Gardner Dozois (July 23, 1947-May 27, 2018) was one of the great editors of Science Fiction. Gardner’s yearly tome of The Year’s Best Science Fiction became the Gold Standard of quality. I particularly liked Gardner Dozois’s “Summation” essay in each volume which summed up that year in detail. On July 3, 2018, The Year’s Best Science Fiction: 35th Annual Collection will be published. I’m saddened to think that this will be the last volume in this legendary series. I wanted to honor Gardner Dozois so I chose The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fourth Collection because it was a critical volume in the series.

The first three volumes in the series were published by Bluejay Books run by James Frenkel. But, in 1985, Bluejay Books closed its doors and Gardner Dozois found a new home for his yearly anthology with St. Martin’s Press starting with the Fourth Annual Collection. In reading Dozois’s “Summation: 1986” there’s an air of uneasiness. Dozois was probably concerned about the future of his series. And, uncharacteristically, there’s this comment by Dozois: “A new version of Star TrekStar Trek: The Next Generation–is going to be on the tube next season, but somehow I can’t muster up a great deal of enthusiasm for this news: perhaps I’ve grown jaded.” (p. xix) Dozois might have been in a grumpy mood having to switch publishers. But such fears were groundless. Gardner Dozois edited 31 more Year’s Best SF collections and became a giant in the Science Fiction genre. The world is a lesser place now that Gardner Dozois is gone. GRADE: A
Summation: 1986 / Gardner Dozois ix
R & R / Lucius Shepard — 1
Hatrack River / Orson Scott Card — 67
Strangers on paradise / Damon Knight — 91
Pretty boy crossover / Pat Cadigan — 105
Against Babylon / Robert Silverberg — 115
Fiddling for waterbuffaloes / Somtow Sucharitkul — 133
Into gold / Tanith Lee — 155
Sea change / Scott Baker — 181
Covenant of souls / Michael Swanwick — 198
The pure product / John Kessel — 229
Grave angels / Richard Kearns — 247
Tangents / Greg Bear — 274
The beautiful and the sublime / Bruce Sterling — 289
Tattoos / Jack Dann — 314
Night moves / Tim Powers — 333
The prisoner of Chillon / James Patrick Kelly — 352
Chance / Connie Willis — 384
And so to bed / Harry Turtledove — 411
Fair game / Howard Waldrop — 425
Video star / Walter Jon Williams — 439
Sallie C. / Neal Barrett, Jr. — 469
Jeff Beck / Lewis Shiner — 490
Surviving / Judith Moffett — 499
Down and out in the year 2000 / Kim Stanley Robinson — 529
Snake-eyes / Tom Maddox — 544
The gate of ghosts / Karen Joy Fowler — 562
The winter market / William Gibson — 581
Honorable mentions: 1986 599


  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Dozois apparently entered the hospital with a minor ailment and picked up a systemic infection there which made short work of him. When I had surgery several years ago I picked up double pneumonia and a mrsa infection while in the hospital. Not safe places to be.

    Lot of great stories in this volume. Lot of my favorite writers here-Shepard, Barrett, Waldrop, Silverberg, Swanwick, Kelly, Powers, Bear and Knight.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, when I went to the hospital for my total knee replacement surgery, my orthopedic surgeon told me: “We’re going to get you out of here pronto!” A number of my friends ended up with MRSA after hospital stays.

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    Good choice. He did a lot of good anthologies over the years.

    Yes, hospitals are dangerous places. Sad.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, Gardner Dozois grew his yearly anthologies from about 600 pages to over 800 pages. And, you don’t want to go to the hospital unless you really have to be there…and then you want to exit quickly!

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        Jackie got out in three days after her knee replacement – not that the rehab place was much better – and I’ve managed to keep hospital visits to same day only, so far.

      2. george Post author

        Jeff, hospitals are notorious germ factories. The longer the stay, the greater the risk of catching cooties!

  3. Rick Robinson

    Good choice, George. Dozois was a fine editor, anthologist and, from what I have read, a fine writer. I haven’t come across any of his short stories, or if I have I don’t remember. While I liked this series of “Year’s Best”, I also liked many of the anthologies he edited or co-edited. Particular favorites are the two “Old” ones he did recently, OLD MARS and OLD VENUS.

    From all accounts, he was also a very nice guy. A sad loss.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, you’re right about Dozois’s other collections. Apparently, after his YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION: 35TH ANNUAL COLLECTION is published next month, only BOOK OF MAGIC will be left in the publishing pipeline for October.

  4. Jim Harris

    Up until a few years ago, I owned all of Gardner’s Year’s Best volumes, then I started buying them for the Kindle. I gave my paper copies to the library. When I heard he died, I bought the first two volumes for the Kindle. All the volumes before 30 are $7.99 each. I want to eventually collect them all. These annual anthologies are so large that it’s much easier to read them on the Kindle. I love the yearly summations, and I figure reading all 35 would give a great history of the genre.

    I was very lucky to get to meet Gardner Dozois. He was our teacher for a week at Clarion West 2002. He was a very funny guy, a good teacher, and offered us a lot of great writing advice. One evening to amuse us, he read aloud sex scenes from stories he had collected. Sex scenes are very hard to write, and very hilarious when read aloud. After that, we’d look for books with sex scenes to read aloud to the group because they would always break us up.

    1. george Post author

      Jim, I’m considering your strategy of collecting all of Gardner Dozois’s “YEAR’S BEST SF” series in ebook format because of their size (especially the later volumes). The print versions are awkward and uncomfortable to hold.

      Plenty of writers and fans have praised Gardner Dozois for his humor and savvy. He will be missed.

  5. wolf

    Thanks all for the memories of G Dozois!
    Just reading the list of authors of that anthology makes me remember the good old times.

    Re hospitals:
    MRSA is already a big problem here in Europe too. I was lucky, had to go to hospital (Emergemcy Room!) once last year and right now for the same problem:
    Atrial fibrillation, but both times they solved this with Cardioversion (a kind of electroshock) so I was allowed to go home again in the evening!
    Now of course I have to take a lot of pills but it looks ok …

  6. Todd Mason

    No one else has managed a 35-volume sequence (not counting the Best of the Bests) of one BOTY anthology series in sf…and then one considers his five volumes of the less bug-crushing but still substantial BOTY for E. P. Dutton, not all of them reprinted in paperback, 1977-81 (the Bluejay/St. Martin’s series beginning in 1984, and the last Dozzois volume forthcoming). So, that’s 40 years, with a three-year interregnum, as surveyed by one editor.

    One then can contemplate all the other anthologies, in series and one-shots, and, of course, his editorship of ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION from 1986-2004, neatly serving as official editor from 1/86-12/04…not a record-setting run as a magazine editor, but a substantial one, 18 years. (And then there were the anthologies associated with that job.)

    And generally widely hailed as one of the best if not the best at these tasks when at them. And then there’s particularly his early work as a fiction writer.

    At one point, St. Martin’s/Tor/Forge was publishing annuals edited by Dozois (sf), Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (fantasy and horror) and Ed Gorman and M. H. Greenberg (crime fiction)…all big, handsome volumes…some suggesting the volumes tended to be too big, but I was always happy with the big tent approach, and those were a fine set of reading experiences (there’s never an editor whose taste in BOTY is exactly mine…and almost never does an editor get to put in their volumes exactly what they want, for any number of reasons, most stupid).

    Glad you have a good, if sobering, time looking at this volume again…

    1. Todd Mason

      You would think that having gone to the trouble to note how he began with a January issue and ended with a December, I’d count them correctly. He was 19 years at ASIMOV’S. This isn’t as long Edward Ferman at F&SF or John Campbell or Stanley Schmidt at ANALOG, nor quite what time Robert Lowndes put in at Columbia Publications, but in terms of doing a consistently good job with the resources at hand, only Ferman and Lowndes also were pretty much putting in their best all the way through…and Lowndes was hampered by a microbudget and a capricious publisher.

    2. Piet Nel

      Sorry to nitpick, Todd, but the interregnum between the two Dozois series of Bests was only two years. The years not covered were 1981 and 1982 (which is to say, the stories first published in those two years were not covered by a Dozois annual the next year).

      1. Todd Mason

        Fair enough! When working on a very few hours sleep after some yard work and other minor but intense labor, my arithmetical ability goes all to hell.

    3. George Kelley

      Todd, I realize “the Big Tent” approach to YEAR’S BEST SF collections works because there’s something for everybody. But I found the Dozois tomes about 30% inflated with mediocre stories.

      1. Todd Mason

        It’a a fair criticism, though often when applied to, say, the Judith Merril volumes in the ’60s, some of it was often to the tune of Why are you including all this kind of fiction I don’t care about? rather than Why are you including so many unimpressive stories? While many slimmer volumes of BOTY can include rather less than my sense of the best…

  7. George Kelley

    Todd, Gardner Dozois won “Best Editor” 15 out of the 17 times he was nominated for his work at ASIMOV’S SF MAGAZINE. And he edited some excellent themed anthologies, too.


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