned, since SCI FICTION to date has generated a great deal of all three for them, and in areas outside the usual media-fan circles, where people may not even have heard of the Sci-Fi Channel or paid much attention to it, before this.Another good new fiction site is Strange Horizons (http://www.strangehorizons.com), edited by Jed Hartman. Strange Horizons isn't yet operating reliably on the (very high) level of quality maintained by SCI FICTION, but there is some good stuff here, including, in 2000, good professional-level stories by Tamela Viglione, Chuck Rothman, Bruce Holland Rogers, and others; in recent months, they scored points with me by taking a retrospective look at the work of Howard Waldrop, many of whose stories can be accessed there. Another seeming success story (so far--knock wood!) is Fictionwise (http://www.fictionwise.com), which is not really an "electronic magazine" at all, but rather a place to buy downloadable e-books; however, not only is there a very large selection of individual "reprint" stories here of high professional quality by some of the best writers in the business available to be bought for a small fee, either on a story-by-story basis or in "fiction bundles" (see mention also in the short-story collection section, below), which should make them of interest to our readers, but they have just recently begun to offer original short science fiction stories for sale as well--at the moment, this is mostly limited to some original, heretofore unpublished stories by Kage Baker, but their intention is to add more original fiction by other popular authors, and that could in time become an important feature of the site. Along similar lines, ElectricStory (http://www.electricstory.com) is another site where you can buy downloadable e-books, including reprints of books by Terry Bisson, Paul Park, and others, but they make the site interesting with such stuff as movie reviews by Lucius Shepard and articles by Howard Waldrop, which can be read online for free; ElectricStory is also starting to experiment with original content--there's an original novel by new writer Richard Wadholm available there, and a new short-story collection, never published in print form, by Howard Waldrop). Coming later in 2001 is a site called Ipublish (http://www.ipublish.com), which will offer,among other enticements, downloadable original science fiction stories in e-form, selected by SF writer Paul Witcover; they've already bought a novella by Greg Feeley, as well as work by other writers.Short original SF tends to become harder to find after this; you're more likely to find original horror, fantasy, or slipstream stories on the sites that follow, although you will find an occasional SF story as well: Talebones (http://www.fairwoodpress.com/), Dark Planet (http://www.sfsite.com/darkplanet/), Ticonderoga On-Line (http://www.omen.net.au/~rustle/ticonderagal) Electricwine (http://www.electricwine.com); Chiaroscuro (InterText (http://www.intertext.com/), Quantum Muse (http://www.quantummuse.com) and E-Scape (http://www.interink.com/escape.html. ).Although it's relatively hard to find good short original SF online, it's not hard at all to find good short reprint SF stories. At sites like the above-mentioned Fictionwise, Mind's Eye Fiction (http://tale.com/genres.htm), and Alexandria Digital Literature (http://alexlit.com), you'll have to pay a small fee to access reprints (usually amounting to less than fifty cents per story, in most cases), but there are also a fairly large number of sites here and there around the Internet which archive good reprint SF stories that can be accessed for free. Perhaps the best such site is the British Infinity Plus (http://www.infinityplus.co.uk), a good general site which features a very extensive selection of good-quality reprint stories, most (though not all) by British authors, as well as extensive biographical and bibliographical information, book reviews, and critical essays. Most of the sites that are associated with existent print magazines, such as Asimov's, Analog, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Eidolon, Aurealis, and others, will have extensive archives of material, both fiction and nonfiction, previously published by the print versions of the magazines, and some of them regularly run teaser excerpts from stories coming up in forthcoming issues.Finding good fiction to read, though, is not the only reason to go Web-surfing. Among the most prominent SF-related sites on the Internet are general-interest sites that, while they don't publish fiction, do publish lots of reviews, critical articles, and genre-oriented news of various kinds. Among the best of these sites are: the SF Site (http://www.sfsite.com/), not only features an extensive selection of reviews of books, games, and magazines, interviews, critical retrospective articles, letters, and so forth, plus a huge archive of past reviews; but also serves as host site for the Web-pages of a significant percentage of all the SF/fantasy print magazines in existence, including Asimov's, Analog, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, and the whole DNA Publishing group (Absolute Magnitude, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Weird Tales, Aboriginal SF, Dreams of Decadence); Locus Online (http://www.locusmag.com), the online version of the newsmagazine Locus; a great source for fast-breaking genre-related news, as well as access to book reviews, critical lists, extensive database archives, and lists of links to other sites of interest (Mark Kelly's short-fiction review column only sporadically appears now, alas, but Locus has made up for it to some extent by regularly featuring short-fiction reviews by other hands); the English site BEST SF (http://www.bestsf.net/), which also features reviews of the short fiction to be found in current SF magazines and anthologies; Science Fiction Weekly (http://www.scifi.com/sfw/), more media-and-gaming-oriented than SF Site or Locus Online,but which also features news and book reviews every issue, as well as providing a home for columns by such shrewd and knowledgeable genre insiders as John Clute and Michael Cassut; and SFF NET (http//www.sff.net), a huge site featuring dozens of home pages and newsgroups for SF writers, genre-oriented live chats, a link to the Locus Magazine Index 1984-1996, and a link to the research data and reading lists available on the Science Fiction Writers of America page (which can also be accessed directly at http://www.sfwa.org/.); and the above-mentioned Sci-Fi Channel (http://www.scifi.com), which not only provides a home for Ellen Datlow's SCI FICTION and for Science Fiction Weekly, but which is also home to the acclaimed audio-play site Seeing Ear Theater, and to the monthly SF-oriented chats hosted by Asimov's and Analog, as well as vast amounts of material about SF movies and TV shows; audio-plays can also be accessed at Audible (http://www.audible.com) and at Beyond 2000 (http://www.beyond2000.com); multiple-Hugo-winner David Langford's online version of his fanzine Ansible (http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/Ansible/). which provides a funny and often iconoclastic slant on genre-oriented news, is well worth checking out on a regular basis.Live online interviews with prominent genre writers are also offered on a regular basis on many sites, including interviews sponsored by Asimov's and Analog and conducted by Gardner Dozois on the Sci-Fi Channel (http://www.scifi.com/chatnevery other Tuesday night at 9 P.M. EST; regular scheduled interviews on the Cybling site (http://www.cybling.com/); and occasional interviews on the Talk City site (http://www.talkcity.com/). Many Bulletin Board Services, such as Delphi, Compuserve, and AOL, have large online communities of SF writers and fans, and some of these services also feature regularly scheduled live interactive realtime chats or conferences, in which anyone interested in SF is welcome to participate, the SF-oriented chat on Delphi, every Wednesday at about 10 P.M. EST, is the one with which I'm most familiar, but there are similar chats on SFF NET, and probably on other BBSs as well.Other sites are more problematical. The extremely valuable short-fiction review site, Tangent Online, seemed to have died in 1999, with no new content being published there for more than seven months, came back to life briefly in 2000, "died" again for several months, and since then has maintained a very slow trickle of activity, with a few new reviews being published every so often, but nothing like the rate of refreshment it promised, or that it needs to really succeed in fulfilling the function it was created to fulfill, of reviewing the bulk of the year's short fiction. Recently, editor David Trusdale announced the birth of a new and revitalized Tangent Online site (http://www.tangentonline.com), welcome news that inspired a surge of hope in Tangent fans--but since his initial announcement, more than a month back now, nothing new has appeared on the revamped and redesigned site, and there's almost no real content there, just broken links that hopefully one day will lead to the reviews they promise. So, will Trusdale actually get his act together and successfully revive Tangent Online, or will it remain just hopeful vaporware? Who knows? Check in to the site occasionally to see if there's anything new going on, as I do, and see for yourself. Along similar lines, I think that the review site SFRevu (http://www.sfsite.com/sfrevu) is still in existence, after having died late in 1999 and then come back to life again, but every time I try to get to the site it crashes my system, so you'll have to go there and see foryourself. Many of the print criticalzines also have Web sites, but most of them haven't been refreshed in years. Speculations, which abandoned its print edition last year, still maintains a Web site (http://www.speculations.com) and no doubt is still dispensing writing advice, but you'll have to subscribe to the site online if you want to access it.It's worth mentioning again that things change with such lightning speed in the online world that it's worth surfing around every once in a while to see what's still there, what's gone, and what's new. I can almost guarantee you that a lot of things will be different in this market by this time next year--it seems to be the nature of the beast.Things were fluid in the print semiprozine market as well, as they have been for decades, with magazines dying and new magazines springing up to replace them.One of the most astonishing stories in this market was the rebirth of the fiction semiprozine Century after almost four years of total silence, long after everyone (including, I must admit, me) had given it up for dead. Nevertheless, a new issue appeared in late 1999 (dated 2000), and was followed by another issue in the middle of 2000, and so Century will have to be considered to be alive again. Although they lean away from center-core SF and toward more literary stuff, with a high percentage of mainstream and fantasy stuff, Century was widely considered back in its Glory Days to be perhaps the most literate and sophisticated of all the fiction semiprozines, and this version of it lives up to that reputation, with good stories (most of them outside the genre, or with only thin traces of it) by Michael Bishop, Ian MacLeod, Michael Kandel, Robert Reed (one of the few real SF stories), Terry Windling, Greer Gilman, and others. Whether Century will disappear again or not, nobody knows (or what effect the recent tragic death of associate editor Jenna A. Felice will have on the magazine)--but the quality of these two issues is high enough to probably make it worthwhile taking a chance that they can maintain their schedule this time around, and subscribe. Artemis Magazine: Science and Fiction for a Space-Faring Society is another magazine that had been talked about and promised for years without ever actually materializing, so that many people had probably given up on it, but, like Century, it actually appeared late in 1999, with another issue coming out later on in 2000. The overall level of literary quality here is not as high or as consistent as that of Century--on the other hand, unlike Century, almost everything here is honest-to-gosh actual science fiction. Artemis published some good stuff this year, including a story by Stan Schmidt that made the Final Nebula Ballot, but to me they already seem to be chafing against their self-imposed restriction of only publishing stories about moon colonization, and I'd advise them to widen their purview a bit--in my opinion, if a story's about space exploration, that ought to be enough to get it in, without insisting that it take place on the Moon (they're already rationalizing ways around this stricture--stories that take place on a moon are okay--so why not do away with it altogether?).In 1998, several fiction semiprozines were consolidated under the umbrella of Warren Lapine's DNA Publications, which now publishes Aboriginal Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination (formerly titled Pirate Writings), Weird Tales, and the all-vampire-fiction magazine Dreams of Decadence; as well as Lapine'soriginal magazine, Absolute Magnitude, The Magazine of Science Fiction Adventures. Lapine continues to publicly announce that he's well-satisfied with the progress of the magazines, and it's true that the circulation of all the DNA magazines is growing, unlike most of the other magazines in the field, although only by miniscule degrees (the circulation for Absolute Magnitude, for instance, increased from 2,500 copies to 3,000 this year) ... still, any forward motion is better than none, or, worse, motion in the other direction, and Lapine has some reason to congratulate himself on this. On the other hand, there are still problems: in spite of the fact that most of these magazines are supposed to be quarterlies, most of them (with the exception of Weird Tales) only managed to produce two issues apiece this year. And the overall quality of the fiction they contained in 2000 seemed a bit more lackluster than in some years past, with fewer standout stories. The DNA empire continues to expand--this year taking over the newsmagazine Science Fiction Chronicle--but it may be time for them to pause in expansion and devote more time and energy to things like stabilizing publication schedules for the magazines and working on producing a more reliable level of quality in the fiction. It would be a mistake for them to overextend themselves, a mistake the once-mighty Pulphouse empire made before them. Let's hope they can avoid that fate and keep the magazines they do have growing--the fiction semipro market could use a success story for a change. (Information about all of the DNA Publications magazines can be found at http://www.dnapublications.com/.)Of the remaining SF fiction semiprozines, Terra Incognita, one of the brighter new lights on the fiction semiprozine scene, rivaled only by Century and Eidolon for their consistently high level of literary quality, managed to produce two issues in 2000 (after publishing no issues at all in 1999), featuring good work by Terry McGarry, Stefano Donati, L. Timmel Duchamp, David J. Hoffman-Dachelet, and others (although I still think that their self-imposed restriction of only using stories that take place on Earth is too limiting; it's hard enough to find good material for a magazine, without ruling out a very large percentage of it sight unseen). For the last couple of years, Australia has been bringing us three fiction semiprozines (two of them, Aurealis and Eidolon among the longest-running of all fiction semiprozines), but there seems to be trouble Down Under, and most of these magazines are emitting distressed wobbling noises. Just a few years back, much print was spilled hyping the new "Golden Age of Australian Science Fiction," but, although there are still plenty of good Australian writers working in the genre market, the Australian Boom seems to have sprung a leak as far as the Australian magazines themselves are concerned. Altair, the newest of the Australian semiprozines, published one double issue this year, out of a scheduled four, and then seems to have gone on hiatus due to lack of funds--perhaps permanently, if things don't work out. Aurealis published two issues (out of a scheduled four), one also a double issue but then got itself embroiled in some sort of strange controversy with most of its major writers (the details of which remain obscure to non-Australians, with most of the Australians being rather close-mouthed about it) which ended with most of them swearing to boycott the magazine from then on, leaving Aurealis's future somewhat in doubt, although they are still officially continuing. Eidolon, of recent years the most reliable of the Australian semiprozines, published a double issue that featured some good, high-professional-level stories from writers such asChris Lawson, Damien Broderick, Geoffrey Maloney, Stephen Dedman, Terry Dowling, and others, undoubtedly the best issue by far produced by any Australian semiprozine this year, and then announced that they were abandoning their print edition to "reinvent" themselves on their Eidolon Online Web site (http://www.eidolon.com) as an online-only "electronic magazine"--an announcement drawing cries of dismay from many industry insiders, who, after watching other print magazines such as Omni and Tomorrow try the same thing and fail, considered it to be tantamount to an announcement that Eidolon was going down the tubes (whether this turns out to be true or not remains to be seen; but I must admit that I myself am far from sanguine about its chances). So whether or not I can honestly advise you to subscribe to any of these magazines, I don't know. Do you feel lucky? I'll post what subscription information I have, and you can make up your own minds. (Meanwhile, a new Australian fiction semiprozine, Orb, is starting up, having produced two issues I've not yet seen. Rather than post a subscription rate for overseas subscriptions, they say to "please send inquiries regarding overseas subscriptions"; you can do so at their Web site, //home.vicnet.net.au/~kendacot/Orb/welcome.htm.)The other longest-running fiction semiprozine, the Canadian On Spec, had seemed a bit dull and lackluster the last few years, overshadowed by the more robust Eidolon, but as the Australian magazines head into a rocky patch, it seems to have improved, with the overall quality of the fiction better than it's been in a while, with worthwhile stories by Cory Doctorow, Derryl Murphy, Kain Massin, Rebecca M. Senese, and others appearing there this year. Meanwhile, the other Canadian fiction semiprozine, Transversions, seems to have disappeared completely. There's also an Irish fiction semiprozine, an interesting and eccentric little magazine called Albedo One, which managed two issues this year. The leading British fiction semiprozine has for some years now been The Third Alternative, which is a slick and handsome full-size magazine that attracts the work of some top professional authors--but which also runs very little SF or fantasy, featuring "slipstream," literary surrealism, and horror instead. I only saw one issue of Tales of the Unanticipated and Space & Time, and LC-39 died after a final issue. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine died this year, after thirteen years of publication. I don't follow the horror semiprozine market much anymore, but there the most prominent magazine seems to be the highly respected Cemetery Dance and the lively and audacious little magazine Talebones, Fiction on the Dark Edge, which also sneaks some science fiction in from time to time.A quirky and interesting newcomer in the fiction semiprozine market is Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (http://www.lcrw.net); as you can tell from the title, it tends to be a bit self-consciously eccentric and "literary," but although you'll find no center-core SF here (or even fantasy, as it's usually known in the genre), you will find some good stories, most of them existing somewhere on the borderline between slipstream and surreal literary fantasy; this year, they ran interesting stuff by Ellen Klages (a story which is on this year's Final Nebula Ballot), Kelly Link, Jeffrey Ford, James Sallis, and others.Another newcomer is Black Gate (http://www.blackgate.com), a handsome slick large-format fantasy magazine, supposedly concentrating on "Sword & Sorcery" and "High Fantasy" (although, oddly, the debut issue also contains a science fictionstory by Jeffrey Ford); the first issue features a gorgeous cover by Keith Parkinson, as well as good work by Richard Parks, Charles de Lint, Michael Moorcock, and others (there are already rumors of behind-the-scenes trouble at Black Gate, though, so we'll have to wait and see if it survives).Turning to the critical magazines, the top two magazines, and just about the only two published on a reliable schedule (or even anywhere near one), are Charles N. Brown's "newszine" Locus, and David G. Hartwell's eclectic critical magazine The New York Review of Science Fiction. Andy Porter's SF Chronicle, for years Locus's chief rival, has fallen on hard times of late, with its publishing schedule becoming so erratic that often there were only a couple of issues per year. In 2000, however, SF Chronicle became part of Warren Lapine's DNA Publications group, theoretically freeing Porter to concentrate on editing rather than the mundane details of production and distribution, and it is sincerely to be hoped that this change will put SF Chronicle back in contention as a top newszine again. There were two issues of Lawrence Person's playful and intelligent Nova Express out this year, prompting some to exclaim that the millennium must be at hand (as indeed it is, isn't it?) There's not really a lot more left to the critical semiprozine market anymore, what with some magazines falling silent, and Tangent and Speculations converting (supposedly, in Tangent's case) to online-only electronic versions--a fate which I sometimes think might overtake all critical semiprozines in time.(Locus, The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field, Locus Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 13305, Oakland, California 94661, $56.00 for a one-year first class subscription, 12 issues; The New York Review of Science Fiction, Dragon Press, P.O. Box 78, Pleasantville, NY, 10570, $32.00 per year, 12 issues; Nova Express, P.O. Box 27231, Austin, Texas 78755-2231, $12 for a one-year (four-issue) subscription; On Spec. More Than Just Science Fiction, P.O. Box 4727, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6E 5G6, $18 for a one-year subscription; Aurealis, the Australian Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Chimaera Publications, P.O. Box 2164, Mt. Waverley, Victoria 3149, Australia, $43 for a four-issue overseas airmail subscription, "all cheques and money orders must be made out to Chimarea Publications in Australian dollars"; Eidolon, the Journal of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Eidolon Publications, P.O. Box 225, North Perth, Western Australia 6906, $45 (Australian) for four-issue overseas airmail subscription, payable to Eidolon Publications; Altair. Alternate Airings in Speculative Fiction, PO Box 475, Blackwood, South Australia, 5051, Australia, $36 for a four-issue subscription; Albedo, Albedo One Productions, 2 Post Road, Lusk, Co., Dublin, Ireland; $34 for a four-issue airmail subscription, make checks payable to "Albedo One"; Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Absolute Magnitude, The Magazine of Science Fiction Adventures, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Weird Tales, Dreams of Decadence, Science Fiction Chronicle--all available from DNA Publications, P.O. Box 2988, Radford, VA 24142-2988, all available for $16 for a one-year subscription, although you can get a group subscription to all five DNA fiction magazines for $70 a year, with Science Fiction Chronicle $45 a year (12 issues), all checks payable to "D.N.A. Publications"; Century, Century Publishing, P.O. Box 150510, Brooklyn, NY 11215-0510, $20 for a four issue subscription; Terra Incognita, Terra Incognita, 52 Windermere Avenue #3, Lansdowne, PA 19050-1812, $15 for four issues; Tales ofthe Unanticipated, Box 8036, Lake Street Station, Minneapolis, MN 55408, $15 for a four-issue subscription; Space & Time, 138 W. 70th Street (4B), New York, NY. 10023-4468, $10.00 for a two-issue subscription (one year), $20.00 for a four-issue subscription (two years); Artemis Magazine: Science and Fiction for a Space-Faring Society, LRC Publications, 1380 E. 17th St., Suite 201, Brooklyn NY 11230-6011, $15 for a four-issue subscription, checks payable to LRC Publications; Talebones, Fiction on the Dark Edge, 5203 Quincy Ave SE, Auburn, WA 98092, $18 for four issues; The Third Alternative, TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambs. CB6 2LB, England, UK, $22 for a four-issue subscription, checks made payable to "TTA Press"; Black Gate, New Epoch Press, 815 Oak Street, St. Charles, IL 60174, $25.95 for a one-year (four-issue) subscription; Cemetery Dance, CD Publications, Box 18433, Baltimore, MD 21237; Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Small Beer Press, 360 Atlantic Avenue, PMB #132, Brooklyn, NY 11217, $12 for four issues, all checks payable to Gavin Grant. Many of these magazines can also be ordered online, at their Web sites; see the online section, above, for URLs.) 
 
All in all, 2000 was another weak year for original anthologies, with only a few bright spots here and there. The best original SF anthology of the year, with even less competition for the title than usual, was probably Vanishing Acts (Tor), edited by Ellen Datlow. Although it carries the assertive subtitle, "A Science Fiction Anthology," a number of stories here, including a few of the best ones (the Chiang, the Stableford, the McDowell), are fantasy by any reasonable definition--but enough of the rest of them are center-core SF to tip the balance and let us judge this as an SF anthology. The best story here is probably Ted Chiang's eccentric and brilliant novella "Seventy-two letters," a story which dances right on the razor-thin boundary between fantasy and science fiction; I finally decided that it actually was a fantasy, as it depends at base on the core assumption that cabalistic magic really does work, but it's a member of that small but select subsubgenre of stories that rigorously examine fantasy material through the logical and rational lens of the scientific method--in fact, "Seventy-two Letters" reminds me the most strongly of those sections in Avram Davidson's The Phoenix and the Mirror concerned with the making of the speculum majorum. Other than the Chaing, clearly the cream of the crop here, the best stories in Vanishing Acts are M. Shayne Bell's "The Thing About Benny," Daniel Abraham's "Chimera 8," and Paul. J. McAuley's "The Rift," with Brian Stableford's "Tenebrio" and Ian McDowell's "Sunflowers" a half step below that. The book also contains worthwhile but somewhat flawed stories by Mark W. Tiedemann and A. R. Morlan, and William Shunn, as well as less successful pieces by Michael Cadnum and David J. Schow. Vanishing Acts is also anchored by strong reprints by Suzy McKee Charnas, Avram Davidson, Karen Joy Fowler, and Bruce McAllister (be sure to catch in particular Charnas's strong and underrated "Listening to Brahms"), and graced by an intriguing poem by Joe Haldeman, and is a good value at $24.95.You run quickly out of options this year when searching for possibilities for a follow-up candidate for the title of best original SF anthology. The most solid contender is probably Skylife: Space Habitats in Story and Science (Harcourt),edited by Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski, which features two excellent original stories, "Reefs," by Paul J. McAuley and "Open Loops," by Stephen Baxter, as well as good reprints (of both stories and essays) by James Patrick Kelly, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Joan D. Vinge, James Blish, Greg Bear, Gregory Benford himself, and others. This is a worthwhile anthology, and a valuable addition to any SF library, but it somehow feels a bit musty--most of the reprint stories are from the late '70s, as is the longest of the reprint essays, as if the book was really an anthology from the late '70s that had somehow not seen print until the year 2000. With the exception of the originals by McAuley and Baxter, there's little here reflective of the evolution of genre thinking about the theme during the decades of the '80s and '90s: without those two stories, there wouldn't be much evidence that Skylife hadn't originally been published twenty years ago (even the extensive bibliography doesn't mention much that was published after the beginning of the '80s). As is, the book seems out of balance, with the bulk of it composed of reprint material, much of it rather dated. I think they'd have been better off throwing out some of the reprints, both fiction and nonfiction, and commissioning more originals from contemporary authors (or fresh material from veterans such as Bear, Benford, and Vinge, for that matter), especially if they could have gotten stories at the same level of quality as the two originals they do have. Still, in spite of these quibbles, Skylife will probably be the standard anthology on this theme for some time to come. At $28, it may be seen as a bit expensive by some, but when you throw in the eight pages of color art, it's probably worth it.Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Warner), edited by Sheree R. Thomas, is an anthology of huge historical significance, but can hardly be a serious contender for the title of best original SF anthology of the year, since it doesn't really contain that much actual science fiction. Whatever its value as literature, most of the original material here is fantasy or horror of various stripes, or near-mainstream, or surrealism of one sort or another, or literary erotica; what science fiction there is here (with the exception of two of the reprints) tends to be quite "soft," or to be mixed in a hybrid with one or more of the other genres mentioned. (The next Dark Matter anthology, being planned now, supposedly will concentrate more on science fiction.) The best of the original stories in Dark Matter are by Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Leane Ross, and Jewelle Gomez, the book also features rare and rarely seen material of great historic import from black writers not usually seen as part of SF's family tree, such as W. E. B. Du Bois, George S. Schuyler, Ishmael Reed, and Charles W. Chesnutt, more contemporary (but still classic) reprints by writers such as Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler, and an array of essays about racism and science fiction by Delany, Butler, Paul D. Miller, Charles R. Saunders, and Walter Mosley. A landmark anthology.After this, we quickly run out of alternatives. Star Colonies (DAW), edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, is probably an attempt to follow up on the success of last year's acclaimed Moon Shots anthology (edited by Peter Crowther), but although it does contain good stories by Allen Steele, Pamela Sargent, Robert Charles Wilson, and others, nothing here really reaches the level of quality of the best of the stories from Moon Shots. Far Frontiers (DAW), edited by Greenberg and Larry Segriff, is even weaker, although there's still some entertainingmaterial here by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Alan Dean Foster, Robin Wayne Bailey, and others. This year's assembled-online SFF.net anthology (number three in the "Darkfire anthology series," according to the cover copy) is The Age of Wonders: Tales from the Near Future (SFF.NET), edited by Jeffry Dwight. This anthology seems weaker than last year's SFF.net anthology, The Age of Reason, perhaps because of the limitation in potential story material implied by the subtitle, perhaps because that's just the way it came out, with lots of minor stories, but it does feature a superior story by William Sanders, and interesting work by Brian Plante, Dave Smeds, Mary Soon Lee, Lawrence Fitzgerald, and others (you won't find this one in stores, so mail-order from: SFF Net, 3300 Big Horn Trail, Plano, TX 75075-$14.95 for The Age of Wonders: Tales from the Near Future; the book can also be ordered online at sff.net, and back titles in the Darkfire series can be ordered either by mail or online). Guardians of Tomorrow (DAW), edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff, was also pretty minor, although it featured interesting work by Willam H. Keith, Jane Lindskold, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and others. Such a Pretty Face: Tales of Power and Abundance (Meisha Merlin), edited by Lee Martindale, is a mixed SF/fantasy anthology that features good work by Gene Wolfe, Laura Underwood, K. D. Wentworth, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and others. And, as usual, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume XVI (Bridge), edited by Algis Budrys, presents novice work by beginning writers, some of whom may later turn out to be important talents.There wasn't a big standout anthology in fantasy this year, as there has b Gardner Dozois has been the editor of Asmiov's Science Fiction Magazine since 1985 and has received the Hugo Award for best editor eleven times. He lives in Philadelphia, PA.