It's the end of the year, which means it's time for the annual Asimov's and Analog readers' polls. Below are my picks for the best stories of the year (with links to my reviews and analysis where applicable)!
Certainly the toughest category in both polls, there were many strong contenders for Asimov's best novella. MacLeod's oddity about a space-prince with a fetish for genetically engineered slaves was certainly unique, and Rusch's SF/horror tale had a profoundly creepy atmosphere. But the strong characters in Kress's story of an emergent hive mind in a nursing home wins my top score. Runners up: Robert Reed's "Truth" (Oct/Nov), Brian Stableford's "The Philosopher's Stone" (Jul), and David Ira Cleary's "The Flowers of Nicosia" (Dec).
1. The Ray-Gun: A Love Story by James Alan Gardner (Feb)
2. Lester Young and the Jupiter's Moon Blues by Gord Sellar (Jul)
3. Vinegar Peace, or, the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage by Michael Bishop (Jul)
Long titles rule the day here, apparently. This category was easiest to decide on—for the top slot, at least. Gardner's story of destiny, love, and alien artifacts was probably the best story I read last year, period. Sellar's story involves aliens who love jazz so much they hire musicians to accompany them on tours of the solar system while taking some very PKD time-and-space-altering drugs. Michael Bishop's story of a group home for parents whose children die in a near-future war resonates even more strongly when the recent death of the author's own son is taken into consideration. There were several other strong contenders in this category: Elizabeth Bear's Lovecraftian "Shoggoths in Bloom" (Mar), Ted Kosmatka's theology-of-physics-themed "Divining Light" (Aug), Melanie and Steve Rasnic Tem's elegiac "In Concert" (Dec), and Neal Barrett, Jr.'s ecumenically postapocalyptic "Radio Station St. Jack" (Aug) would all be worthy winners.
1. This is How it Feels by Ian Creasey (Mar)
2. Inside the Box by Edward M. Lerner (Feb)
3. Dhuluma No More by Gord Sellar (Oct/Nov)
In Creasey's heartbreaking short, a man charged with DUI must live with the implanted memories of a young girl killed by a drunk driver. Lerner's story earns its place on the list by considering the POV of Schroedinger's poor hypothetical feline. Sellar's postcolonial tale of a iceberg-mining ship run by African emigrants reminded me of Mack Reynold's forgotten gem Blackman's Burden and its sequels.
1. Deaths on Other Planets by Joanne Merriam (Apr/May)
2. War Gods by Bruce Holland Rogers (Jun)
3. Landscapes by Geoffrey A. Landis (Aug)
Bluntly speaking, I don't pay too much attention to the poetry in Asimov's, so I submit these choices without comment.
I'm a sucker for a good surrealist landscape, and Maronski's cover for the March issue is a great one. I don't know what's happening in Eggleton's spacescape, but it looks amazing. And I always enjoy Lundvall's Chagall-ish covers, which are far more expressionistic than you might expect to see on an SF magazine.
There's a bit of an imbalance in the Best Novella category for Analog. Because this magazine serializes novels (which Asimov's generally does not do), it publishes fewer novellas—by my count, only four this year. Thankfully both Bartell's "Test Signals," a mutation-themed mystery, and Lovett's "Brittney's Labyrinth," a sequel to his excellent "The Sands of Titan," were strong entries.
A lot of long titles in the novelette category for Analog as well, it seems. Dulski's story is a bizarre mystery involving the Albigensian heresy, among other things. Stratmann's sequel to to last year's "The Paradise Project" features a distinctly positive representation of faith. Frederick's story earns points for exploring the religious implications of a universe a step or two up the ontological ladder from our own.
Chase's story involves a scientist who begins having odd visionary experiences, including encounters with my favorite medieval anchoress, Julian of Norwich. Sanford's story is in intriguing exploration of the concepts of free will and destiny. And Hemry's elegy for forgotten information squeezes an amazing amount of complexity into fewer than four pages.
Best Fact Article
1. The 3D Trainwreck by Thomas A. Easton (Nov)
2. Here There be Dragons: The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and Other Mysteries of an Explored Planet by Richard A. Lovett (Oct)
3. The Challenge of the Anthropic Universe by Carl Frederick (Jul/Aug)
I tend to be more interested in the less-technical fact articles in Analog, but I found Easton's exploration of 3D printing technology fairly fascinating. Lovett's article looks into some of the biological surprises our planet still springs on us. Frederick's discussion of the anthropic principle earns its place by virtue of its interesting subject matter, though I think the limited definition of God he uses when discussing religious ideas ultimately amounts to a straw man.
I'm also a sucker for spacescapes, apparently, and Eggleton's impressionistic spaceships push his cover into the top slot. When I made my choices I had no idea the painterly April image was a photograph.
So those are my choices... What are yours? (And if you're not subscribing to one or both of these magazines... when are you planning to?)