The best science fiction scrutinizes our culture and politics, examines the limits of the human condition, and zooms across galaxies at faster-than-light speeds, moving from the very near future to the far-flung worlds of tomorrow in the space of a single sentence. Neil Clarke has selected the short science fiction (and only science fiction) best representing the previous year's writing, showcasing the talent, variety, and awesome "sensawunda" that the genre has to offer.
"unconcluded stories in vogue"
From the number-one best-selling author of Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas and Sundays at Tiffany's, two heartwarming tales about the power of a good story to open our eyes to life's possibilities.
The plan is simple: kidnap the daughter of Senate candidate Richard McClaine, take the money and run. Nobody gets hurt, the kid goes home alive. Twenty-two-year-old car thief Kelsey Money thinks it's the worst idea Matt and his drug-fueled brother have ever come up with. But Matt's the planner. He's the one Kelsey has always depended on. Then she discovers she only knew half the plan. By the time she finds out the rest, she's been framed for murder, and six-year-old Holly McClaine won't be found alive.
"The Candidate's Daughter--A Fantastic Listen"
Tess has taken some ribbing from her fellow officer, Logan, for her quilting hobby. He finds it hard to align the brisk professional officer he patrols with during the day with the one who quilts in her off-time. Besides, he’s been trying to get to know her better and he’d like to be seeing her during those few nights a week she spends with her quilting guild. Then one afternoon Tess and Logan visit her aunt in the nursing home, and the woman acts agitated when Tess covers her with the story quilt. Aunt Susan is attempting to communicate a message to them about Tess’s uncle.
On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of 12 hours, they'll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations.
Krista Doyle grew up in a small town in Louisiana where everyone was a gossip and a devout church goer. She attended church every Sunday where she listened to her grandfather preach from the stage, where she sang hymns from the audience as her mother led the choir, and where she was strictly taught that everything was black and white, right and wrong. So - how was Krista to cope with being a lesbian?
In this collection, best-sellers, award winners, and emerging voices lead us through the murky, overblown, hungry mindset of youth. From parental dysfunction to new sexual experiences to dealing with illness and death, the coming-of-age story has never been so newly and complicatedly rendered.
Under the Golden Gate, Elise Duran refused to be a serial killer's next victim. She was the first of the abducted to survive. And Detective Sean Brody was there to make sure a second chance wouldn't be necessary. As the elusive murderer sends them messages, both personal and gruesome, the point becomes clear: no one can escape death. But Sean's presence can't be any stronger as he shadows Elise while on the job - and off it - proving she couldn't have asked for a better protector.
Well, he said "Ask me anything." Hijinks ensue in this hilarious romp reminiscent of Douglas Adams, if Douglas Adams had Reddit. "I Am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. "Ask Me Anything" was written by Laura Pearlman and originally appeared in Flash Fiction Online.
When unspeakable tragedy leaves young Eli an orphan, two families are devastated. But Taylor, Eli's aunt and legal guardian, vows to help him remember his parents by creating a Memory Quilt. As she begins piecing together the moments of his parents' lives, the story of the young family emerges and Taylor and Eli begin to heal. But Eli's uncle Reece is slow to let go of the past and still blames Taylor's brother for his sister's death. So, although he has long been attracted to Taylor, Reece keeps a safe distance away.
The quicker Special Agent Christina Sandoval brings a serial killer to justice, the sooner she can get back to her daughter. Reason enough for the FBI to send her a partner - who also happens to be her ex-fiancé, Eric Brody. While Eric's own kidnapping as a child has left him with a sense of justice that never fails, his relationship with Christina did. Now the deeper they dig into the current case, the more personal things get.
When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple. With only her mother's quilt as a secret guide, the foursome follows the stitches through unknown treachery. As they embark on their perilous journey, they hope and pray that their path is one of promise where love sustains them, courage builds faith, and forgiveness leads to freedom.
True crime writer Kacie Manning vowed to expose the serial killer suspected of murdering her mother. And she was going to use the killer's son to do it. But Ryan Brody wasn't at all what she expected.... The sexy police chief hoped Kacie could clear his father's name, never expecting the beautiful journalist to have other motives. Then her life was threatened, and Ryan's protective instincts kicked into overdrive.
When PI Judd Brody agreed to safeguard socialite London Breck, he expected a fluff gig filled with parties and paparazzi. But the bombshell blonde was nothing like the wild princess he'd seen in the media...and his undeniable attraction to her was as real as the threats to her life.
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore weaves a dreamy, suspenseful tale: a clever child's recollection of a summer's day turned frightening. Francesca, Kelly, and Kelly's teenage sister Amanda are only meant to spend several hours at the pool together, while their professor parents finish up an afternoon of work at their lush, Oregon college. The younger girls are caught up in hair braiding and Marco Polo, but Amanda is poised on the cusp of an adult realm bursting with cruel secrets.
Amanda lives alone in the house where her mother, now dead of cancer, once grew up. A Facebook friend request puts her back in touch with a cousin, John. After months of seeing his life flicker across her screen, she learns he has moved to a community led by a mysterious Jason Wilson. John refers to him as "one of the greatest thinkers of our time", but his friends are worried that Wilson may in fact be a cult leader.
Mark and Philippa find themselves the subjects of hit breakup songs in different decades and different countries, suffering years of romantic disappointments as a result. Their lives take very different paths, but when their paths cross in adulthood, they may find their biggest humiliation leading to their deepest connection.
Betsy Ruscoe, a single university professor in her mid-30s, is pregnant, and the man she thought she loved is not interested in fatherhood. At the same time, her dying mother begs Betsy to find the woman who gave her up for adoption at birth 50 years ago and then disappeared. Betsy struggles to cope with the changes in her life as she also sets out on a quest to uncover her mother's surprising history.
Surreal and strange, Katherine Vaz's Swan Sister follows a young girl who imagines away her baby sister's illness and death until the memory haunts her adult life, when she is a mother herself.
Coming-of-age is at its toughest in Dana Kletter's Night Song, where a mother and daughter become entwined with the same drug-addled trumpet player.