Locus Magazine's short fiction reviewer Mark R. Kelly names the following top ten stories of 1997, listed alphabetically by author. A longer discussion of the year's short fiction, and an extensive recommended reading list, will appear in the February 1998 Locus. (Posted Fri 9 Jan.)
Stephen Baxter, "Glass Earth Inc."
(Odyssey Nov-Dec 1997)
A spectacular extrapolation of communications technology, in the context of a 2045 London murder mystery, examining the dangers of software that filters our relationship with reality.
Terry Bisson, "An Office Romance"
(Playboy Feb 1997) A playful, finely crafted tale that extrapolates PC software to virtual reality, describing a flirtation between two office workers who discover ways of manipulating the settings of their environment.
Greg Egan, "Reasons to be Cheerful"
(Interzone Apr 1997)
An experimental alteration of brain chemistry allows a man to shift his attitude at will anywhere along the scale from mindless happiness to mindless despair. The story examines our assumptions about reality, and what it means to be human, as only the best SF can.
Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman, "The Fall of the Kings"
(Bending the Landscape, ed. Nicola Griffith & Stephen Pagel, White Wolf) A love story between a lecturer and a student at a pseudo-medieval university, featuring exhilarating character interplay and a complex relationship among character, society, and magic.
Paul J. McAuley, "Second Skin"
(Asimov's Apr 97) An example of ''radical hard SF'' -- SF combining traditional colorful genre scenarios with underpinnings of cutting edge scientific speculation; an interplanetary spy story set on Neptune's moon Proteus in which the mystery in part is the identity of the ''spy''.
Michael Moorcock, "London Bone"
(New Worlds, ed. David Garnett, White Wolf) An arresting tale of a cynical but enterprising London arts dealer who discovers the value of fossilized residues found beneath the city's foundations. The story is a complex metaphor about modern culture's relationship with history, and a striking character portrait.
Paul Park, "Get a Grip"
(Omni Online Mar 97, F&SF Dec 97) A classic Twilight-Zone reality breakdown story, blended with a satire on the entertainment industry, about a man who discovers that the reason his life hasn't made sense is because it hasn't been real.
Robert Reed, "Marrow"
(SF Age Jul 97) The occupants of a planet-sized Ship discover that another entire planet lies hidden within the core of their world. When an expedition there becomes stranded, the story's timeline expands exponentially as the survivors strive to understand their fate.
Michael Swanwick, "Mother Grasshopper"
(from the author's collection A Geography of Unknown Lands, Tigereyes Press) A surrealistic, metaphorical tale of life and death after mankind has colonized the eye of a giant grasshopper. A mysterious stranger leads the narrator on a journey across the barren landscape to learn about life, love, and the price humanity pays to have children.
Walter Jon Williams, "Lethe"
(Asimov's Sep 97)
A complex psychological tale of relationships among human duplicates -- physical and mental, more than ''clones''. A fascinating take on a classic SF theme.