February 2nd, 2010

Summary: Dozois anthologies, 2009

Gardner Dozois, 2009

Gardner Dozois had a hand in three original anthologies in 2009, each with a different co-editor. These were The New Space Opera 2 (with Jonathan Strahan), Songs of the Dying Earth (with George R. R. Martin), and The Dragon Book (with Jack Dann). Between them they feature 60 new stories: 5 novellas, 41 novelettes (!), and 14 shorts, for a total of roughly 635,000 words. 19 of the writers are women (32%), and I called 20 of the stories SF (33%) -- though arguably many of the stories in Songs of the Dying Earth could be called SF, though I listed almost all of them as Fantasy.

From the second New Space Opera book I really liked John Kessel's "Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance", which both sends up and embraces Space Opera conventions in telling of a monk and a resurrected (sort of) soldier working to bring down the established order -- lots of cool ideas and action and romance, all knowing but affectionate. Also, Peter Watts's "The Island", less pure Space Opera than a piece of very far future hard SF, about a spaceship building stargates, the strange alien society they encounter, the weirdness of the more or less contemporary humans who have lived so far to the future, and their unwitting involvement in a nasty war. Also, Robert Charles Wilson's "Utriusque Cosmi", a cool story about a woman snatched from the Earth just before it is destroyed by representatives of a vast alien civilization; and "Cracklegrackle", by Justina Robson, in which a man must cooperated with a greatly altered ("Forged") posthuman to try to learn what happened to his daughter on Mars. There was also fine work from John C. Wright, Elizabeth Moon, John Barnes, and Bruce Sterling.

From Songs of the Dying Earth my favorite piece was Lucius Shepard's "Sylgarmo's Proclamation", a Cugel the Clever story, about a band of his enemies uniting to confront him in a remote tower. Also strong are Dan Simmons's "The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderõz", in which Shrue the Diabolist and a group of travelers try to reunite the title magician's library, which seems to be in two universes -- and in so doing forestall the final expiration of the Sun; Howard Waldrop's "Frogskin Cap," which shows us how Tybalt became the last Curator of the Museum of Man; and Neil Gaiman's "A Question of Incuriosity," which intriguingly links our own time with that of the Dying Earth. Stories by Elizabeth Moon, Kage Baker, Robert Silverberg, and Elizabeth Hand are also quite nice.

And finally The Dragon Book. The best story here is Andy Duncan's "The Dragaman’s Bride", about the relationship of an "Old Fire Dragaman" and a young woman threatened by sterilization as part of the infamous eugenics movement of the early 20th century, which focused on the poor of Appalachia. Also, Cecelia Holland's "Dragon’s Deep", in which a woman from a small village ravaged by a dragon,  ends up the dragon’s captive, and while still desiring freedom, comes to understand the dragon -- and perhaps her home -- to a great degree. Also very fine: stories by Peter S. Beagle, Jonathan Stroud, and Diana Wynne Jones.