Hot Best Seller

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021

Availability: Ready to download

The best science fiction and fantasy stories of 2021, selected by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Veronica Roth. This year’s selection of science fiction and fantasy stories, chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and bestselling author of the Divergent series Veronica Roth, showcases a crop of authors that are willing to experiment and tantalize readers The best science fiction and fantasy stories of 2021, selected by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Veronica Roth. This year’s selection of science fiction and fantasy stories, chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and bestselling author of the Divergent series Veronica Roth, showcases a crop of authors that are willing to experiment and tantalize readers with new takes on classic themes and by exchanging the ordinary for the avant-garde. Folktales and lore come alive, the dead rise, the depths of space are traversed, and magic threads itself through singular moments of love and loss, illuminating the circulatory nature of life, death, the in-between, and the hereafter. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021 captures the all-too-real cataclysm of human nature, claiming its place in the series with compelling prose, lyrical composition, and curiosity’s never-ending pursuit of discovering the unknown.  


Compare

The best science fiction and fantasy stories of 2021, selected by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Veronica Roth. This year’s selection of science fiction and fantasy stories, chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and bestselling author of the Divergent series Veronica Roth, showcases a crop of authors that are willing to experiment and tantalize readers The best science fiction and fantasy stories of 2021, selected by series editor John Joseph Adams and guest editor Veronica Roth. This year’s selection of science fiction and fantasy stories, chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and bestselling author of the Divergent series Veronica Roth, showcases a crop of authors that are willing to experiment and tantalize readers with new takes on classic themes and by exchanging the ordinary for the avant-garde. Folktales and lore come alive, the dead rise, the depths of space are traversed, and magic threads itself through singular moments of love and loss, illuminating the circulatory nature of life, death, the in-between, and the hereafter. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021 captures the all-too-real cataclysm of human nature, claiming its place in the series with compelling prose, lyrical composition, and curiosity’s never-ending pursuit of discovering the unknown.  

30 review for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Kelsey

    These are always hit and miss for me. This one was mostly misses with a few unbelievably great stories. Standouts: Let's Play Dead, by Senaa Ahmad: 4/5 Brutal story about difficult women who refuse and resist, and persist, even through death. Beautiful prose. The Pill, by Meg Elison: 5/5 Fantastic story. This is what I'm here for. It would be a perfect inclusion for J. Michael Straczynski’s finishing of Harlan Ellison's The Last Dangerous Visions anthology (if it indeed ever actually comes out). The B These are always hit and miss for me. This one was mostly misses with a few unbelievably great stories. Standouts: Let's Play Dead, by Senaa Ahmad: 4/5 Brutal story about difficult women who refuse and resist, and persist, even through death. Beautiful prose. The Pill, by Meg Elison: 5/5 Fantastic story. This is what I'm here for. It would be a perfect inclusion for J. Michael Straczynski’s finishing of Harlan Ellison's The Last Dangerous Visions anthology (if it indeed ever actually comes out). The Beast Adjoins, by Ted Kosmatka: 5/5 Hands down, the best story in this collection. Unbelievably creepy, and mind blowing. My favorite story of the year. I am definitely checking out his other work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021 collects short F&SF stories published in 2020. The Foreword and Introduction describe the full selection criteria, which are quite complex, but they boil down to this: series editor John Joseph Adams tried to read every short speculative fiction published for the year (in English, in North America, anyway), and honestly did a fairly thorough job. Adams then chose the ones he most admired, and passed his long list on to this year's editor Veronic The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021 collects short F&SF stories published in 2020. The Foreword and Introduction describe the full selection criteria, which are quite complex, but they boil down to this: series editor John Joseph Adams tried to read every short speculative fiction published for the year (in English, in North America, anyway), and honestly did a fairly thorough job. Adams then chose the ones he most admired, and passed his long list on to this year's editor Veronica Roth, who then selected the final cut without knowing author or publication. This process, though involved, results in some pretty strong contenders for sf which might actually be among the "best" of the year... although 2020 was a very fraught year for forward-looking fiction in general, and if I had to pick a single word to describe the overall impact of this anthology, it would be "somber." It's not all bad news, though. Adams' summary of the year in SF is well worth reading in detail—it's very similar to the late Gardner Dozois' yearly Summations, which I always enjoyed, and Adams is visibly happy to report that no major genre periodicals ceased publication in 2020, despite the pandemic. Let's get to the stories, though, shall we? In order (courtesy this time of Barnes & Noble—since a surprising number of online references to this book did not sort the list!): "Let's Play Dead," by Senaa Ahmad {...}she's got to believe that the universe has a long memory and a short temper and that this, this is nothing—they will still be here, in the walls, under the floors, teeming, multiplying, ravenous, devouring, surviving. —p.8This author is new to me, and a welcome novelty. The story is from The Paris Review, too—not your typical sf venue, and not a periodical I normally read. "Let's Play Dead" defiantly refuses to explain itself—and it's all the more effective for that. "Survival Guide," by Karin Lowachee This author is not new to me, and a welcome return. Lowachee's story is ambiguous in all the right ways, touching on the inevitability and importance of change, and how sometimes we go wrong for all the right reasons (and, less often, vice versa). This one is straight science fiction, too—brain implants and artificial intelligence, used to augment education... but Lowachee injects a humanistic warmth that significantly enhances the impact. "Tiger's Feast," by KT Bryski A surreal and terrifying escape from some heartbreakingly mundane schoolyard bullying. "The Pill," by Meg Elison Would it be worth it? To be exactly as thin as everyone else, once and for all? "Crawfather," by Mel Kassel This one's a reread for me, having originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. A great story about how family traditions can end up being toxic. Oh, and about a monster crayfish in a Minnie-soda lake. "How to Pay Reparations: A Documentary," by Tochi Onyebuchi I found this one rather dry, though it's very much of the moment as well. "Our Language," by Yohanca Delgado Can you imagine a more dangerous monster than one who reads? —p.98The legend of the cigualpa, of women transformed, becoming smaller yet more powerful, invites comparison with James Tiptree, Jr.. "Schrödinger's Catastrophe," by Gene Doucette We may not always like reality but at least it's, y'know, reliable. "The Cleaners," by Ken Liu The traces we leave behind... what sort of people could bring themselves to come behind and clean those off? "Beyond the Dragon's Gate," by Yoon Ha Lee There are those who believe that body and mind are separable—a dualism that baffles the meat my soul inhabits. "And This Is How to Stay Alive," by Shingai Njeri Kagunda Triggers swarming. How to know what one cannot know for another. An African view of time. Most of all, though, this one features hope. "The Beast Adjoins," by Ted Kosmatka The bitter consequences of a choice made long ago. I do not think this story's conceit can be true, but like another Ted's tales, this one feels inevitable. "The Long Walk," by Kate Elliott Welcome to an exotic fantasy land (here there be dragons!) where women... still serve men, in all the usual ways. But not inevitably. A long story, as well as a long walk, but worth it in the end. "One Time, a Reluctant Traveler," by A. T. Greenblatt A graceful and disturbing post-apocalyptic tale of a trek up a mountain to the impossible ocean at its summit. "Glass Bottle Dancer," by Celeste Rita Baker "Once you born, safe done." —p.282A proud Black mama's Island dialect propels this story about someone old learning something new. "Skipping Stones in the Dark," by Amman Sabet Any parent has blind spots—even the stern and loving AI in charge of the generation ship once called The Fold. This one was also in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, although somehow I missed it there; I'm glad I had another chance to read it. "The Plague Doctors," by Karen Lord Too close to the bone, perhaps, to come during a pandemic—but still, press YES. "Two Truths and a Lie," by Sarah Pinsker Great. Now she'd creeped herself out without his help. —p.334Pinsker's A Song for a New Day began my plague year. This one's unrelated to that novel, but no less powerful for that. "Brother Rifle," by Daryl Gregory Pick a card; pick any card... I can see why Gregory gets talked about so much. "The Rat," by Yohanca Delgado After a few tense minutes, I finally do what I do best: I scurry across the room, yank the blinds down, and hope the problem goes away. —p.381Delgado's the only author to appear twice in this anthology—and given the blind nature of the selection process, that says a lot about the power of her stories. * After the stories themselves come the "Contributors' Notes"—do read them—and Adams' longlist of "Other Notable Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories of 2020," a chance to compare Roth's choices against your own impressions for the year, if you're so inclined. * I've recently run across some older SF anthologies, and been less than impressed with how they'd aged—which makes me wonder whether, in 35 years, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021 will seem as myopic as The 1986 Annual World's Best SF does to me now? Somehow, I don't think so. These stories—while they may not be entirely timeless—were selected with much more care, and from a much wider field that has only matured in the meantime. If they do seem archaic in another generation's time, it could only be because speculative fiction has continued to grow. And how could that be a bad thing?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    The series editor, J.J. Adams, selects 80 stories and strips all identifying info and sends them to the guest editor, who downselects to 20 to publish. Theoretically, the guest editor doesn't know the authors or publication sources. It makes for an interesting selection, and sometimes means an author has two stories in this 'best of' collection (normally not done in most 'best of' anthologies). It's interesting to see what each guest editor seems to prefer. In this one, Veronica Roth seems to foc The series editor, J.J. Adams, selects 80 stories and strips all identifying info and sends them to the guest editor, who downselects to 20 to publish. Theoretically, the guest editor doesn't know the authors or publication sources. It makes for an interesting selection, and sometimes means an author has two stories in this 'best of' collection (normally not done in most 'best of' anthologies). It's interesting to see what each guest editor seems to prefer. In this one, Veronica Roth seems to focus on the dilemmas of young adults (not a surprise for the author of the Divergent series), especially young women. When Carmen Maria Machado was guest editor, a lot of the stories seemed to trend towards horror or dark fantasy, with many stories from Nightmare magazine. Nevertheless, these are excellent stories for the most part. Some were published in non-SF media, which is a welcome change to most 'best of' books. Still, even though the stories are chosen blindly, some of the same authors tend to crop up, like Ken Liu, Sarah Pinsker and Daryl Gregory. Some newcomers are quite impressive, though, like Meg Elison and Yohanca Delgado (who has two stories in this volume).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Potato McB

    Veronica Roth and JJA did an amazing job as co-editors of this anthology! There was not a SINGLE bad story among them! My biggest problem with anthologies has always been that there's usually one or two stand-outs, a bunch of meh/all-right stories, and then some outright bad ones. I liked all twenty stories in here (at least to some extent), and there were a bunch I absolutely LOVED. I sat down with the intention of reading one or two stories and then coming back to the volume later, but I ended Veronica Roth and JJA did an amazing job as co-editors of this anthology! There was not a SINGLE bad story among them! My biggest problem with anthologies has always been that there's usually one or two stand-outs, a bunch of meh/all-right stories, and then some outright bad ones. I liked all twenty stories in here (at least to some extent), and there were a bunch I absolutely LOVED. I sat down with the intention of reading one or two stories and then coming back to the volume later, but I ended up finishing all of them. I've lived 20 grim experiences in one day! I can't review all of them, so I'm just going to list my favorite 5 stories: 1. The Pill, by Meg Elison There was this story arc in Iron Man or Daredevil (can't remember which-- they both featured prominently in it) where Iron Man's personality got flipped and he creates this app that gives everyone Hollywood/fashion model visuals irl, but he uses the app to get people to spend more and more money on his products because the effects wear off after a while, so Daredevil confronts him about his amoral moneymaking schemes, but in the background, all these people are panicking and screaming TAKE OUR MONEY! WE MUST BE BEAUTIFUL!!! (*paraphrased). The Pill is like the much darker version of that story, but with weight loss pills instead. Basically, you can just take this pill and shit out all your excess fat (BLEAGH!), but since that's really not a healthy or natural way to lose weight, there's a 10% chance of dying. While people are so skeptical about vaccines that they won't even risk a 1 in a million chance of death (*not exact figures), I just know they would totally risk a 1 in 10 chance of dying in order to be slim and beautiful. Is this really sci-fi?! 🤣 2. How to Pay Reparations: A Documentary, by Tochi Onyebuchi This is so real it hurts. It's formatted like an interview transcript, but that doesn't make it any less impactful. It really gets at the heart of why social reform efforts often fail. 3. Our Language, by Yohanca Delgado I didn't know what what La Ciguapa was until I read this. Man, folklore from other countries is always so interesting! I liked Delgado's interpretation of the ciguapa legend, framing it around colonialism and gender roles and all that. 4. The Long Walk, by Kate Elliott WTF, THIS STORY MADE ME SO ANGRY! You know how in all the old stories, beautiful young maidens get sent off to be eaten by [insert mythical creature of choice] so that the village will be left alone or the harvest will be good or whatever? In the world of The Long Walk, young women are considered too valuable to be sacrificed like that (they can still cook and clean and be married off to wealthy men to pay off debts and bear sons and future sacrifices, after all), so instead, old women who have "outlived their use" are sent off as sacrifices to the dragons that guard this land. If your family has enough money, you can pay off the priests so they'll leave your elderly mother alone, but the priests will only accept generous and hefty sums of payment. So if you're poor or your family doesn't care enough about you to pay for you, you're fucked. I was wildly weeping inside my head because of how sad this whole premise is. 5. Two Truths and a Lie, by Sarah Pinsker Uhhhh, was this supposed to go in a horror anthology instead? It's creepy af! Uncle Bob is the stuff of nightmares, not science fiction! 🤣 Although.... HMMMM, I can see a modern-day Twilight Zone episode featuring this plot. 🤔 **Oh, and an Honorable Mention to The Glass Bottle because that story made me laugh, even if one of the main characters was a roach. I have never joyously laughed while feeling so disgusted and scared before. All the stories in this anthology were submitted/published during the pandemic, so a bunch of them contain themes of grief and isolation. I'm used to sci-fi not being a cheerful genre, but damn.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Blair Conrad

    As usual with an anthology, hits and misses. Most of the stories were "well, I'll read them to see if it gets good; at least it's short". And some of them got good… The ones I enjoyed more than others The Cleaners The first part of The Long Walk Two Truths and a Lie And This is How to Stay Alive The Rat One Time, a Reluctant Traveler Skipping Stones in the Dark Brother Rifle Schrodinger’s Catastrophe (probably the best of the lot, bo As usual with an anthology, hits and misses. Most of the stories were "well, I'll read them to see if it gets good; at least it's short". And some of them got good… The ones I enjoyed more than others The Cleaners The first part of The Long Walk Two Truths and a Lie And This is How to Stay Alive The Rat One Time, a Reluctant Traveler Skipping Stones in the Dark Brother Rifle Schrodinger’s Catastrophe (probably the best of the lot, both for idea and execution) The first part of The Pill the idea from The Beast Adjoins

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rosie B

    I loved most of these stories, though my favorite was definitely the first one. Some of stories weren't so well written, including the one about the AIs who changed spaceship shells and the one about the pandemic in the year 2040 or something like that. But "Let's Play Dead", "Crawfather", "How to Pay Reparations: A Documentary", "Our Language", "Schroödinger's Catastrophe", "The Cleaners", "And This Is How To Stay Alive", "The Beat Adjoins", "The Long Walk", "Skipping Stones in the Dark", and " I loved most of these stories, though my favorite was definitely the first one. Some of stories weren't so well written, including the one about the AIs who changed spaceship shells and the one about the pandemic in the year 2040 or something like that. But "Let's Play Dead", "Crawfather", "How to Pay Reparations: A Documentary", "Our Language", "Schroödinger's Catastrophe", "The Cleaners", "And This Is How To Stay Alive", "The Beat Adjoins", "The Long Walk", "Skipping Stones in the Dark", and "Two Truths and a Lie" were all great. "Two Truths and a Lie" could have been much creepier, but it was good as it was, too.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This collection is a fantastic experience—a mix of authors I know and ones I don’t, stories that range across the genres from Middle Earth type fantasy (maybe just one of those) to hard core military science fiction, many that felt particularly pandemic specific!! . Perhaps my favorite was “Beyond the Dragon’s Gate” by Yoon Ha Lee (I did not realize this is the same author from Dragon Pearl—a book I loved and am reading aloud with a class right now!). . A LOT of these stories were terrifying. I th This collection is a fantastic experience—a mix of authors I know and ones I don’t, stories that range across the genres from Middle Earth type fantasy (maybe just one of those) to hard core military science fiction, many that felt particularly pandemic specific!! . Perhaps my favorite was “Beyond the Dragon’s Gate” by Yoon Ha Lee (I did not realize this is the same author from Dragon Pearl—a book I loved and am reading aloud with a class right now!). . A LOT of these stories were terrifying. I think for me the scariest one was “Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robbie

    Three great ones, pretty good overall Ted Kosmatka “The Beast Adjoins.” Read the collection for this one alone. I saw an article where the author could not stop thinking about this short story and I couldn’t agree more. It’s really something else, a fresh take on AI that messes with your head for sure. This is a solid collection for sure. I found some new authors to read, their novels as I’m really not much of a short story reader, which is always nice.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Excellent anthology highly recommended! My top 5 favorite stories from this collection are: "The Pill", "Schrodinger's Catastrophe", "Skipping Stones in the Dark", "Two Truths and a Lie", & "The Rat". Excellent anthology highly recommended! My top 5 favorite stories from this collection are: "The Pill", "Schrodinger's Catastrophe", "Skipping Stones in the Dark", "Two Truths and a Lie", & "The Rat".

  10. 4 out of 5

    Taracuda

    As with any anthology, there were stories I liked and stories that didn’t do it for me at all. I was surprised how many tiptoed toward horror, too.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nick Garza

    Not all winners, but certainly some great stories in here. The Beast Adjoins was my favorite!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Got it just to read "The Beast Adjoins" by Ted Kosmatka. Incredible story, rest of the anthology is pretty solid as well. Got it just to read "The Beast Adjoins" by Ted Kosmatka. Incredible story, rest of the anthology is pretty solid as well.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Parker Sanchez

    There were some really great stories in this, also some stinkers that slogged to get through. Skipped about 3. the ones about quantum physics are fun

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Yenne

    Standouts for me: “Crawfather” “The Cleaners” “Two Truths and a Lie” Absolute Favorite, not even a contest: “The Beast Adjoins”

  15. 5 out of 5

    Annette Boehm

    These short stories are really good - I think my favorite ones are "Two Truths and A Lie", "One Time, a Reluctant Traveler," and "The Pill." The diversity of voices and styles was enjoyable. These short stories are really good - I think my favorite ones are "Two Truths and A Lie", "One Time, a Reluctant Traveler," and "The Pill." The diversity of voices and styles was enjoyable.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Roxy Nakamura

  17. 5 out of 5

    Allison Gray

  18. 5 out of 5

    Penny Wright

  19. 5 out of 5

    Liz Watkins

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dolores

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robin Pendergraft

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex Richey

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jim Kirkpatrick

  25. 5 out of 5

    Louis Arata

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mariner Books

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Chappell

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Klassert

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dannygottleib

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...