readercon catchup #4: The Year in Short Fiction

The Year in Short Fiction

this was the last panel of the con, sunday afternoon at 2, and the audience was quite sparse. of course, this wasn’t so much about the conversation as it was to hear the panel give names of some of their favorite works over the past year. also, Neil Clarke was supposed to be on the panel but was absent, which was a let-down, but there were some very interesting nuggets here. [UPDATE: as Neil mentions in his comment below, he’d lost his voice following the Future of Magazines, Part 2 panel earlier that day, so was unable to participate.]

Theodora Goss started by asking the panel if they’d seen any particular trends or issues over the last year and Ellen Datlow, who edited The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror #21 (the last of that publication), said that she saw fewer standout stories by known names, but several of relatively unknowns, as well as some first-timers, had strong showings. she said this made it a little harder to please the publisher, who is hoping for headliner names to grab people’s attention.

Kathryn Cramer, who co-edits The Year’s Best Science Fiction  and The Year’s Best Fantasy, said she largely agreed, though a couple bigger names had enormous years, including Peter S Beagle and Elizabeth Bear. she also identified the difference between three types of anthologies: theme (duh); movement (a collection of writers with an ear to what the others are doing, quasi-together, and the stories tend to resonate on one or more levels with each other); and trend (a marketing thing, where the stories usually end up looking the worse for being put together – she described steampunk as this).

Doug Cohen, Assistant Editor (among other things) for Realms of Fantasy, said he hadn’t actually seen any specific trends, per se, though he did mention the importance of reprinting for short fiction, as reminding people of what has gone before or introducing newcomers to classics. the main example of this he gave was Wastelands, edited by John Joseph Adams.

Theodora pushed a little, asking where else can people go, other than the anthologies, to find the best new speculative fiction. Ellen was firm in her statement that for horror there’s far more junk out there than quality stuff, but recommended Black Static as the place to start. Kathryn offered Mike Ashley’s Mammoth Book of… series, and mentioned that the gender split in the genres seems to be higher for women in fantasy/sf than elsewhere. she also said she’s gotten too narrow in her ‘editor blinders’ and has been trying to break tham apart by reaching into new areas. Doug said to go to, and then followed a list of authors and/or stories that went from 2008-2009 and too fast for me to catch them all, but here’s what i caught:

  • Trent Hergenrader – ‘The Hodag’
  • Unknown – ‘Cargo’ (one of Ellen’s mentions, saying it was not horror, per se, but powerfully horrific and terrible in its content – a story about the pilots who flew the bodies of the Jonestown ‘suicides’ back to the US)
  • M K Hobson – ‘The People’s Republic of the Edelweiss Village Putt-Putt Golf’
  • Euan Harvey –  ‘The Claw Unseen” and ‘Harry and the Monkey’ (one of Doug’s contributions, saying that Euan is ‘exploding’ in RoF, describing how sometimes an author and an editor will ‘click’ and the editor will start accepting nearly everything from that author*)
  • Unkown – ‘Beachhead’
  • Daniel Kayson – ‘Tears for Godzilla’
  • Paolo Bacigalupi – several
  • Graham Edwards – (didn’t catch the name)
  • Robert Reed – ‘Shadow Below’ and ‘Unstrung Zither’ (this was one of Kathryn’s offerings, and she made a point of saying that he writes something different every time, which intrigues me and now i must learn more)
  • Peter S Beagle – ‘The Rabbi’s Hobby’
  • ‘The Parable of the Shower’
  • Bruce Sterling – ‘Black Swan’
  • Ellen Kushner – ‘Wild and Wicked Youth’

* the very idea makes me both wildly jealous and insanely hopeful.

  1. I was actually looking forward to being on this panel, but I lost my voice shortly after the magazine panel and had to drop out. I talked way too much that weekend. :)

    • no worries. i’m glad i was able to catch you at the magazine panel beforehand, which was very good. i’m ashamed to admit how out of all this i’ve been for too long, but i really like what you did with treefrog7 and i’m looking forward to finding more such gems. any quick directions to other such pieces? the whole idea of writers having to catch up to the technology is extremely intriguing. and, of course, thanks for stopping by!

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