The Best of Subterranean • 2017 • SF&F anthology by William Schafer

★★★+

Summary: Once, there was a great SF&F magazine from Subterranean Press, publishing reviews, news, and stories between 2005 and its final issue in 2014. What you will find here is an anthology of 30 stories spread over some 750 pages from that magazine. The stories are diversified over every field of speculative fiction, including SF comedy, magical realism, ghost stories, steampunk, weird, and horror fiction. The overall tendency is heading towards weird fiction. There is an awesome line of authors, that lures you into the book, in some cases only because of the name. how else could Scalzi’s story have found the way into a Best Of anthology or a piece of arrogant crap like Ellison’s puzzle for the reader? As usual, Subterranean Press adds a high price tag for which you get a nice hardcover edition.

First of all: „Best of“? I’m not convinced, as I’m missing the great novellas which I consider as the best assets of this magazine, e.g. „After the Siege“ by Cory Doctorow, Ted Chiang’s „The Lifecycle of Software Objects“, „Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)“ and „The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window“ by Rachel Swirsky, or „Vacancy“ by Lucius Shepard. Some of the collected pieces are questionable with regard of their status as „best of“, as already mentioned.

The collection’s tension bow left a lot to be desired: It started very good with stories from Shiner and Headly, but then lost traction and got lost in boredom with only a few highlights like Baker’s Bohemian Astrobleme story. Some authors that I longed for really where a let down. But right at the end, when I nearly gave up all hopes, two stories pulled out the anthology’s lethargy: K.J. Parker’s wonderful novella and Ted Chiang’s Near Future SF novelette.

There is something in it for everyone, and if you think that you don’t like the setup and don’t consider the book, then you might want to read at least a couple of the stories: All are still freely available online, just check out the metainformation in the reviews.

Best stories in this anthology:

  • ★★★★★ • A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong • 2011 • Alternate World novella by K. J. Parker about the creative genius of two musicians • review
  • ★★★★★ • The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling • 2013 • Near Future SF novelette by Ted Chiang about a perfect memory recording gadget • review

Worst stories:

  •  • The Secret History of the Lost Colony • 2008 • SF short story by John Scalzi
  •  • He Who Grew Up Reading Sherlock Holmes • 2014 •  short story by Harlan Ellison • review

Contents:

  • 9 • ★★★★ • Perfidia • 2004 • thriller novelette about Glen Miller’s death by Lewis Shiner • review
  • 49 • ★★★★ • Game • 2012 • Magical realism novelette about hunting tigers in 1950 by Maria Dahvana Headley • review
  • 79 • ☆ • The Last Log of the Lachrimosa by Alastair Reynolds • Horror – didn’t read
  • 125 • ★★★+ • The Seventeenth Kind • SF comedy about a shopping channel presenter, a novelette by Michael Marshall Smith • review
  • 145 • ★★+ • Dispersed by the Sun Melting in the Wind • Post Apocalyptic short story with multiple „lasts“ by Rachel Swirsky • review
  • 157 • ★★+ • The Pile • ghost story about a Macarena dancing gorilla toy by Michael Bishop • review
  • 175 • ★★★★ • The Bohemian Astrobleme • 2010 • Steampunk novelette by Kage Baker about a prostitute-spy investigation in Bohemia • review
  • 205 • ★★★ • Tanglefoot • 2008 • Steampunk novelette by Cherie Priest about a boy creating a clockwork doll • review
  • 235 • ★★★ • Hide and Horns • 2009 • Western novelette by Joe R. Lansdale • review
  • 259 • ★★★★ • Balfour and Meriwether in the Vampire of Kabul 2011 • Steampunk novelette by Daniel Abraham • review
  • 285 • ★★★ • Last Breath • 2005 • Weird short story by Joe Hill • review
  • 295 • ★★ • Younger Women • 2011 • Weird short story by Karen Joy Fowler • review
  • 303 • ★★ • White Lines on a Green Field • 2011 • Magic realism novelette by Catherynne M. Valente • review
  • 323 • ★★+ • The Least of the Deathly Arts • 2012 • Fantaasy short story by Kat Howard • review
  • 335 • ★★+ • Water Can’t be Nervous • 2012 • Mainstream short story by Jonathan Carroll • review
  • 345  • ★★★+ • Valley of the Girls • 2011 • SF short story by Kelly Link • review
  • 361 • ★★★+ • Sic Him, Hellhound! Kill! Kill! • 2012 • Urban Fantasy short story by Hal Duncan • review
  • 381 • ★★★ • Troublesolving • 2009 • SF novelette by Tim Pratt • review
  • 407 • ★★+ • The Indelible Dark • 2012 • SF Metafiction novelette by William Browning Spencer • review
  • 435 • ★★★ • The Prayer of Ninety Cats • 2013 • Dark Fantasy novelette by Caitlín R. Kiernan • review
  • 471 • ★★+ • The Crane Method • 2011 • Magical realism short story by Ian R. MacLeod • review
  • 485 • ★★★ • The Tomb of the Pontifex Dvorn • 2011 • SF novelette by Robert Silverberg • review
  • 521 • ☆ • The Toys of Caliban • 1986 • Horror novelette by George R. R. Martin • Screenplay for The New Twilight Zone S2E29 based on an unpublished story by Terry Matz
  • 561 •  • The Secret History of the Lost Colony • 2008 • SF short story by John Scalzi • A removed chapter from „The Last Colony“. Why would anyone else than absurdely hardcore fans of that series want to read something like that? Why is this considered a „Best of Subterranean“?
  • 577 • ★★★ • The Screams of Dragons • 2014 • Urban Fantasy novelette by Kelley Armstrong • review
  • 619 • ★★★ • The Dry Spell 2009 • Magical realism short story by James P. Blaylock about a man daring the heavens to rain • review
  • 635 •  • He Who Grew Up Reading Sherlock Holmes • 2014 •  short story by Harlan Ellison • review
  • 645 • ★★★★★ • A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong • 2011 • Alternate World novella by K. J. Parker about the creative genius of two musicians • review
  • 685 • ★★★★★ • The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling • 2013 • Near Future SF novelette by Ted Chiang about a perfect memory recording gadget • review
  • 723 • ★★★ • A Long Walk Home • 2011 • Far future SF novelette by Jay Lake about loneliness • review
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