My 2006 Best Short Fiction Picks

January 21st, 2007

What I do now that I am no longer writing fiction is to review it. For the last year, I’ve been the short fiction reviewer for the Internet Review of SF.

I originally had Great Plans to do a 2006 Year’s Best Short Fiction column for IROSF, but these met the usual fate of Great Plans. I did, less ambitiously, compile a list of my most highly recommended stories, and I thought it might be of interest.

This is not a totally comprehensive list. I don’t claim to have read anywhere like every piece of short fiction published during the past year; these are my picks out of those I have reviewed, which includes stories from most of the pro and semi-pro zines, both print and online, but no anthologies. I have also, perhaps unfairly, excluded those pieces that I consider episodes or outtakes from some longer work.


“World of No Return” by Carol Emshwiller – January

“Under the Graying Sea” by Jonathan Sherwood – February

“Dead Men Walking” by Paul J. McAuley – March

“The Age of Ice” by Liz Williams – April/May

“Dawn, Sunset, and the Colours of Earth” by Michael Flynn – Oct/Nov

“Yellow Card Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi – December

“A Dying Fall” by Christopher Priest – December


“The Water-Poet and the Four Seasons” by Davd J. Schwartz – May

“My Terman” by Eliot Fintushel – June

“Draco Campestris” by Sarah Monette – August


“The Road’s End” by James van Pelt – February

“Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge” by Richard Parks – April

“Ice” by Patrice E. Sarath – June


“A Walking of Crows” by Tim Akers – Spring

“Jacket Jackson” by Richard Bowes and Mark Rich – Spring


“The Original Word for Rain” by Peter Higgins – Spring

“Monadnock and Bramble Jam” by Peter Higgins – Winter


“The Old Woman in the Young Woman” by Gene Wolfe – October

“Every Hole is Outlined” by John Barnes – October


“Boundary Condition” by Wil McCarthy – April


“Journey into the Kingdom” by M. Rickert – May


“Frankie on Zanibar” by David Mace – December


“Spectral Evidence” by Gemma Files – Oct- Dec


“Tea for Three” by Ernesto Brosa – Summer


“Ile of Dogges” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette — #7


“The Great Conviction of Tia Inez” by M. Thomas – August

10 Responses to “My 2006 Best Short Fiction Picks”

  1. Don Meadon 21 Jan 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Good list. Thanks Lois.

    “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” by Geoff Ryman in F&SF is a real stand out for me
    this year.


  2. Lois Tiltonon 21 Jan 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Don, I had serious problems with Ryman’s use of a real person in that story – Pol Pot’s actual daughter.

    If I were going to have recced a Ryman story, it would have been “Hero Kai”.

  3. James Engeon 22 Jan 2007 at 8:37 am

    I noticed there are a lot more stories here from Asimov’s than from any other source. Any thoughts on this? Do they have anything in common (apart from the editorial staff)?

  4. Lois Tiltonon 22 Jan 2007 at 11:29 am

    James, it surprised me.

    When I began compiling the list, I had been convinced that F&SF had a far superior year to Asimov’s.

    If I had not decided to include only stand-alone work, Matthew Hughes’ Guth Bandar series from F&SF would probably have been on my list.

  5. Kate Elliotton 22 Jan 2007 at 5:35 pm

    I wish there was commentary attached to the list, but that’s because I don’t read short fiction, so none of the titles have really any meaning for me.

    Lois, i’d love to see you write an essay for Deep Genre convincing me why I should make an effort to read more short fiction. Not because of my own shortcomings as a novelist, that is – okay, that was a joke – but make a case for short fiction that will help me, someone who truly prefers novels, to see the benefits and strengths of short fiction.

    Just a thought.

  6. Lois Tiltonon 22 Jan 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Ah, those were the Great Plans!

    If this list had appeared as I had originally planned it at IROSF, there would have been links to my original reviews of the stories there, and perhaps further commentary.

    That’s what I consider the function of the reviewer, to wade through the vast quantities of the stuff out there and pick out the occasional gem-like object – hey, you might like this one.

    This is a further-winnowed list. On the site, I try to rec the fiction I consider good for that zine, this is the list of stuff I like for itself.

  7. Paul Eisenbergon 23 Jan 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Lois, why aren’t you writing fiction anymore? I’ve really enjoyed some of you stories.

  8. LauraJMixonon 23 Jan 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Like you, Kate, I am a novel reader rather than a short story reader. I find that I have to take substantial breaks between works of short fiction, and the picking up and putting down means I never really build up a head of steam.

    There are exceptions — certain writers are just such amazing short fiction writers that I gobble up everything they do. Michael Swanwick, Harlan Ellison, Gregory Feeley, James Patrick Kelley, Connie Willis, James Tiptree, Jr. and Robert Heinlein when they were around, … etc. But for most short fiction, I don’t find the payoff in terms of story punch is worth it.

  9. Lois Tiltonon 23 Jan 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Paul, I’m pleased that you’ve enjoyed it!

    It was at the 2005 Nebulas, where iirc we met, that I confirmed what I had long suspected – there exists no demand for my fiction. Whereupon I decided that life is too damn short for me to spend the rest of mine sitting in front of this computer writing stories that no one wants to buy. It has proved a very liberating decision.

  10. Larkon 28 Jan 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you for the list of possibilities for those nights when I need a break from novels.

    I love short fiction because I enjoy dropping into worlds and having a short out-of-body adventure, without a long time commitment. I also like lingering in the detailed world of novels. I very much admire the skill of the short story writer to get in, tell it, and get out…it’s why I like Haiku as well, I suppose.

    One can think of short fiction as writing’s appetitzers, heavy tapas, and desserts; with the novel being the entree.

    Laura’s very right about specific authors making us hungry for whatever they write!

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply