A banner year for bold, provocative, brilliantly inventive science fiction has produced some of the most enthrallingly original short sf since the genre's conception. In their twelfth remarkable collection of the very best of the last twelve months, award-winning editors and anthologists David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer present amazing stories of galaxy-shaking events, alien contact, utopian science, and technology run amok—tales that celebrate the continually evolving literary artistry of some of the form's finest, most respected practitioners . . . while showcasing the magnificent talents of the science fiction superstars of the near future.
About the Author
David G. Hartwell is a senior editor of Tor/Forge Books. His doctorate is in Comparative Medieval Literature. He is the proprietor of Dragon Press, publisher and bookseller, which publishes The New York Review of Science Fiction, and the president of David G. Hartwell, Inc. He is the author of Age of Wonders and the editor of many anthologies, including The Dark Descent, The World Treasury of Science Fiction, The Hard SF Renaissance, The Space Opera Renaissance, and a number of Christmas anthologies, among others. Recently he co-edited his fifteenth annual paperback volume of Year's Best SF, and co-edited the ninth Year's Best Fantasy. John Updike, reviewing The World Treasury of Science Fiction in The New Yorker, characterized him as a "loving expert." He is on the board of the IAFA, is co-chairman of the board of the World Fantasy Convention, and an administrator of the Philip K. Dick Award. He has won the Eaton Award, the World Fantasy Award, and has been nominated for the Hugo Award forty times to date, winning as Best Editor in 2006, 2008, and 2009.
Kathryn Cramer is a writer, critic, and anthologist, and was coeditor of the Year's Best Fantasy and Year's Best SF series. A consulting editor at Tor Books, she won a World Fantasy Award for her anthology The Architecture of Fear.
Read an Excerpt
Year's Best SF 12
By David G. Hartwell
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 David G. Hartwell
All right reserved.
Nano Comes to Clifford Falls
Nancy Kress (www.sff.net/people/nankress) lives in Rochester, New York. One of today's leading SF writers, she is a popular guest at SF conventions, and an eminent teacher of writing. She is known for her complex medical SF stories, and for her biological and evolutionary extrapolations in such classics as Beggars in Spain (1993), Beggars and Choosers (1994), and Beggars Ride (1996). Her stories, collected in Trinity and Other Stories (1985), The Aliens of Earth (1993) and Beaker's Dozen (1998), are rich in texture and in psychological insight. She has won two Nebulas and a Hugo for them, and been nominated for a dozen more of these awards. Her most recent SF novels are Crossfire (2003), Nothing Human (2003), and Crucible (2004).
This story appeared in Asimov's, and was one of several excellent stories by Kress in 2006. It has all the material for a full SF novel carefully compressed into a short story. Carol, the central character, is sad and angry over the departure of her husband, but soldiers on, providing for her family with the help of her hard-working kids, and mostly tries to ignore the revolutionary technology that is supposed to make the world and even the little town of Clifford Falls into a utopia.The way she and her family survive introduces what we see as the major theme of the year in SF, surviving and recovering from catastrophe.
I was weeding the garden when nanotech came to my town. The city got it a month earlier, but I haven't been to the city since last year. Some of my neighbors went—Angie Myers and Emma Karlson and that widow, Mrs. Blanston, from church. They brought back souvenirs, things made in the nanomachine, and the scarf Angie showed me was really cute. But with three little kids, I don't get out much.
That day was hot, with the July sun hanging overhead like it wasn't ever going to move. Bob McPhee from next door stuck his head over the fence. His Rottweiler snarled through the chain links. I don't like that dog, and Kimee, my middle one, is afraid of it.
"Hey, Carol, don't you know you don't have to do that no more?" Bob said. "The nanomachinery will make you all the tomatoes and peas you want."
"Hey, Bob," I said. I went on weeding, swiping at the sweat on my forehead with the back of my hand. Jackie watched me from the shade of the garage. I'd laid him on a blanket dressed in just his diaper and he was having a fine time kicking away and then stopping to eat his toes.
"They're giving Clifford Falls four of 'em," Bob said. Since he retired from the fire department, he don't have enough to do all day. "I saw it on TV. The mayor's getting 'em installed in the town hall."
"That's good," I said, to say something. I could hear Will and Kimee inside the kitchen, fighting over some toy.
"Mayor'll run the machinery. One for food, one for clothing, the other two he's taking requests. I already put in mine, for a sports car."
That got my attention. "A car? A whole car?"
"Sure, why not? Nano can make anything. The town is starting with one request from each person, first come first served. Then after that . . . I dunno. I guess Mayor Johnson'll work it out. Hey, gorgeous, stop that weeding and come have a beer with me. Pretty gal like you shouldn't be getting all hot and sweaty at weeding."
He leered at me, but he don't mean anything by it. At least, I don't think he does. Bob's over fifty but still looks pretty good, and he knows it, but he also knows I'm not that kind. Jack might've took off two months ago, but I don't need anyone like Bob, a married man, for temporary fun and games.
"I like the taste of home-grown tomatoes," I tell him. "Ones at the Safeway taste like wallpaper."
"But nano won't make tomatoes that taste processed," he says in that way that men like to correct women. "That machinery will make the best tomatoes this town ever tasted."
"Well, I hope you're right." Then Will and Kimee spilled their fight out through the screen door into the backyard, and Jackie started whimpering on his blanket, and I didn't have no time for any nanomachinery.
Still, I was curious, so in the late afternoon, when it wasn't quite so hot, I packed up the stroller and the kids and I went downtown.
Clifford Falls isn't much of a town. We're so far out on the plains that all we got is a single square ringed with dusty pick-ups and the teenagers' scooters. There's about two dozen stores, the little brick town hall with traffic court and Barry Anderson's police room and such, the elementary school, Baptist and Methodist churches, Kate's Lunchroom, and the Crow Bar. Down by the tracks is the grain elevator and warehouses. That's about it. Once a movie was filmed here because the movie people wanted some place that looked like it might be fifty or sixty years ago.
Soon as I turned the corner I could see where the nanomachinery must be. People milled around the patch of faded grass in front of the town hall, people who probably should have still been to work on a Wednesday afternoon. A big awning stretched across the front of the building with a huge metal box under it, nearly big as my bedroom. To one side the mayor, who retired two years ago from the factory in Minneonta, stood on a crate right there in the broiling sun without so much as a hat on his bald head, making a speech.
"—greatest innovation since supercheap energy to raise our way of life to—"
"What's getting made in that box?" I asked Emma Karlson. She had her twins in a fancy new stroller. Just after Jack left me, her Ted got taken on at the factory.
Excerpted from Year's Best SF 12 by David G. Hartwell Copyright © 2007 by David G. Hartwell. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The quality of the stories in the 12th edition of Hartwell and Cramer's YEAR'S BEST SF is below par, but there were still some good selections this year. My favorites included Nancy Kress's "Nano Comes to Clifford Falls," Gardner Dozois's alternate history story "Counterfactual," Joe Haldeman's stinger "Expedition, with Recipes," Paul McAuley's far-future thriller "Dead Men Walking," and Robert Reed's unusual alien-invasion scenario "Rwanda." Cory Doctorow's "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" is a competently-executed disaster story, sure to appeal to his fans, while Edd Vick's "Moon Does Run" is one of the few good-quality SF stories set in the Caribbean.
I have been reading science fiction for nearly fifty years. The last twenty or so I have found it harder to find books I like as the focus of the newer writers seemed to turn to weirdness and stylistic "innovation", with story lines that often seem non-existent. Ten years ago I quit reading "The Year's Best SF": it was too discouraging. I'm glad I picked this edition up, however. The first story was mediocre, not an encouraging start. But the pace picked up. I am only half through, but there are some interesting and unusual ideas, and most of the stories are 3 and 4 star quality. It is not easy to develop interest and empathy in the reader in only ten or twenty page story, but most of these authors succeed.