Updates: 2016 in Review (best novels + best short stories + best anthologies + notable posts)

Dear readers, thank you all profusely for your comments, words of thanks, and emails over the year. It is my overarching goal to inspire you all to read more SF from the 50s-70s, dust off the boxes of your parents’ books in some forgotten closet, browse the shelves at your local used book store (or favorite online store), reflect on the often fascinating cover art…

2016 was not the most productive reading/reviewing year as my PhD dissertation defense date rapidly approaches. For the purposes of maintaining my sanity, reading and writing about SF remains my primary relaxation hobby—surprising perhaps as I read a lot of depressing SF that wouldn’t be “relaxing” for most people. According to Megan at From Couch to Moon I like my fiction “moody, broody, meta, and twisted.”

And other than a few satires here and there, my favorite SF reads of 2016 fit firmly within Megan’s descriptors.

Thanks again!

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Best novels

  1. The Affirmation, Christopher Priest (1981)
  2. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (variant title: The War of Dreams), Angela Carter (1972). Review forthcoming 
  3. The Dream Millennium, James White (serialized 1973, novel 1974)
  4. The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

WTCHRSFTHD1966 fctnnmrspc1959

Notable posts

  1. Guest Post Series: Short stories by Women Writers pre-1969 
  2. Interview with SF artist Emanuel Schongut
  3. Mini-series on the Italian SF art of Mariella Anderlini (here and here)

Of my endeavors this year I am most proud of all the wonderful reviewers who contributed to my Short Stories by Women Authors Pre-1969 Guest Post Series. I have one more post in the pipeline and a few more promised submissions. Thanks to all the contributors featured so far! (Rachel, MPorcius, Kate, Megan, Jesse, Kaggsy). And Ian, whose post will be up this weekend at the latest…

I also conducted my first interview (linked above) with SF artist Emanuel Schongut. Make sure to check it out. His insights on the ways cover art was produced for one of more avant-garde SF presses fascinates.

I’m a sucker for SF woodblock print covers—Mariella Anderlini.

irratnum1976 richard-jones1972 real-time-world

Best short stories

  1. Kate Wilhelm, “Windsong” (1968), in Orbit 4 (1968)
  2. George Alec Effinger, “Biting Down Hard on Truth” (1974) in Irrational Numbers (1976)
  3. John T. Sladek, “The Poets of Millgrove, Iowa” (1966) in The Best SF Stories from New Worlds 2, ed. Michael Moorcock (1968)
  4. Gene Wolfe, “The Changeling” (1968) in Orbit 3 (1968), ed. Damon Knight
  5. Carol Emshwiller, “Animal” (1968) in Orbit 4 (1968)
  6. John Brunner, “Nobody Axed You” (1965) in The Best SF Stories from New Worlds, ed. Michael Moorcock (1967)
  7. Langdon Jones, “The Hall of Machines” (1968) in The Eye of the Lens (1972)
  8. Wyman Guin, “Beyond Bedlam” (1951) in Living Way Out (1967)
  9. Christopher Priest, “The Head and the Hand” (1972) in Real-Time World (1974)
  10. Robert Silverberg, “When We Went to See the End of the World” (1972) in Universe 2, ed. Terry Carr (1972)
  11. Gerard F. Conway, “Funeral Service” (1972) in Universe 2, ed. Terry Carr (1972)
  12. Robert Silverberg, “Passengers” (1968), in Orbit 4 (1968)

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Best anthologies

  1. The Best SF Stories from New Worlds, ed. Michael Moorcock (1967)
  2. Universe 2, ed. Terry Carr (1972)
  3. Orbit 4, ed. Damon Knight (1968)
  4. The Best SF Stories from New Worlds 2, ed. Michael Moorcock (1968)
  5. Universe 1, ed. Terry Carr (1971)

Authors I plan on returning to more seriously in 2017

  1. John T. Sladek: A few years ago I read The Reproductive System (variant title: Mechasm) (1968) but was unable to write a review. However Sladek’s “The Poets of Millgrove, Iowa” (1966) rekindled my interest in his surrealist, comedic, and biting brand of satire. His novel The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970) proves the point.
  2. James T. Tiptree, Jr.: As with Sladek, I read her collection Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home (1973) a few years ago but never reviewed it. Her short story about a traumatized astronaut “A Source of Innocent Merriment” (1980), although not a masterpiece, suggests I’ve been missing out….

Note 1: I read only a handful novels and many many many wonderful short stories…. My obsession with short SF will continue into 2017.

Note 2: I have only included stories I read or reread in 2016. Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside (1972) received a short review this year but I read it three or so years ago. I have included all the short stories I gave a 5/5 masterpiece rating—as I consumed so many anthologies + collections there’s a chance a few fell through the cracks! I have also included a few that I have yet to review.

For previous year rundowns (missing 2015) consult the article INDEX

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

25 thoughts on “Updates: 2016 in Review (best novels + best short stories + best anthologies + notable posts)

  1. Your 2016 recap has brought to my attention some interesting-sounding authors I have not read before, so thanks for the reviews/recommendations.

    I recently read “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever,” which is a James Tiptree Jr. short story collection, as part of an effort to read more science fiction by women authors. As expected, not every single story was my cup of tea, but she had some unique ideas, a very distinctive point of view and a writing style that makes her work well worth a read. I would especially recommend “The Girl Who was Plugged In.”

    I actually also read some Sladek short stories last year for the first time, and found him funny but uneven.

    • Any you’re particularly keen on?

      I put another one of Tiptree Jr.’s anthologies on my to acquire list. Hopefully I snag a copy soon — I’ll review it this time!

      I’ve found Sladek uneven as well. I do find it humorous that he claimed to not read much SF in 1982 interview other than the works of Thomas M. Disch (referenced over and over again in The Müller-Fokker Effect)… But, he wrote parody after parody about famous SF authors.


      • “The Dream Millenium” really caught my eye. A similar premise crops up in some of Philip K. Dick’s work, and I’m interested to see how it compares.

        “The Committed Men” and “The Long Loud Silence” also went on my to-read list. I’m always on the lookout for a good post apocalyptic novel.

          • PKD’s “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon” (aka “Frozen Journey”) is about the dreams of a man on a sleeper ship. I was also thinking of the shared dreams/hallucinations of people in cryogenic stasis in “Ubik” and “A Maze of Death.”

            • I did not know that — I have not read that particular story. I have read Ubik and A Maze of Death (enjoyed both).

              PKD’s worlds are filled with an odd brand of surrealism, White’s are rather more straightforward. The paranoia isn’t tied up in some metaphysical state like PKD, rather rooted firmly to the reality of the world… White’s a much more straightforward author. I also enjoyed White’s All Judgement Fled.

  2. Glad to see Priest’s The Affirmation at the top of your list. It’s a superlative novel, for sure. The Angela Carter novel I’ve not heard of, but having read The Magic Toyshop and Nights at the Circus, this will be something I read, for sure, in 2017.

    And while you’re digging deeper into Sladek, do try Tik-tok. It’s loads of intelligent fun. Have you read any of his Roderick novels?

    • Have you read The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970)? If you enjoy his other novels, you should check it out!

      (I’ve only read some of his short fiction and The Reproductive System)

      I suspect you’ll enjoy the Carter novel, at least the first third or so. It does drag a bit but it’s so fantastically written, and filled with disconcerting eroticism. Fascinating stuff.

  3. Hi All the best in the New Year, I loved your interview with Emanuel Schongut and I am looking forward to reading The Dream Millennium. Good Luck on your defence.

    Happy Reading

    • Thanks! I was very happy when he agreed to give it.

      I don’t think there’s a SF book out there I’d be more happy to see adapted as a movie (in this case because it would be absolutely possible to create one and because it’s pacifist in orientation)… It would be a FAR BETTER version of Passengers (2016)!


      • I read “The Dream Millennium” a few years back. One of two White books I’ve read in the past. I’ve never seen White’s name come up whenever “the greats” are mentioned in online reviews and discussions, but I’m beginning to think it should be. Is it because he wasn’t an American SF author? Because he stuck to a straightforward narrative style in the 1960s and ’70s? Because he didn’t jump on board the trends of the ’80s and ’90s? (In his latter years, none of his books were in print in the UK.) Anyways, my Winter reading project is all twelve of the Sector General books (1962-1999, in omnibus editions), and I’m enjoying the heck out of them. I suspect they’ll end up among my all-time favorites. But then my favorites SF books have always been those with a humorous edge to them (“A Canticle For Leibowitz,” “The Witches of Karres”). Of course, there’s nothing funny about peace, love, and understanding – the serious themes of the series. 😉

      • I have yet to read his Sector General stories + novels. I assume he was mostly remembered for his earliest works and his much more mature novels from the 60s/70s somehow didn’t capture the same following. I’ve found All Judgement Fled, The Dream Millennium, and The Watch Below all satisfying novels.

        Perhaps this is controversial to some, but All Judgement Fled is far better than Clarke’s later Rendezvous With Rama.

      • I understand that White’s “Underkill” (1979) is a sequel to “The Dream Millennium,” and is all about the situation back on Earth that the starship colonists left behind – an Andersontown devastated by disease and violence. Based on his experience of “the troubles” in Northern Ireland, it’s supposed to be White’s darkest work. Never published in the U.S.

        • And…. wait for it…. purchased! ($4.50 including shipping from the UK)

          More seriously, I couldn’t resit as James White’s 70s novels are really solid. And if this is dark and depressing, well, it might fit neatly into the world he’s painting with his best SF. I can’t wait!

  4. Good luck on your PhD.
    You are providing a real service to those science fiction writers of the past. Thanks for your effort to keep their works and their efforts alive.

  5. “Moody, broody, meta, and twisted…” and we wouldn’t want it any other way! Thanks for showing me the way and I wish you good reading in 2017.

    And Sladek… I must get around to him…

    • Thanks Megan. I even remembered which of your reviews used that phrase to describe my suggestion. Even if I eventually misstep supplying suggestions (Malzberg + Sladek perhaps), still trust me! haha

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