Monday, April 18, 2022

Table of Contents: Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2021 edition (stories from 2020)

Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2021 edition

edited by Rich Horton

(stories from 2020)

My best of the year anthology for 2021 has been much delayed, for reasons mostly linked to the pandemic, including difficulty getting a slot at printers. (And other issues!) But at last I have a TOC nearly ready. We're holding open one slot for one more potential story ... hoping to hear from the author soon. But I figured it was time to post the list. It's been fun going through these stories again, and realizing how good they are, and how worthy of whatever exposure they can get.

This list is in alphabetical order by author.

Nadia Afifi, "The Bahrain Underground Bazaar", (F&SF, 11-12/20)

Rebecca Campbell, "An Important Failure", (Clarkesworld, 8/20)

Leah Cypess, "Stepsister", (F&SF, 5-6/20)

Andy Dudak, "Songs of Activation", (Clarkesworld, 12/20)

Bishop Garrison, "Silver Door Diner", (FIYAH, Autumn/20)

A. T. Greenblatt, "Burn or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super", (Uncanny, 5-6/20)

Amanda Hollander, "A Feast of Butterflies", (F&SF, 3-3/20)

T. L. Huchu, "Egoli", (Africanfuturism)

John Kessel, "Spirit Level", (F&SF, 7-8/20)

Naomi Kritzer, "Little Free Library", (, 4/8/20)

Sarah Langan, "You Have the Prettiest Mask", (LCRW, 8/20)

P. H. Lee, "The Garden Where No One Ever Goes", (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 12/3/20)

Yoon Ha Lee, "Beyond the Dragon's Gate" (, 5/20/20)

Marissa Lingen, "The Past, Like a River in Flood", (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 8/27/20)

Ken Liu, "50 Things Every AI Working With Humans Should Know", (Uncanny, 11-12/20)

Rati Mehrotra, "Magnificent Maurice or the Flowers of Immortality", (Lightspeed, 11/20)

Annalee Newitz, "The Monogamy Hormone", (Entanglements)

Alec Nevala-Lee, "Retention", (Analog, 7-8/20)

Sarah Pinsker, "Two Truths and a Lie", (, 6-17/20)

Vina Jie-Min Prasad, "A Guide for Working Breeds", (Made to Order)

Mercurio D. Rivera, "Beyond the Tattered Veil of Stars", (Asimov’s, 7-8/20)

Benjamin Rosenbaum, "Bereft, I Come to a Nameless World", (Asimov’s, 3-4/20)

Sofia Samatar, "The Moon Fairy", (Conjunctions #74)

Ken Schneyer, "Laws of Impermanence", (Uncanny, 9-10/20)

Alexandra Seidel, "Lovers on a Bridge, (Past Tense)

Michael Swanwick, "The Dragon Slayer", (The Book of Dragons)

Tade Thompson, "Thirty-Three", (Avatars, Inc.)

Ian Tregillis, "When God Sits in Your Lap". (Asimov’s, 9-10/20)

Eugenia Triantafyllou, "Those We Serve", (Interzone, 5-6/20)

Tlotlo Tsamaase,"Behind Our Irises", (Africanfuturism)

James Van Pelt, "Minerva Girls", (Analog, 9-10/20)

Aliya Whiteley, "Fog and Pearls at the King's Cross Junction", (London Centric)

Jessica P. Wick, "An Unkindness", (The Sinister Quartet)

John Wiswell, "Open House on Haunted Hill", (Diabolical Plots, 6/20)


  1. Hi Richard,

    That's great news, I've been a long time fan of your blog and your reviews.

    Every few years I come back to you with the same question, hopefully you could give me an updated answer.

    For the SF stories (novellas, novelettes, shorts) you once said of "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang "It accomplishes the rare feat of combining an interesting bit of SFnal speculation, worth a story on its own merits, with a moving human story, and using the SF ideas to really drive home the human themes. While at the same time maintaining interest as pure SF. I’m fond of saying that there are two types of SF: stories about the science, and stories which use the science to be about people. This is both types in one... We get stories this good perhaps only every three years or so. Highly recommended."

    1) Is there anything in the last few years that has been published that is as good as the Chiang story?

    Last time I asked this question you highlighted the following: "New Light on the Drake Equation" by Ian R. MacLeod, "Magic for Beginners", by Kelly Link, "The House Beyond Your Sky", by Benjamin Rosenbaum, "Everybody From Themis Sends Letters Home", by Genevieve Valentine. "Cimmeria", by Theodora Goss "Mutability", by Ray Nayler.

    Have there been any since then that have been as good as Chiang's in your opinion?

    2) Is there anything in the Horror short story field that you've read that has similarly knocked your socks off?

    Thanks Richard, keep up the great work

  2. It seems like you answered my question in your January post!

    However, my point still stands, are there any stories on this list that you'd consider great SF writing AND great character building/excellent prose writing?

    And my question on the horror genre still stands, I know it's not your main focus, but did anything from say the last 5 years knock you back?

    1. The best I can answer -- without seeming to prefer too much any of my babies :) -- is that my favorite stories of this bunch that fit both criteria (SF aspect/character/prose) are "Stepsister", "The Moon Fairy", and "Spirit Level". (All are fantasy, mind you.) The ones with the coolest SFnal kick are the stories by Rivera, Schneyer, and Rosenbaum (and, more fantastical, Tregillis' story.)

      Curiously, four of the stories on this list are to some degree or another horror: "Two Truths and a Lie", "You Have the Prettiest Mask", "A Feast of Butterflies", and (in a anti-horror way) "Open House on Haunted Hill." Heck, there are horror aspects to several others -- "The Moon Fairy", "Beneath the Tattered Veil of Stars", "When God Sits on Your Lap", ... maybe a few more. Perhaps I am being too broad in my definition, though.

      As for 2021, one story truly did "knock me on my back", and stands as one of the very best of recent years: "Crazy Beautiful", Cat Rambo. For that matter, Sarah Pinsker's "Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather" is nearly as good -- and it's Horror! (By some definition.)

    2. Thanks for the reply Rich, much appreciated. By the way, for the Best of the Decade list in Locus, are there any plans for you to publish these stories in book form?

  3. Interestingly, I don't see any obvious overlaps with your 11 best list you did for Locus. THough I'm too lazy to compare them side-by-side.

    And I'll miss your columns there...

    1. That was my 2021 list. These stories are from 2020. I didn't do as direct a 2020 list in my Locus essay but I did mention a number of stories, and most of those appear in this book. Two of those that didn't -- the two from writers not associated with our field, possibly not surprisingly -- were stuff we tried to get but couldn't get a response from the author. The other two -- some combination of length the tone I wanted led them to come just short.

  4. Some grey choices. I'm really glad you included the Pinsker and the Wiswell and the Kritsker- all Award worthy. I found the lead character in the Greenblatt too annoying to enjoy that story.

  5. Yes Stepsister was good too although I didn't love the ending.

  6. I am sorry to say that as much as I love Ted Chiang's work- Omphalos, Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom etc Ect, I can't stand Story of Your Life. Different strokes