Monday, December 28, 2009

Stories from the Aughts for the Ages

I've been kicking around this idea for a while, so...

Here are some of my must-read stories in the last decade of books from Tachyon.

Note: this is *not* a top ten (as perhaps evidenced by the twelve stories).

"Love Is the Plan, The Plan Is Death" by James Tiptree, Jr. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. Atypical Tiptree, yet exemplifies her incredible rapid-fire prose with a touching/horrifying love story between...two spiders?

"Minutes of the Last Meeting" by Stepan Chapman. Steampunk. Highly original World War I steampunk with a sentient communist apparatus, a dying Russian czar, and a race toward global annihilation. Fun!

"Journey into the Kingdom" by M. Rickert. The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology. A young man becomes obsessed with a girl whom he believes might not be alive. This edgy navigation of romantic illusions is perfectly executed and shocking.

"Hell Is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang. Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology. A grief-stricken man's wife is killed by an errant angel, which triggers an irredeemable crisis of faith. I can't begin to do justice to this devastating story.

"The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche" by Peter S. Beagle. The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche and Other Odd Acquaintances. The elegantly-told, impossible friendship that inspired Tachyon's logo, a Chesley Award, and my vast personal stakeholdership in the Kleenex corporation. Gets me every time.

"Human Moments in World War III" by Don DeLillo. The Secret History of Science Fiction. This tale of two astronauts trapped together in orbit around a doomed Earth is vintage DeLillo: interior, melancholy, deliciously unsettling. Undeniably genre-breaking too.

"The War of the Worldviews" by James Morrow. The Cat's Pajamas and Other Stories. Morrow's witty tribute to H. G. Wells, philosophy, and the awesome power of music. Also this: "Do you solicit me as head of the Epistemology Committee, or in my capacity as a paranoid schizophrenic?"

"Beauty and the Opera or The Phantom Beast" by Suzy McKee Charnas. Stagestruck Vampires and Other Phantasms. A stark, psychologically complex portrait of a young singer who turns the tables on a seemingly depraved monster. Perhaps the best reinterpretation of a fairy tale I've ever read.

"Daddy's World" by Walter Jon Williams. Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology. A sweet tale of a childhood wonderland that morphs into a private hell for a teenage boy and the family who brutally betrays him. Strange and full of subtle dark humor.

"Stable Strategies" by Eileen Gunn. Stable Strategies and Others. Drones on the corporate ladder, meet Kafka on steroids. Get ahead or lose your head. Literally. (Thank God Eileen and I got out in time.)

"Sorrel's Heart" by Susan Palwick. The Fate of Mice. A young woman is born with her heart outside of her body and struggles to survive in a cruel world. A starkly vulnerable piece that co-mingles beauty and horror in equal measures.

"Letters to the Editor" by Michael Swanwick. Cigar Box-Faust and Other Miniatures. Swanwick's personal bios for Asimov's detail his escapades as the one true Western Bodhisattva, a guest DJ for Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Germany's most beloved cartoon mouse.

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