Tangent Online 2009 Recommended Reading List

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Tangent Online Recommended Reading List–2009

The following list is comprised of some 170-plus stories. Each length category (short story, novelette, novella) is separated into three further categories featuring stories that made an ever increasing impression on our reviewers. Thus, in each category, you will see a number of stories making the basic list, then a category of additional stories with one star (*), then two stars (**), and finally three stars (***), the latter being those with which the reviewers were most impressed.


This list is far from comprehensive, primarily due to two factors. First, Tangent Online relaunched from its hiatus near the end of June last year. We began with a bare bones staff and had a lot of catching up to do, the year being half over. The reviewing staff being small, I made the decision to cover only print venues, leaving the ever-growing e-markets alone until the staff grew to a suitable size in order to do these e-markets justice. I did, however, open the list to e-markets, knowing some of the staff read them. Thus, you will find a scattering of stories from various e-markets on the list. The second reason the list is even less complete than I would have liked is due to a major computer lockup that literally vaporized the entire list. Completely. With no hope of recovery. This specific type of snafu had never happened to me before, and still remains one of Life’s frustrating mysteries. Be that as it may, I had to start over from scratch, contacting the reviewers for their lists again (those I hadn’t saved). In the process, some thirty stories are still missing from the original 200-plus. My apologies to those authors whose stories should have been on this Recommended Reading List for 2009. (The silver lining for those omitted by error is that no one will know who they were, so those not on the list can claim they were one of the thirty.)

That being said, there is yet a wealth of material on the list, those stories we felt should be brought to the attention of a wider audience and given at least some recognition, for the practitioners of the short form are never given enough praise for their efforts. We hope the list in some measure rectifies this in some small degree. And as with all lists, be they a final Hugo or Nebula ballot, or a Best of the Year selection of stories from various editors, opinions and tastes will vary to a great degree, though some consensus can be seen here and there on a fair number of stories.

Following each entry the reviewers have done their best to determine the genre of each story:  SF, F, H, DF, or some other admixture of genres they felt appropriate. The list of reviewers contributing to the list is below, and each entry is marked with the initials of the reviewer or reviewers recommending the story. If more than a single reviewer has recommended a story, and one of the reviewers has given it at least one star (*), then the story is placed in the category with the most stars. Thus it is possible to see a story with one or more stars, but not each reviewer recommending the story would necessarily have ranked it as high. It is enough to know that several reviewers liked the story enough to recommend it, and at least one (often more than one) has given it one or more stars.

We welcome any corrections as to the length of stories so that we may place them in their proper categories. Other corrections as to publication dates are also welcome.

[CB=Carla Billinghurst, BB=Bob Blough, NE=Nader Elhefnawy, SF=Steve Fahnestalk, NG=Nathan Goldman, KJG=KJ Greenberg, MJ=Maggie Jamison, CAM=Carole Anne Moleti, CLR= C. L. Rossman, CS=Carl Slaughter, DT=Dave Truesdale, RW=Robert Waters, DW=Daniel Woods)


Short Stories

“Excellence” by Richard A. Lovett (Analog, 1-2/09) SF (DT, NE)
“A Stark and Wormy Night” by Tad Williams (The Dragon Book, 11/09) F (CB)
“Oakland Dragon Blues” by Peter S. Beagle (The Dragon Book, 11/09) F (CB)
“Here There Be Monsters” by Brad Carson (Ages of Wonder, 3/09) F (NE)
“Blood and Soil” by Ceri Young (Ages of Wonder, 3/09) F (NE)
“Immigrant” by Sandra Tayler (Ages of Wonder, 3/09) F (NE)
“Naktong Flow” by Myke Cole (Black Gate #13, Spring 2009) F (DT)
“How Antkind Lost its Soul” by Bill Ward (Kaleidotrope #7, Oct. 2009) F (KJG)
“Damaged On Every Level” by Barbara Ann Wright (Crossed Genres, 10/09) DF (DW)
“In Winter” by Nancy Kilpatrick (Darkness on the Edge, PS Publishing 2009) (CLR)
“The Hungry Heart” by Michael A. Arnazen (Darkness on the Edge, PS Publishing 2009) (CLR)
“Dancing Lessons” by Aaron Polson (Triangulation: Dark Glass, 7/09) SF (NG)
“Perchance to Dream” by D.J. Cockburn (Triangulation: Dark Glass, 7/09) F (NG)
“A Mouse Ran Up the Clock” by A.C. Wise (Electric Velocipede, 10/09) SF (NG)
“Nightlight” by Celia Marsh (Electric Velocipede, 10/09) F (NG)
“Counting Down to the End of the Universe” by Sara Genge (Shimmer #10, Summer 2009) SF (BB)
“The Goat Variations” by Jeff Vandermeer (Other Earths, 4/09) SF (BB)
“Nine Alternate Alternate Stories” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Other Earths, 4/09) SF (BB)
“The Stickball Witch” by Peter S. Beagle (We Never Talk About My Brother, 3/09) F (BB)
“Atomic Truth” by Chris Beckett (Asimov’s, 4-5/09) SF (BB)
“Human Day” by Jack Skillingstead (Asimov’s, 4-5/09) SF (BB)
“Exegesis” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s, 4-5/09) SF (DT, BB)
“Going Deep” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, 6/09) SF (BB, DT)
“The Monsters of Morgan Island” by Sandra McDonald (Asimov’s, 6/09) F (BB)
“Away From Here” by Lisa Goldstein (Asimov’s, 9/09) F (BB)
“SinBad the Sand Sailor” by R Garcia y Robertson (Asimov’s, 7/09) SF (NE)
“The Day Before the Day Before” by Steve Rasnic Tem (Asimov’s, 9/09) SF (BB)
“Erosion” by Ian Creasey (Asimov’s, 10-11/09) SF (BB)
“The Boy Who Sang for Others” by Michael Meddor (F&SF, 1/09) F (DT)
“Catalog” by Eugene Mirabelli (F&SF 2/09) F (BB)
“The Avenger of Love” by Jack Skillingstead (F&SF, 4-5/09) F (DT)
“The Motorman’s Coat” by John Kessel (F&SF, 6-7/09) F (BB)
“Illusions of Tranquillity” by Brendan DuBois (F&SF, 12/09) SF (DT)
“The Transmigration of Aishwarya Rai” by Eric Gregory (Interzone #223, 7/09) SF (NE)
“The Festival of Tethsalem” by Chris Butler (Interzone #224, 9-10/09) SF/F (BB)
“A Practical Girl” by Ellen Klages (Eclipse 3, 10/09) F (BB)
“The Visited Man” by Molly Gloss (Eclipse 3, 10/09) F (DT)
“Sleight of Hand” by Peter S. Beagle (Eclipse 3, 10/09) F (BB)
“The Coral Heart” by Jeffrey Ford (Eclipse 3, 10/09) F (BB, DT)
“Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction” by Jo Walton (Tor.com 2/6/09) SF (BB)
“The Shangri-La Affair” by Lavie Tidhar (Strange Horizons, 1/19/09) SF (BB)
“Bespoke” by Genvieve Valentine (Strange Horizons, 7/27/09) F/SF (BB)
“Images of Anna” by Nancy Kress (Fantasy, 9/09) F (BB)
“Voice Like a Cello” by Catherine Cheek (Fantasy, 5/4/09) F (BB)
“The Dying World” by Lavie Tidhar (Clarkesworld, 4/09) SF/F (BB)
“Non-Zero Probabilities” by M. K. Jemison (Clarkesworld, 9/09) SF (BB)
“Of Melei, of Ulthor” by Gord Sellar (Clarkesworld, 10/09) F (BB)
“Fragile Fathers, Shattered Sons” by Kurt Kirchmeier (Albedo One, Summer 2009) F (SF)
“The Entire City” by Mike Driscoll (Albedo One, Summer 2009) SF/F (SF)
“The Paper People” by Chris Cox (Electric Velocipede, Spring 2009) F (SF)
“Steve Kendrick’s Disease” by Edward W. Robertson (M-Brane SF, 6/09) SF (SF)
“Zara Gets Laid” by Sue Lange (M-Brane SF, 6/09) SF (SF)
“Sails Above Greensea” by Adam Corbin Fusco (Realms of Fantasy, 4/09) F/SF (SF)


Short Stories–One Star


“Slow Stampede” by Sara Genge (Asimov’s 3/09) SF* (RW)
“Sleepless in the House of Ye” by Ian McHugh (Asimov’s, 7/09) SF* (NE)
“Angels and Moths” by Costi Gurgu (Ages of Wonder, 3/09) F* (NE)
“A Bird in the Hand” by Queenie Tirone (Ages of Wonder, 3/09) F* (NE)
“Cloud Above Water” by Natalie Millman (Ages of Wonder, 3/09) F* (NE)
“The Glass Box” by Bud Sparhawk (So It Begins, Defending the Future Anthology Series Vol. 2) SF* (RW)
“War Movies” by James Chambers (So It Begins, Defending the Future Anthology Series Vol. 2) SF* (RW)
“Bob Choi’s Last Job” by Jonathan Stroud (The Dragon Book, 11/09) F* (RW)
“Ungentle Fire” by Sean Williams (The Dragon Book, 11/09) F* (RW)
“Devil’s Arcade” by Mark Charan (Darkness on the Edge, PS Publishing 2009) F* (CLR)
“The Red King Sleeps” by Marly Youmans (Enemy of the Good, Postscripts #19, Summer 2009) DF* (MJ)
“The Portrayed Man” by Justin Cartaginese (Enemy of the Good, Postscripts #19, Summer 2009) SF/DF* (MJ)
“The Healer” by David Hoing  (Edison’s Frankenstein, Postscripts 20-21, 12/09) SF* (SF)
“Edison’s Frankenstein” by Chris Roberson (Edison’s Frankenstein, Postscripts 20-21, 12/09) SF/F* (SF)
“Black Fragmentaria” by Michael Cobley (Edison’s Frankenstein, Postscripts 20-21, 12/09) SF/F* (SF)
“The Fourth Horseman” by Yoon Ha Lee  (Electric Velocipede, Spring 2009) F* (SF)
“The Death of Sugar Daddy” by Toiya Kristen Finley (Electric Velocipede, Spring 2009) F* (SF)
“Hells Bells” by Cherie Priest (Grants Pass Anthology, 8/2009) DSF* (MJ)
“Boudha” by K.V. Taylor (Grants Pass Anthology, 8/2009) DSF* (MJ)
“Souls on Display” by Kurt Kirchmeier (Triangulation: Dark Glass, 7/09) F* (NG)
“Guilt By Association” by Peter Orullian (Intelligent Design, 9/09) SF* (NE)
“The President’s Book Tour” by M. Rickert (F&SF, 10-11/09) F* (BB)
“Bad Matter” by Alexandra Duncan (F&SF, 12/09) SF* (BB)
“A Road Once Traveled” by Richard Parks (Realms of Fantasy, 12/09) F* (NE)
“Narrative of a Beast’s Life” by Cat Rambo (Realms of Fantasy, 12/09) F* (SF)
“Glister” by Dominic Green (Interzone #223, 7/09) SF* (NE)
“Butterfly Bomb” by Dominic Green (Interzone #223, 7/09) SF* (NE)
“Silence and Roses” by Suzanne Palmer (Interzone #223, 7/09) SF* (NE)
“The Godfall’s Chemsong” by Jeremiah Tolbert (Interzone #224, 9-10/09) SF* (BB)
“Jerry” by Karl Bunker (Neo-opsis, 4th quarter 2009) SF* (SF)
“The Pelican Bar” by Karen Joy Fowler (Eclipse 3, 10/09) SF/F* (BB)
“Under the Shouting Sky” by Karl Bunker (Cosmos, 8/9/09) SF* (BB)


Short Stories–Two Stars

“The Brother on the Shelf” by Philip Edward Kaldon (Analog, 5/09) SF** (DT)
“The Radio Magician” by James Van Pelt (Realms of Fantasy, 2/09) SF/F** (DT, SF)
“Incarnation in the Delta” by Richard Foss (Abyss & Apex, #29: First Quarter 2009) F** (CAM)
“Ziggurat” by Stephen O’Connor (The New Yorker, 6/09) F** (NG)
“Seeing Is” by Craig Wolf (Triangulation: Dark Glass, 7/09) F** (NG)
“Useless Things” by Maureen F. McHugh (Eclipse 3, 10/09) SF** (BB)
“The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, 8/09) F** (BB)

Short Stories–Three Stars

“The Boy Who Could Bend and Fall” by Ken Scholes (Electric Velocipede, 10/09) F*** (NG)
“Fox 8” by George Saunders (Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, 12/09) F*** (NG)
“A Painter, a Sheep, and a Boa Constrictor” by Nir Yanov (Shimmer #10, Summer 2009) SF*** (BB)
“Blocked” by Geoff Ryman (F&SF, 10-11/09)SF*** (BB)
“Before My Last Breath” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, 10-11/09) SF*** (BB)
“As Women Fight” by Sara Genge (Asimov’s, 12/09) SF*** (BB)
“On the Human Plan” by Jay Lake (Lone Star Stories, 2/1/09) SF*** (BB)


“Steak Tartare and the Cats of Gari Babakin” by Mary Turzillo (Analog, 4/09) SF (DT)
“Evergreen” by Shane Tourtellotte (Analog, 9/09) SF (DT)
“The Way They Wove the Spells in Sippulgar” by Robert Silverberg (F&SF, 10-11/09) F (BB, DT)
“By Moonlight” by Peter S. Beagle (We Never Talk About My Brother, 3/09) F (BB)
“Echoes of Aurora” by Ellen Klages (What Remains, 6/09) F (BB)
“The Lost Princess Man” by John Barnes (The New Space Opera 2, 6/09) SF (BB)
“To Raise a Mutiny Betwixt Yourselves” by Jay Lake (The New Space Opera 2, 6/09) SF (BB)
“From the Heart” by John Meany (The New Space Opera 2, 6/09) SF (BB, DT)
“Cracklegrackle” by Justina Robson (The New Space Opera 2, 6/09) SF (BB)
“Yes We Have No Bananas” by Paul Di Filippo (Eclipse 3, 10/09) SF/F (DT)
“The Long, Cold Goodbye” by Holly Phillips (Asimov’s, 3/09) F (BB)
“The Armies of Elfland” by Eileen Gunn & Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s, 4-5/09) F (BB)
“Controlled Experiment” by Tom Purdom (Asimov’s, 6/09) SF (BB)
“Sails the Morne” by Chris Willrich (Asimov’s, 6/09) SF (BB)
“Quickstone” by Marc Laidlaw (F&SF, 3/09) F (DT)
“Shadow-Below” by Robert Reed (F&SF, 3/09) F (DT)
“Adaptogenia” by Wayne Wightman (F&SF, 6-7/09) F (DT)
“A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon” by Ken Scholes (Tor.com 2/17/09) F (BB)
“First Flight” by Mary Robinette Kowall (Tor.com 8/25/09) SF (BB)

“Zeppelin City” by Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn (Tor.com 10/6/09 ) SF/F (BB)
“Dragon’s Teeth” by Alex Irvine (F&SF, 12/09) F (DT, BB)
“The Signature of God” by Michael Hiebert (Intelligent Design, 9/09) SF (NE)
“God, No Matter How You Spell It” by Brendan DuBois (Intelligent Design, 9/09) SF (NE)


Novelettes–One Star

“But It Does Move” by Harry Turtledove (Analog, 6/09) SF* (SF)
“Monuments Of Unageing Intellect” by Howard V. Hendrix (Analog, 6/09) SF* (SF)
“Joan” by John G. Hemry (Analog, 11/09) SF* (RW)
“Formidable Caress” by Stephen Baxter (Analog, 12/09) SF* (SF)
“Lion Walk” by Mary Rosenblum (Asimov’s, 1/09) SF* (RW)
“The Qualia Engine” by Damien Broderick (Asimov’s, 8/09) SF* (BB, DT)
“Blood Dauber” by Ted Kosmatka & Michael Poore (Asimov’s, 10-11/09) SF* (SF, DT, BB)
“Wife-Stealing Time” by R. Garcia y Robertson  (Asimov’s, 10-11/09) SF* (SF)
“Flotsam” by Elissa Malcohn  (Asimov’s, 10-11/09) SF* (SF)
“The Bones of Giants” by Yoon Ha Lee (F&SF, 8-9/09) F* (SF, DT)
“Esoteric City” by Bruce Sterling (F&SF, 8-9/09) F* (SF)
“After the Third Kiss” by Bruce Coville (The Dragon Book, 11/09) F* (RW)
“The Dragaman’s Bride” by Andy Duncan (The Dragon Book, 11/09) F* (RW, CB)
“Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance” by John Kessel (The New Space Opera 2, 6/09) SF* (BB)
“Seventh Fall” by Alex Irvine (Subterranean, Summer 2009) SF* (BB)

Novelettes–Two Stars

“The Island” by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2, 6/09) SF** (RW, BB, DT)
“It Takes Two” by Nicola Griffith (Eclipse 3, 10/09) SF** (BB, DT)
“Shadow of the Valley” by Fred Chappell (F&SF, 2/09) F** (DT)
“The Curandero and the Swede” by Daniel Abraham (F&SF, 3/09) F** (DT, BB)
“One Bright Star to Guide Them” by John C. Wright (F&SF, 4-5/09) F** (DT)
“Three Leaves of Aloe” by Rand B. Lee (F&SF, 8-9/09) SF** (DT, BB, SF)
“I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said” by Richard Bowes (F&SF, 12/09) F** (DT)
“This Wind Blowing, and This Tide” by Damien Broderick (Asimov’s, 4-5/09) SF** (BB)
“Flowers of Asphodel” by Damien Broderick (Asimov’s, 10-11/09) SF** (BB)
“Philia, Eros, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com, 3/3/09) SF** (BB)
“The Ruined Queen of Harvest World” by Damien Broderick (Tor.com, 8/09) SF** (BB)

Novelettes–Three Stars


“This Peaceable Land, or, The Unbearable Vision of Harriet Beecher Stowe” by Robert Charles Wilson (Other Earths, 4/09) SF*** (BB)
“Utriusque Cosmi” by Robert Charles Wilson (The New Space Opera 2, 6/09) SF*** (RW, BB, DT)
“Another Life” by Charles Oberndorf (F&SF, 10-11/09) F*** (DT)
“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster (Interzone #220, 2/09) F*** (BB)
“Fletcher’s Ghost” by Liz Holliday (Ages of Wonder, 3/09) F*** (NE)


“The Recovery Man’s Bargain” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Analog, 1-2/09) SF (NE)
“Gunfight on Farside” by Adam-Troy Castro (Analog, 4/09) SF (DT)
“Dog-Eared Paperback of My Life” by Lucius Shepard (Other Earths, 4/09) F (BB)
“Halloween Town” by Lucius Shepard (F&SF, 10-11/09) F (BB, DT)
“Earth II” by Stephen Baxter (Asimov’s, 7/09) SF (DT, BB)
“Broken Windchimes” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov’s, 9/09) SF (BB, DT, NE)
“Gilbert and Edgar on Mars” by Eric Brown (PS Publishing, 10/09) F (SF)


Novellas–One Star



“Act One” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s, 3/09) SF* (DT, RW, BB)
“Delusion’s Song” by Alan Smale (Panverse One, 2009) DF* (MJ)
“Cast a Cold Eye” by Derryl Murphy and William Shunn (PS Publishing, 12/09) F* (SF)
“Shaka II” by Mike Resnick (PS Publishing, 12/09) SF* (CS, DT)
“Palimpset” by Charles Stross (Wireless, 7/09) SF* (NE)


Novellas–Two Stars

“Pelago” by Judith Berman (Asimov’s, 2/09) SF** (BB)
“Paradiso Lost” by Albert E. Cowdrey (F&SF, 6-7/09) SF** (DT)
“Vishnu at the Cat Circus” by Ian McDonald (Cyberabad Days, 2/09 ) SF** (DT, BB)
“Sublimation Angels” by Jason Sanford (Interzone #224, 09-10/09) SF** (BB, DT)
“Crimes and Glory” by Paul McAuley (Subterranean, Spring 2009) SF** (BB)

Novellas–Three Stars

“The Far End of History” by John C. Wright (The New Space Opera 2,  6/09) SF*** (RW, DT, BB)

As was mentioned at the top, Tangent Online‘s relaunch after a hiatus of nearly a year and a half and having to gear up from scratch halfway through the year, made it difficult for some of the usual magazine and book publishers to catch up to us once again. Of the specialty or small press publishers who did find us (we’d moved to a new snail mail address and much mail, we discovered recently, wasn’t forwarded), we’d like to mention a few of the quality standouts from 2009 among those we did receive.


World Fantasy Award winning Golden Gryphon Press and publisher Gary Turner had another fine year. Specializing in handsomely produced hardcover single author reprint collections, 2009 saw reissues of previous GG offerings with two of Jeffrey Ford’s excellent collections, The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant (2002) and The Empire of Ice Cream (2006). Collections new to 2009 were Jack Skillingstead’s Are You There and Other Stories, and Mike Resnick’s Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks. Are You There is rising star Skillingstead’s first collection. Introduced by Nancy Kress, these twenty-six emotionally intense stories are best read one or two at a time, for the reader will welcome the break between these often dark, yet at other times richly imagined stories. A solid, representative collection from a fine writer, and once again Golden Gryphon is the first to showcase an up and coming (and needless to say already proven) genre talent.

If you aren’t yet a fan of Mike Resnick’s work, you soon will be after reading Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks. Those already diehard “Bwana” fans will also delight in this collection of some of his most thoughtful, yet solidly entertaining fictions. Included in this nine-story set is the Hugo and Nebula-nominated story “Hunting the Snark,” and despite its somewhat disarmingly lighthearted title it is a tense, action-oriented adventure that also asks serious questions along the way. “Safari: 2103 A.D.” forms the basis for, and is a self-contained excerpt from, his much longer 2005 Hugo and Nebula winner “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge,” and is not to be missed. Mike Resnick has won numerous awards (the Hugo and Nebula among many others worldwide) for his masterful storytelling–for he never forgets he’s telling a story first and foremost–and this new collection (with a foreword by Kristine Kathryn Rusch) is pure Resnick at his entertaining, page-turning best. At turns thoughtful verging on the philosophical, yet always moving his stories forward with attention to detail and plot, Resnick engages the reader in many ways in this carefully assembled collection. There’s some serious fun here, and this one, along with the Skillingstead collection–not to mention the award-winning Ford reprint collections–puts the cap on another excellent year for Gary Turner and Golden Gryphon Press.

For a couple of years now, Paizo Press/Planet Stories and publisher Erik Mona have been turning out affordable ($12.99-$14.99) trade paperbacks of some of Science Fiction and Fantasy’s most beloved classics, some long out of print, and focusing on the sub-genres of Planetary Romance, Sword & Sorcery, Science Fantasy, and just plain Planetary Adventure novels and collections. Planet Stories has published the likes of Leigh Brackett’s beloved Eric John Stark novels (among several of her other classics such as The Sword of Rhiannon and The Secret of Sinharat), the overlooked S&S of Otis Adelbert Kline (who is ranked by some aficionados as right below Robert E. Howard in some respects), C. L. Moore’s groundbreaking stories of Northwest Smith (the complete works, the first published in 1933 in Weird Tales), and the complete Jirel of Joiry stories (Black God’s Kiss), Henry Kuttner’s The Dark World and his collection Elak of Atlantis, as well as classics of the aforementioned subgenres by Michael Moorcock and Robert E. Howard–all with stunning new cover art. Did I mention they were affordably priced? 2009 saw the publication of Henry Kuttner’s classic and fondly remembered Gallagher tales collected in one volume with a reprinted introduction by his collaborator wife C. L. Moore, titled Robots Have No Tails, as well as the influential, early fantasist A. Merritt’s marvelous, and richly descriptive The Ship of Ishtar. Planet Stories bills itself as reissuing “Classic Fantasy for a New Era,” and they deliver. For those unfamiliar with these classic authors, their works, and the inspiration they have given to many of today’s modern fantasists, you don’t want to pass these up. They don’t come along every day, so grab’em while you can. 2009 was a fine year for Planet Stories, and 2010 promises even more delights, with the release of Manly Wade Wellman’s complete Silver John tales (Who Fears the Devil?, originally scheduled for late 2009 release) scheduled for March.

Stephen Haffner and his Haffner Press is doing the SF community a great service by reprinting in hardcover the works of Jack Williamson, Leigh Brackett, and Edmond Hamilton (and now beginning on the works of Henry Kuttner in 2009). I could go on forever about the various volumes he has painstakingly assembled over the past several years. Each and every one are collector’s items. Put together with the finest quality paper and bindings, they aren’t cheap, running to an average of forty dollars or thereabouts, depending on the volume (which volumes routinely run to six or seven hundred pages and weigh several pounds apiece). They have been praised by readers, fans, reviewers, critics, and collectors far and wide, including yours truly. Each volume is replete with introductions by renowned SF scholars or authors with intimate knowledge of each author’s work, and many include original magazine art (both original covers and interior illustrations from the pulp magazines from their original appearances), and through exhaustive research from original sources some offer original correspondence between the author and the various pulp magazine editors. The packaging is superb and designed to last a lifetime. This is top shelf stuff, friends, and worth every penny for those who know what they like and can afford the best. Craftsmanship and the love of craft is paramount with Haffner Press books. 2009 was yet another stellar year for this small press publishing house (long overlooked for an award win for the valuable niche it is filling, and its invaluable contribution to the SF field). 2009 saw the publication of a near handful of gorgeous books, foremost among them the trio of Edmond Hamilton volumes:  The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One:  The Metal Giants and Others (with an introduction by Robert Weinberg); The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Two: The Star-Stealers–The Complete Tales of the Interstellar Patrol (with an introduction by Walter Jon Williams); and The Collected Captain Future, Volume One (with an introduction by Richard A. Lupoff). My recommendation for Haffner Press volumes comes with unreserved praise and admiration for their efforts, and 2009 was no exception.

Late in 2009 we received a large package from Night Shade Books containing Eclipse 3 and several of their fine themed reprint collections. What we were surprised and ecstatic to find included, however, were two volumes of the collected works of William Hope Hodgson. Night Shade has been reprinting the collected works of Hodgson for about six or seven years now, and 2009 saw the final volume, number five, released in May. I received volumes two and five; two in its second printing (from 2004), and five a first edition. Volumes three and four are sold out, which is testament to Hodgson’s (and these specific volumes’) popularity. Like the aforementioned Haffner Press editions, these Night Shade editions are somewhat pricey, coming in at $35 apiece, but like the Haffner tomes, these too are worth every penny, being carefully crafted for the collector and/or aficionado of Hodgson’s work. Running around 450 pages each (with introductions and source notations), the covers are black-leather bound (sans dust jackets) and are embossed/inlaid/stamped in silver (the covers are intricately drawn and beautifully detailed and identical save for the title and volume numbering; the cover above doesn’t do the real item justice). Handsome and impressive to be sure, and quality merchandise to be cherished by the diehard Hodgson lover. Of which I am one. I’ve long known of William Hope Hodgson and his history and influence on generations of fantasists, but had read relatively little of his work aside from The House on the Borderland, The Night Land, and the occasional short piece in some arcane collection or two over the years. So it was with great pleasure that I’ve begun sifting through these two volumes, beginning with the 2009 release of the final volume, The Dream of X and other Fantastic Visions. Hodgson (1877-1918), as I’m forever reminded from my interview with Ed Hamilton when he remarked that Hodgson “had the most supreme imagination,” was the inspiration for many writing a certain type of fantasy today, including Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, and even China Mieville. Leiber wrote of Hodgson, “This outstanding ability of Hodgson, to plunge into a dream world and stay there for a book-length sojourn, fits with his seriousness and lends to his tale a straightforward, desperate convincingness.” And Mieville is quoted in the introduction to the fifth volume, “…if you have so much as a splinter of wonder in you, you read Hodgson, and you know without question he is a master.” One of the seminal fantasists of the early 20th century, much of his work has been long out of print. Kudos to Night Shade Books for taking the time and effort to bring his complete works back into print in such grand and elegant fashion. Now if they’d only print second editions of volumes three and four like they have done with volume two, I would be eternally grateful. For lovers of the rare specialty item, and those who appreciate the history of the fantasy genre–not to mention Hodgson fans–these books are long lost treasure newly discovered.

2009 saw Tachyon Publications publisher Jacob Weisman bequeath to the world The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction–Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology. Each year as far back as I can remember there have been any number of variously themed reprint collections offered to the buying public, as well as an ever increasing number of single author reprint collections. They run the gamut from atrocious to quite good, if the themed collections hold truly classic or forgotten stories on any given theme, or if the single author collections are from writers with a demonstrable track record, and aren’t just cobbled together from a newcomer’s first double handful of stories from obscure publications with maybe a single sale to a major magazine, which seems to be the case in too many single author collections these days. Be that as it may, and taking into account every reprint collection of whatever stripe or quality to appear in 2009, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction is, hands down, and without doubt or equivocation, absolutely the best reprint collection of 2009.

I hyperbolize not in the least. As every writer worth his salt learns very quickly in this business, showing trumps telling. So of the twenty-three stories included here, dating from 1951 to a very recent 2007 entry, I will show you a selection of the stories contained within this landmark collection.

“Of Time and Third Avenue” by Alfred Bester
“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
“One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts” by Shirley Jackson
“A Touch of Strange” by Theodore Sturgeon
“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes (arguably the greatest single story in SF history)
“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut
“The Deathbird” by Harlan Ellison
“The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr.
“I See You” by Damon Knight
“The Gunslinger” by Stephen King
“Solitude” by Ursula K. Le Guin
“Two Hearts” by Peter S. Beagle
“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang

And that’s only half the book. There’s also a William Tenn story, a Zelazny, a Philip K. Dick, a Swanwick, a Bisson, a Jeffrey Ford, and a Gaiman, and we’re still not done. F&SF founders Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas had a vision way back in 1949 of what they wanted to see in the pages of their fledgling magazine. Through sixty years and a handful-plus of editors who have each striven to share and to the best of their ability maintain that vision–that high standard of literary quality in a magazine devoted to the fantastic, each editor–including such as Avram Davidson, Robert P. Mills, and Ed Ferman–has lent his own personal fingerprint to that vision, and the stories included in this must-have collection reflect that original vision. And this vision is carried forth via those stories originally purchased by the current editor, who has been at the editorial helm since 1996–longer than the legendary Boucher himself. Indeed, a third of the stories–some already classics and a few nearly so–reflect not only Gordon Van Gelder’s personal taste, but his intuitive understanding of the original founders’ dream as well as a keen knowledge of the history of–now his–magazine. As testament to his astute editorial acumen I quote from the rear cover of the book:  “Van Gelder has received the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards, and under his leadership F&SF has won the Locus Award for eight consecutive years.” It’s obvious he must be doing something right. It’s tough to get published in one of the top tier professional magazines. Always has been. Still is. Especially to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Ten years ago (dating from last year, 2009, which is what we’re about here), F&SF turned 50. I was then beginning my tenure as editor of the SFWA Bulletin. I decided to do a special “F&SF 50th Anniversary” issue. Along with specially commissioned articles from former editor Kristine Kathryn Rusch, long time book reviewer Algis Budrys, current editor GVG, and a rare piece by former publisher and long time editor Ed Ferman, I girded my editorial loins and called Harlan Ellison, promising that if he would write five hundred words or thereabouts for F&SF‘s 50th Anniversary I would give him the entire inside rear cover–full-color, slick paper, and all. Oh, and with a color photo of Himself as well. I relate this story to emphasize how tough it was, and still is, to get published in F&SF, and how high were, and still are, its standards. I wish I could reprint the entire article, but the following opening paragraph pretty much makes the point.

Harlan:  “When the world was summat younger, and so was I, you’d best believe I would have made a deal with the most redolent, vomitous, duplicitous, scumbag of a minor demon; would have indentured myself to the Mob, the Men in Black, the Church, or the Scientologists; would have whacked or chilled or sanctioned with extreme prejudice, anyone or anything; would have…to have sold a story to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. When I was 16 in 1950, I’d have razed nations, slaughtered babies, drunk worms’ blood, sung “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” on street corners, just to have sold a short story, an anecdote, a quatrain, anydamnthing to Tony Boucher and Mick McComas at F&SF.” —SFWA Bulletin #144, Winter 1999

Just to get anything published in F&SF was Harlan’s dream. He is now represented by one of the very best twenty-three stories in F&SF‘s long and storied history. The standards are high at F&SF, and this collection more than proves it. This truly is the very best reprint collection of any sort you are likely to see in a very long time, much less from 2009. Jacob Weisman and Gordon Van Gelder have outdone themselves, though it might be interesting to see a “best of” collection from F&SF with selections from each of its various editor’s reigns. An F&SF editorial time capsule as it were. An intriguing idea, but who would do the choosing?

Well, and so. There you have it. Tangent Online‘s Recommended Reading List for 2009 (primarily print stories, computer crashes, 30 missing stories and all). It is not intended to be a definitive Best Of list of any sort, only a list of those stories a dedicated group of those who actually read the stories liked in varying measure, with wildly different perspectives and tastes. We are readers, just like you. Incomplete as it may be, we hope it serves to illuminate many of the stories worthy of notice from last year, and provides possible memory jogs, or reminders, for Hugo or World Fantasy Award consideration later this year. We will work harder this year to make our list more comprehensive next year, but hope you find some value in this one.