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1 April 2005

Paradise Lost:
A "Next Wave" of Year's Best Anthologies Planned

by Ferje Vedfamner

Several publishers have just announced plans for year's best anthologies, creating concerns that an already crowded field could become its own sub-genre, which would then require its own year's best.

Existing year's bests helmed by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link Gavin Grant, Kathryn Cramer David Hartwell, Jonathan Strahan Karen Haber, Gardner Dozois, and Stephen Jones Stephen Jones will be joined by an intimidating list of new contenders.

Perhaps the most controversial yet necessary year's bests will be published by Wheatland Press, which will release annual The Year's Best Lucius Shepard (edited by Helen Fielding) and The Year's Best Jeffrey Ford (edited by Christopher Paolini) beginning in 2006.

Neither writer was available for comment, but Wheatland Press publisher Deborah Layne released the following statement: "Thou, profoundest Hell, receive thy new possessor — one who brings a mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven."

Both writers would appreciate contributions of copious amounts of speed, or any other amphetamine, in lieu of fan mail, according to sources on The Street.

In related news, a Year's Best Neal Stephenson, which will include only the necessary scenes from his Baroque Cycle novels, will be released by William Morrow and edited by the long-suffering John Clute.

Among existing year's best editors, Jonathan Strahan has the most ambitious expanded schedule. i-books will release 14 year's best anthologies from Strahan in 2006, not including The Year's Best Fantasy and The Year's Best Science Fiction, which he currently co-edits with Karen Haber:

  • The Year's Best Space Opera (co-editor Thomas Ligotti)

  • The Year's Best Dark Fantasy (co-editor Terry Pratchett)

  • The Year's Best Horror (co-editor Jasper Fforde )

  • The Year's Best Locus Recommended Stories (co-editor Rhys Hughes)

  • The Year's Best Retold Folktales Involving Fairies, Sprites, or Pixies (co-editor Nick Mamatas)

  • The Year's Best New Weird-ish Tales by Cornered & Tasered Non-New Weird Writers (co-editor David Brin)

  • The Year's Best Stories Set in Gardens or Involving Topiary (co-editor Tim Burton)

  • The Year's Best Derivative God-Awful Stories Involving a Wizard (co-editor Robert Coover)

  • The Year's Best Derivative God-Awful Fuzzy-Plotted Cross-Genre Stories (co-editors Gardner Dozois and David Truesdale)

  • The Year's Best Stories by Old Farts Who Were Once Young Turks (co-editor Norman Spinrad)

  • The Year's Best Stories by Young Turks Who Will One Day Be Old Farts (co-editor Jay Lake)

  • The Year's Best Hard SF for Soft-Core Porn Readers (co-editor Anne Rice)

  • The Year's Best Erotic No-Gravity Space Opera (co-editor Harold Bloom)

  • The Year's Best Innocent Pre-Furry Subculture Talking Animal Fiction (co-editor Lawrence Watt-Evans)

  • The Year's Best Stories I Chose All By Myself (co-editor Martin Greenberg)

Strahan, when reached for comment about this frenetic publishing schedule, replied:

Too well I see and rue the dire event
That, with sad overthrow and foul defeat,
Hath lost us Heaven, and all this mighty host
In horrible destruction laid thus low,
As far as Gods and heavenly Essences
Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains
Invincible, and vigour soon returns,
Though all our glory extinct, and happy state
Here swallowed up in endless misery.

According to informed sources, other new year's best anthologies to be initiated by 2007 include:

  • The Year's Best Technophiliac Geek Stories By Cory Stross (edited by Charles Doctorow)

  • The Year's Best Exiguous Polders (edited by John Clute)

  • The Year's Best Kathryn Cramer Blog Entries (edited by David Hartwell)

  • The Year's Best Honorable Mentions (edited by Ellen Datlow and Gardner Dozois)

  • The Year's Best Stories from 1949 (edited by William Barton)

  • The Year's Best Alternate Annexations of Mistra (edited by Harry Turtledove)

  • The Year's Best Message Board and Blog Comments Never Posted Due to the Rapid Return of Rational Thought (edited by Gavin Grant and Michael Bishop)

  • The Year's Best Stories in Which Dogs or Cats Talk, If Briefly (edited by M. John Harrison and Jonathan Carroll)

  • The Year's Best Interstitial Ficciones (edited by a large committee of sixty or seventy writers)

Via telephone, Ellen Datlow responded to the news by saying she warmly welcomed the glut of pointless sub-anthologies that only serve to replicate what her own anthology does quite well all by itself, and concluded by saying:

On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain:
A multitude like which the populous North
Poured never from her frozen loins to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the South, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.

Meanwhile, Stephen Jones offered this short comment when asked for a reaction to the new competition: "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."

Ferje Vedfamner is the author of several books that use the letters of the alphabet to form words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. He was ably assisted in compiling anthology names by "Chew Matinee," a performance artist who lives in the Northeast United States.
Graphics by Mark Roberts
© 2005 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.