03 January 2005

2004: Some Good Stories

Needing to put 2004 behind me, I will now release the final (though inevitably incomplete) list of Good SF Stories that I have kept for the year. The criteria for inclusion were simple: The story had to appear in a publication with the date 2004 as the primary one; the story had to be at least marginally of interest to an audience at least marginally interested in science fiction, fantasy, or stuff that smells like it; and a positive feeling about the story had to stick with me until I put it on the list. Thus, what I can say about the stories below is that something in them stayed in my mind with a positive feeling attached to it for some reason.

I refuse to call them "the best of the year", because I haven't read all the stories of the year, and haven't even read all the major publications, never mind the minor ones.

I've provided links to any commentary I've made about the stories in reviews, to the story itself if it was published online, or, at the least, to the author's or publisher's website.
Some observations: Far more out-and-out fantasy than out-and-out science fiction, which is a significant change in my reading habits and/or tastes. For some reason, fantasy appealed to me far more than science fiction this year. (Stories in the margins of those two labels appealed to me the most, but this is not new.)

The majority of the writers on the list are people whose names I did not know 5 years ago.

The July and October issues of F&SF particularly appealed to me.

Most of the writers are men. The women's stories, though, are some of my absolute favorites of the year. (I've just tried to analyze this and ended up deleting what I wrote three times because what I was saying seemed stupid, so I will not analyze it, just note it.)

Something I didn't expect: Of online magazines, stories from Strange Horizons stuck with me far more than stories from SciFiction, even though I thought SciFiction had a strong year and Strange Horizons was mixed. As I went back and really looked at stories, though, what I found was that I felt SciFiction was reliable and good but seldom astonishing, while Strange Horizons was sometimes not at all interesting but also more likely to be astonishing. This was also true of the small press magazines vs. the big press magazines. F&SF seemed quite solid throughout the year, with some real high spots, Asimov's seemed overall quite dull (but generally competent), while small press magazines published things that I tended to find either half-baked or flat-out brilliant.

There are no stories from Realms of Fantasy on the list. I read quite a few, and some were pretty good, but none that I read were more than that in any way that stuck with me. This could be more my fault than the magazine's.

I look forward to seeing how my taste matches up with awards nominations and best-of-the-year anthologies. There will be a little bit of overlap, I expect, but also significant differences, both because I haven't had a chance to read everything, and because my taste is somewhat odd.

A few people who are friends of mine within the writing world have stories on the list. A few people who are friends of mine within the writing world do not have stories on the list. This does not necessarily mean that I am entirely and completely objective. (But I do try to be.)

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