Cover of The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens

Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens, The

So Patrick Nielsen Hayden, one of my Tor editors, called me up and said, “Hey, you have a barn, let’s put on a play.” Sort of. What he really said was, “Would you be interested in working with me on a Year’s Best Sf/fantasy collection for teens?” And my answer was, “You mean it hasn’t been done before?” Though I already knew that. And so the adventure began.

It took us almost two years to convince the Powers That Be at Tor that this was an important idea. You see, most anthologies hardly make their money back. Editors do it as a labor of love. But finally our wonderful editor Jonathan Schmidt got us the go ahead. (We had already been reading and gathering stories published in 2004 just in case.) And I insisted we had to have a Golden Oldie, a story published a hundred years earlier, in this case one by Kipling, to show that sf and fantasy have a long literary history. Each story has a blurb which talks about the specific sf/fantasy tropes, as well as a list of several other similar stories or books a reader might enjoy.

We both read everything we could get our hands on and then sent our favorites to one another. We knew we couldn’t keep everything we liked because of space considerations. In the end, we had to whittle down the actual stories reprinted to keep within our 100,000 word limit. We ended up with ten stories plus the Golden Oldie and a full list of Honor Stories which were the ones Patrick and I couldn’t agree upon and those which didn’t make the final cut. We think this is a really special collection. Two of the stories we chose have actually been nominated for the Hugo.

The first cover was vetoed as too staid, and a second—and very exciting—cover with a painting by Donato made us all sit up and applaud. And before the book was even published (in hardcover and paperback simultaneously) the sales to the wholesalers were so brisk, Tor had to go back for a second hardcover printing. “Unprecedented,” PNH said.

We hope this will be an annual series and are already reading stories published in 2005—just in case. . .oops, the publisher decided not to make it a series. That really upset me after the stirling reviews we received.

As the reviewer in Eclectica Magazine said: “I’m a huge fan of the short story format so when I see a good anthology idea, I’m all over it. I don’t know why it has taken so long for a decent Sci Fi and Fantasy anthology to be marketed for teens, and I’m disappointed to say that although this first volume is excellent, and has received great reviews and very solid sales, Tor is not going to continue with the series. I’m really puzzled by this decision as I’m sure that once young readers have a chance to know the book is out there, they will continue to look for it in the future. It’s also a perfect way to introduce new readers to some great writers, and remind them of who they might have missed while they were growing up…So here’s hoping someone else will pick the series up for the future.”

What reviewers have said:

  • “In creating and sustaining a new series of books that consistently identify quality, age-appropriate science fiction and fantasy, Yolen and Nielsen Hayden are doing important work—providing a road-map for newcomers to the field, and a friend that they can visit with every year. What’s more, the introduction to each story includes a suggested reading list of sf and fantasy novels of note that you should read if you like the story. The stories in this anthology range from good to brilliant to jaw-dropping. It is relatively short on science fiction, but the main sf piece, Bradley Denton’s “Sergeant Chip” is so good that it practically had me in tears on the bus this morning …”—Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing
  • “As in all short story collections, you will find some you love here and some you find ho-hum, but all the tales in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens are worth reading, thinking about, and discussing with your friends.”—BookLoons
  • “Astutely edited by Yolen and Nielsen Hayden, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens offers teens an introduction to unreal narrative via some well-known authors and some new to the field. Garth Nix rubs shoulders with Leah Bobet, Rudyard Kipling with Theodora Goss. Every story is good, and some are flummoxing-marvellous. . .Before each story is a short, useful introduction to its themes or sources, and, best of all, recommendations of a few other first-rate authors or novels along similar styles or themes. . .Neophyte and connoisseurs alike will probably enjoy this anthology, and parents and educators find it a very useful resource. I look forward to the Second Annual Collection in 2006.”—Greenman Review
  • “[T]he stories are prizes. Not merely appropriate, they are likely to be of real appeal to teen readers. Faery handbags, culture-clash-befuddled Bronze Age warriors, powerful babies hatched of golden eggs and hapless babies replaced with malevolent changelings, New York Between (replete with a charming and often sleepy living library catalog), and traveling levitated cities all make appearances in this strong, accessible collection.”—Booklist
  • “This superior collection is sure to be enjoyed by fans of both genres. Although every story has merit, two are exceptional: David Gerrold’s “Dancer in the Dark,” an eerie tale of life in a world without light; and Bradley Denton’s “Sergeant Chip,” an unusual account of the horrors of war and the loyalty of soldiers…In addition to the selections being enjoyable to read, they defy stereotypes of the genres, and each one has an excellent introduction that provides background information and recommends similar kinds of stories/novels.”—School Library Journal
  • “[D]on’t mistake the lack of self-awareness — notorious among teens — with pat or perfunctory storytelling. Few of the stories in “The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens” wrap their endings in a big, happily-ever-after bow, which makes the characters more likely to live on in the dark imaginings of the reader. It’s heartening to read works that, at the very least, don’t pander and that firmly relegate childhood certainties to the attic with outgrown jammies and abandoned Lego sets. It should only happen more often.”—LA Times
  • ” For a superb collection of science fiction and fantasy suitable especially, but by no means exclusively, for teens, you need look no further than this wonderful new anthology. The first in what I hope will be an annual series, the book was compiled by veteran anthologist Patrick Nielsen Hayden and noted children’s and fantasy author Jane Yolen. If it’s truly representative of the best current fiction in the category, then there’s a lot more good writing and storytelling being done in it than I-admittedly no longer a regular reader of these genres-ever would have supposed. It’s hard to imagine any young reader who likes the Harry Potter books not taking to the stories in this collection. There’s not a dud in the lot.”
  • “One of the best things about the collection, though, is found in the story introductions. Ever story is introduced with a short paragraph putting it in some context, as is normal for “Year’s Best” anthologies, but this collection adds some “if you like this story, try these” recommendations. I don’t necessarily agree with or even recognize the stories they recommend, but it’s a terrific idea. I wish more anthologies did that.”—Library of Babel
  • “I’m rather surprised that no one thought to do this sooner and I hope it’s the first in a series of annual collections.”—One of two reviews in Chronicle
  • “This is bound to be the first in a yearly series, and that makes me very happy. The selection of stories is excellent, providing a wonderful sampling of a wide range of fiction aimed (directly or indirectly) at a YA audience and here’s plenty to please here.. . I’m already looking forward to next year.”—One of two reviews in Chronicle
  • “YEARS BEST. . .represents a quite different, but eminently worthwhile, attempt to select stories for a particular level of audience. . .” —Locus
  • ” It is nice to finally have one of these compilations just for teens. It was a long time coming!”—Kliatt