Sunday, September 23, 2007

Good, Better, Best

This morning I got an email from Jonathan Strahan, requesting my story "By Fools Like Me" for Nightshade's Best of the Year anthology. While this is certainly a lovely way to start one's day, it also got me thinking about what constitutes a "best" story. When "Fools" first came out, in the September ASIMOV'S, an on-line reviewer said that it was nicely done but the idea and setting were old. So how important is a "new" idea for a successful story? How important is new technology, a new and different world, vs. strong characters and emotion? Ideally, of course, a story would have both, but most of us can't manage that all of the time, or even most of the time.
"Fools" takes place in what is becoming a standard apocalyptic setting: the world post-global-warming, in which some parts of the Earth are flooded and others have undergone desertification. The story focuses on a very few characters cut off from the rest of the planet, on a very small and personal scale. Does that aid a story, in that there is more room to develop character, or hurt it, in that it becomes "less SF-nal"? I don't know. I do know, however, that among my own 2007 works, I preferred "Fountain of Age." Jonathan Strahan obviously didn't. Who knows why? Best-of-the-year editors don't have to justify their decisions. Nor do they ask the authors, which would easily lead to an apocalypse all by itself.


Blue Tyson said...

I liked that one more than Fountain of Age, too, but of the ones I read, I liked Safeguard and End Game more.

Tom Dean said...


Jonathan Strahan also edits a companion volume to his Best SF & Fantasy volume, BEST SHORT NOVELS: 2008, for the Science Fiction Book Club. The Night Shade Books volume concentrates on short stories and novelettes, while the SFBC volume has novellas alone. Perhaps "Fountain of Age" will end up there?

Tom Dean, a.k.a. "William Atheling III"