Saturday, December 17, 2005

Best Story Collections of 2005

Maureen McHugh asks if I can suggest some of the best short story collections of 2005. Having been nominated for a big prize for her own collection (huzzah!), she finds herself wondering what else is going on out there.

I haven't been following new fiction as closely as usual this past year (mostly because of preoccupation with my own projects), so I can make only a few suggestions. Terry Bisson published two collections this year, Greetings and Other Stories and Numbers Don't Lie. (The good folks at Tachyon sent me reviewer's galleys, but I have so far not found a newspaper interested in commissioning me to do a review of recent SF.) I have read about half the stories in Greetings, and it's good. As good as Bears Discover Fire? Can't say till I've read the rest.

Numbers Don't Lie is a trio of novellas about this colorful character. Such a volume may not be considered a story collection by everyone, but Jim Harrison's The Summer He didn't Die also comprises three novellas, and it was also nominated for the Story Prize, so hey, it counts. (Anyway, I like novellas.) And at least one of the stories in this volume involves Harrison's own colorful character, Brown Dog, so there. I liked the novellas, so count Bisson in.

James Salter's Last Night has some superb stories in it. Maro Lanagan's Black Juice appeared from Eos this spring, but I believe it first appeared overseas last year. Um, does anyone have other candidates?

19 Comments:

Blogger niall said...

Haven't read either of the Bisson books; my collections of the year would be Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (of course!), and 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill. Holly Phillips' debut In The Palace of Repose suggests she's one to keep an eye on; and I've been dipping into, but haven't finished, Carol Emshwiller's I Live With You and China Mieville's Looking for Jake, both of which are good. Right there with you on Black Juice, although it is a 2004 book technically--but note that 'Singing My Sister Down' has been granted extended eligibility for the Hugos ...

6:18 AM  
Blogger Janni said...

I think I'm the only person I know who doesn't understand why Black Juice is impressing everyone so. I liked "Singing My Sister Down" well enough, but the rest of the collection, while clever in its worldbuilding, seemed to have a certain sameness to it, and mostly left me unmoved.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

I have a copy of my own I have to send to Maureen; we'd agreed to do a swap, and after reading books for the jury I'm going to be desperate to read hers, I'm thinking. Holly's is one that is on my reading list, but of course I've already read it.

I take it nobody ever sent you one of mine?

D

10:43 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Hurrah for Janni! I don't necessarily share her skepticism about Black Juice (I have only read the two stories reprinted in Year's Best Fantasy), but her willingness to buck dogma about one of the SF/F world's current darlings is bracing.

I like Kelly Link's fiction quite a bit, but I confess I winced when Niall added "(of course!)" after saying that hers was among his collections of the year. Kelly has become a critical darling, and deservedly so, but people in this community are too quick to be seen piling onto bandwagons. (I am not suggesting anything about Niall in particular.) Indeed, when I added a modest huzzah after the news of Maureen's prize nomination, I paused lest I seemed to be doing the same.

I had forgotten about Carol Emshwiller's I Live With You. I remember looking at a copy and seeing that I had read maybe a third of the stories in the magazines. Must move it closer to the top of whatever pile it's in.


Niall, tell us more about Joe Hill's collection. I have never heard of him.

Derryl, I didn't get a copy of your collection, which I would definitely like to see. (Had I got one, I wouldn't have managed to review it yet; one usually gets such assignments only by chasing editors, and I have been busy with my own fiction these past several months.)

5:18 AM  
Blogger niall said...

I'm not trying to pile onto a bandwagon, honest. I just think Magic for Beginners is self-evidently brilliant. :) (If it helps, I didn't like Stranger Things Happen nearly as much.)

20th Century Ghosts is an impressive debut dark fantasy/horror collection. I hate both those labels, but they do fit, at least for some of the stories in the book, which are very traditional in many ways--unlike the Link or the Lanagan in that respect--but skillfully done. There's a brief but useful review here; as it says, Bradbury and King are both reference points.

As long as I'm recommending collections, this weekend I gulped down The Whole Story and Other Stories by Ali Smith--a 2003 book, and not sff (but not straightforwardly realistic either) and very good. Some of the best omniscient-viewpoint writing I've seen.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

One copy of Wasps at the Speed of Sound shall be dropped in the mail shortly, sir. On the house, as it were.

D

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Derryl,
If there's horror in your collection, can you ask Sean Wallace to get me a copy pronto?
Thanks
Ellen Datlow

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed most of the stories in Kelly Link's new collection.

I started recommending Margo Lanagan's stories "Singing My Sister Down" when I read in in 2004 and immediately took it for YBFH #17. I enjoyed her collection, although I don't think any of the other stories are as powerful as "Singing my Sister Down."

I think Joe Hill's first collection is excellent, although I don't love all the stories. Three of them are exceptional:
"My Father's Mask" )chosen for YBFH #18
"The Cape"
"Voluntary Committal"
Ellen Datlow

8:49 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Derryl, thanks. I shall look forward to it.

I am currently reading the latest Year's Best Fantasy, which, however, perforce features stories first published in 2004.

I can note here that the last several issues of F&SF have been especially strong. Asimov's has begun to stagnate in recent years -- Allen Steele seems to publish every novel he writes in novella-length chunks there, and a few other regulars seem to publish everything there whether it's their best or not -- while F&SF has flourished.

I am going to try to read the stories in Jay Lake's anthology Tel:Stories this week.

But check out Joy Williams, discussed in the entry above. She really rocks.

4:11 AM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

All science fiction, Ellen, but thanks for asking.

D

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me know, Derryl (one less book to read. Yayyy!)
Ellen

7:38 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

I particularly like Michel Faber's new collection The Fahrenheit Twins.

Lee

9:17 AM  
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