Science Fiction & Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Apr. 2015 (Issue 59)

We have original science fiction by Kat Howard (“The Universe, Sung in Stars”) and Jason Gurley (“Quiet Town”), along with SF reprints by Carolyn Ives Gilman (“The Invisible Hand Rolls the Dice”) and John Barnes (“The Birds and the Bees and the Gasoline Trees”). Plus, we have original fantasy by Joseph Allen Hill (“We’ll Be Together Forever”) and Dale Bailey (“The Ministry of the Eye”), and fantasy reprints by Sonya Taaffe (“A Wolf in Iceland is the Child of a Lie”) and Ken Liu (“The Ussuri Bear”). This month, we’re excited to share a feature interview with Chris Williams, the co-director of Disney’s Big Hero 6. We also have our latest book review column, an interview with this month’s fantastic cover artist, and of course interviews with all our authors. For our ebook readers, we also have a novella reprint from Kate Elliott (“On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New”) and three novel excerpts, including The Rebirths of Tao, by Wesley Chu, The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu, and a sponsored excerpt from Acheron Books, Lieutenant Arkham: Elves and Bullets by Alessio Lanterna (translated by Kate Mitchell).

In This Issue: Apr. 2015 (Issue 59)

Editorial

Editorial, April 2015

For a run-down of this month’s content and all the latest news, make sure to read the Editorial.

Science Fiction

The Universe, Sung in Stars

There is music in the stars. The stars, the planets, the asteroids, the galaxies. Everything that is flung, whirling in orbit through space and time. We dwell inside an enormous, ever-changing symphony, and each of the many universes sings a song of its own. I replicate them.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Kat Howard

In a way, I had the inspiration for this story far before I ever thought about writing. It came from the idea of the music of the spheres — the idea that the movements of the moon and planets have their own tones or harmonies that are based on the proportions of their orbits. I first learned of the concept studying Shakespeare in high school, but it’s an idea that has fascinated me whenever I’ve come across it.

Fantasy

A Wolf in Iceland Is the Child of a Lie

But I know the one there is, and this is not his story. This is mine: I might have spent the summer in Tuscany, if my mother had visited Iceland in 1968. I could have found a boy in Siena with the face of an Etruscan faun and read him D.H. Lawrence among the vineyards and the oak-groves, olives silver in the sun; in Brittany, paced the stones of Carnac and the pine-dark tumuli .

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Sonya Taaffe

I tried to write about Váli for the first time in my junior year of college, right after my first few short stories had been published. It was not a success. I don’t know why I tried again in 2010, during a painful drought in my writing life — by the time I finished the story in December of that year, it was the first piece of fiction I had managed to complete since early 2008 — but this time it took. To date, it’s still my only successful attempt at Norse myth in fiction.

Science Fiction

The Invisible Hand Rolls the Dice

At 35,000 feet over the Indian Ocean, Lee Pao Nelson paused to re-evaluate his life. There was plenty of tangible evidence to score himself by. It was his thirtieth birthday, and here he was in first class, a piquant glass of merlot on the tray table in front of him, leather upholstery underneath him, his understated Joseph Abboud suit shrugging off the wrinkles.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ives Gilman

This is a story about the commodification of absolutely everything. It portrays a future world where culture, religion, and people themselves are consumer goods bought and sold on the open market. No one in the story thinks they are living in a dystopia; they cheerfully collaborate and celebrate their own commodification — until they can’t any more.

Fantasy

We’ll Be Together Forever

Audrey took her dinner quietly, without words beyond the obligatories (please, thank you, no, work was fine), and I obliged her the silence. We just ate, together but not together, in that way that you do when there are too many things to say. The meal in question was on the bad side of decent, days-old stir-fried noodles from the Japanese place down the street from her apartment, reheated and reconstituted into a slimy Pan-Asian gruel with the addition of fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, curry powder, chili powder, and neglect.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Joseph Allen Hill

The original spark came when I was brainstorming an urban fantasy novel that I ended up shelving. It was meant to be about young people in the city doing magic stuff while having a lot of young people feelings. The image of people using a love potion like a recreational drug was the only bit that stuck with me.

Nonfiction

Interview: Chris Williams

Chris Williams has been with Walt Disney Animation Studios for twenty years, working on a variety of projects, including MULAN, THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE, and BOLT. He also co-directed BIG HERO 6, winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Science Fiction

Quiet Town

She was in the laundry room, bent over a basket of Benjamin’s muddy trousers and grass-stained T-shirts and particularly odorous socks, when a rap sounded on the screen door. She didn’t hear at first; she’d noticed, bent over there, a cluster of webbed, purplish veins just below her thigh, beside her knee. She didn’t like seeing them there. They were like a slow-moving car wreck, those veins, a little darker, a little more severe each time she looked.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Jason Gurley

I tend to think of myself as a quiet writer, meaning that when given the opportunity to write about something big — like destructive climate change, for example — I’ll usually look inward for the emotional struts that get knocked over by such life-changing events. With so many bombastic, epic destruction stories in our lives — the “disaster porn” of modern cinema a prime example — I often find myself most moved by the portrayal of believable, honest people who are unfortunately living in the shadow of such towering events.

Fantasy

The Ussuri Bear

February 11, 1907 By the time we arrived in the Manchu settlement of Tanbian, the Russian expedition had already left a day earlier. For the last five days, we have been moving through deep snow and dense primeval forest in the Changbai Mountains, trying to catch up. The superiority of the mechanical horse is becoming […]

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Ken Liu

To me, steampunk is a genre that straddles the border between fantasy and science fiction, with one foot in each camp. It’s also a genre that is inextricably bound up with the history of colonialism and empire. As such, it’s particularly suitable for telling metaphorical stories about the impact of technology as one aspect of cultural invasion and the responses of the colonized peoples.

Nonfiction

Book Reviews: April 2015

This month, Andrew Liptak reviews Paolo Bacigalupi’s forthcoming novel, THE WATER KNIFE, and Edan Lepucki’s powerful debut, CALIFORNIA. In this month’s column, we’ve ended up with two books that look at the collapse of society in very different ways.

Science Fiction

The Birds and the Bees and the Gasoline Trees

Stephanie Ilogu knew the Southern Ocean was supposed to be cold. Lars had been battling to cool the ocean since Stephanie was seven years old. If my teeth chatter, I’m disrespecting my husband’s success. Maybe I wouldn’t think so much about my numb feet and face, or the dank sogginess leaking into my hair through my watch cap, or how much cold air leaks in under this huge parka, if I had something to do besides listen to my husband and his ex-wife make history together.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: John Barnes

I was mildly tickled, certainly not captured, by the thought that Earth is probably about a fourth-generation (across the history of the universe) living planet; that is, about three planetary lifespans of living worlds have probably gone all the way from first replicating molecules to dead husks before we even started. So if there was panspermia, it would have had plenty of time to evolve.

Fantasy

The Ministry of the Eye

Mornings were queues and cigarettes. Queues for the underground turnstiles and queues for the train, queues for stale bagels and queues for lukewarm coffee at the kiosk outside the station. By the time he queued up at the west gate of the pit, Alexander Gerst — tall and grizzled at forty-five, slope-shouldered and running slowly to fat — was lucky if he wasn’t already halfway through his daily ration of tobacco.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Dale Bailey

I was thinking a lot about totalitarian states, and how insidiously they turn people against one another, making them complicit with great evil. Obviously, the Nazis and such states were in my mind; among many other things, the pit is a concentration camp. But I was thinking about the war on terror, as well — especially the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Artist Showcase

Artist Showcase: Elena Bespalova

Elena Bespalova was born in 1986 in Moscow, Russia. She graduated from the 1905 Memorial Moscow College of Art. She has worked as a lead character artist for the fantasy MMORPG Allods Online. She is currently working on various freelance projects and a graphic novel. She lives and works in Moscow, Russia. Visit hellstern.deviantart.com to learn more.