Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, October 8, 2020


 Terry Carr's Best Science Fiction of the Year, edited by Terry Carr (1985)

First, a word about the title.  It's somewhat misleading because there is no number attached to it.  This is actually Carr's Best Science Fiction of the Year 14, the title that appeared on the British edition of this anthology.  The year before, Gardner Dozois initiated his The Year's Best Science Fiction and Carr's new publisher, Tor, evidently did not want science fiction fans to confuse the two.  Carr had begun his series in 1972 with The Best Science Fiction of the Year, published by Ballantine.  Ballantine carried the series through #9, after which it went to Pocket/Timescape for #10-13.  The series, now carrying Carr's name in the title was published for three years by Tor, ending with Terry Carr's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year #16; not the addition of fantasy in the title of the final edition.

Now, let's talk a little about Terry Carr (1937-1987).  Carr began as a science fiction fan in 1949 and pursued an active career (is that the right word?) in fandom; his fanzine, Fanac (co-edited with Ron Ellik), garnered Carr a Hugo Award in 1959, and Carr received his second Hugo in 1973, this time as Best Fan Writer.  In the 60s Carr began writing and editing.  His fiction output was very small but distinguished, with a number of notable short stories and a very polished novel Cirque:  A Novel of the Far Future.  As good as his fiction was, Carr found his niche as a science fiction editor.  In 1964, Carr went to Ace Books, where he coedited (with Donald A. Wollheim) the annual World's Best Science Fiction (7 volumes, from 1965 to 1971).  He also was editor of the distinguished Ace Special series of novels (both original and reprint) that included such now-classics as Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, R. A. Lafferty's Past Master, Joanna Russ' Picnic on Paradise, John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit, and Alexei Panshin's Rite of Passage.  Also while at Ace, Carr instituted his original anthology series Universe (17 annual issues, from 1971 to 1987).  Carr left Ace to initiate his Best Science Fiction of the Year series.  He also edited 19 stand-alone anthologies from 1966 to 1986.  Other anthology series were New Worlds of Fantasy (3 volumes), The Year's Finest Fantasy/Fantasy Annual (5 volumes), and Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year (2 volumes).  In 1980, he returned to Ace to edited a second series of Science Fiction Specials, this time concentrating on first novels; some of the noted books in this series were William Gibson's Neuromancer, Kim Stanley Robinson's The Wild Shore, Lucius Shepard's Green Eyes, and Howard Waldrop's Them Bones.

Carr, as editor, consistently found some of the best writing in the field and consistently coaxed some of the best writing out of the genre's most talented authors.

So what about Terry Carr's Best Science Fiction of the Year?  Here we have 13 stories from 1984 -- four from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, two from Omni, two from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, one each from Analog and Interzone, and three from various anthologies (including one from Carr's Universe 14).

The contents:

  • "Press Enter" by John Varley (from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, May 1984)  A science fiction murder story with computers.  This one won five major awards:  the Hugo, the Nebula, the Locus, the Science Fiction Chronicle, and the Seiun.
  • "Blued Moon" by Connie Willis (from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, January 1984)  A light-hearted story about the laws of probability.  This one was nominated for both a Hugo and a Locus.
  • "Summer Solstice" by Charles L. Harness (from Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, June 1984)  An alien lands in Egypt 2000 years ago and meets the scientist Eratosthenes.  Nominated for a Hugo, a Locus, and an Analog.
  • 'Morning Child" by Gardner Dozois (from Omni, January 1985)  A very usual weapon with a very unusual effect.  Winner of a Nebula award.
  • "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything" by George Alec Effinger (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1984)  Earth is "invaded" by know-it-alls.  Nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Science Fiction Chronicle awards.
  • "A Day in the Skin (or, The Century We Were Out of Them) by Tanith Lee (from the anthology Habitats, edited by Susan Schwartz)  Future humans inhabit bodies not their own.  Maybe it's me, but I thought this story was the weakest in the book of the 13 strong stories in the book.
  • "Instructions" by Bob Leman (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1984)  An alien contact story written in form of a set of instructions -- obey them and you might die; do not obey them and you will die.  Quirky and disturbing.
  • "The Lucky Strike" by Kin Stanley Robinson (from Terry Carr's anthology Universe 14)  An alternate history examination of of the bombing of Hiroshima from a pacifist point of view.  A powerful and challenging tale.  Nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Science Fiction Chronicle awards.
  • "Green Hearts" by Lee Montgomerie  (from Interzone #10, Winter 1984/1985)  Cloning in the future allows for plant-human hybrids in this semi-romantic story involving the heir of the richest man in the world.  This was the author's first story.
  • "Bloodchild" by Octavia E. Butler (from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, June 1984)  Humans are slaves to an alien race on a distant planet.  Powerful.  Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Science Fiction Chronicle awards.
  • "Trojan Horse" by Michael Swanwick (from Omni, December 1984) A story of computers, a space station, and the search for God.  Nominated for a Nebula award.
  • "Fears" by Pamela Sargent. From Light Years and Dark:  Science Fiction and Fantasy Of and For Our Time, edited by Michael Bishop)  A nightmare future where women are scarce and second-class citizens.
  • "Trinity" by Nancy Kress (from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, October 1984.  Another search for God (or something like God) involving twins, drugs, biofeedback, kinaesthetic stimulation, neural transmitters, and a truly frightening question.
A prime example of Terry Carr;s astonishing ability to select varied, literate, and entertaining stories.

Highly recommended.

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