Interview with Gardner Dozois: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection

Gardner Dozois is an American science fiction author and editor. He is the founding editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies (1984 – present) and was editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine (1984 – 2004), garnering multiple Hugo and Locus Awards for those works almost every year. He has also won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice. He was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame on June 25, 2011.

Tim Ward: Hey, Gardner, great to meet you!

I see you’ve been putting this collection together for quite a while. What keeps you passionate about doing this project every year and what are some aspects to this year’s collection that makes it special?

Gardner Dozois: I’m a simple sort, from simple peasant stock, the sort who actually LIKES eating meat and potatoes every day.  Along the same lines, I like reading good fiction, and never get tired of doing so.  And whenever I read a good story, a story that really made an impression on me, my first reaction always is, and always has been, to SHARE that story with other people, to get them excited about it too.  That makes editing The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection a perfect job for me, since I can in effect say to a lot of people, “Hey, this is a really good story!  You should read this!”, and they actually pay me for doing so.  Every year is special, because every year good new writers come along, and every year the older writers (some of them, anyway) continue to do really good work.  It’s exciting to watch the field evolve, and I don’t think the overall level of literary quality in science fiction has ever been higher–and I’ve been watching the field for a long time.

Along those lines, it is amazing to think of you selecting stories for The Year’s Best Science Fiction for almost as long as I’ve been alive.

How does so much experience reading short Science Fiction affect your reading of new short stories?

GD: Well, it enables me to recognize when an idea has been done before, of course, and sometimes done better, but that doesn’t matter so much in science fiction, a field where new stories frequently build on and riff off of stories that have been done before.  What I’m looking for in a story is a story that will grab hold of me and pull me in, so that I forget that I’m supposed to be evaluating it professionally, and just start READING it, like any other reader would.

Do you have a hard time finding a story you enjoy?

GD: Never.  As big as my anthology is, every year there’s quite a few stories that I would have liked to use but didn’t have room for.  That would probably be true if the book was twice as long as it is.

What are your reading habits, such as where you go to buy stories and how and when do you like to read them?

GD: Well, there’s the traditional magazines, of course, such as ASIMOV’S and F&SF, and every year there are a number of good original anthologies–increasingly, though, I find myself looking for good stuff in online magazines that are published in all-electronic format.  There’s a lot of good fiction online these days, in places like CLARKESWORLD, LIGHTSPEED, SUBTERRANEAN,, and a dozen other places.  A print magazine or anthology I may take somewhere else to read, maybe downstairs on the sofa or even outside, but the online stuff I read on a PC, sitting in front of the screen in my office chair.  To date, I haven’t read much stuff on a Kindle or other dedicated reader, although I have from time to time.

Specifically to this year’s edition:

Who is the most surprisingly likable character, and why?

GD: Perhaps the alien woman in Eleanor Arnason‘s “Holmes Sherlock,” who becomes enchanted with human stories about Sherlock Holmes, and models herself on the Great Detective.  Or the old farmer whose life has been profoundly affected by his contacts with UFOs, in Andy Duncan‘s “Close Encounters.”  Or the isolated old woman who must figure out what to do when a non-human figure comes begging at her door for refuge in the midst of a howling storm, in Paul McAuley‘s “The Man.”

If all the heroes entered a gladiatorial tournament, who would be the victor, who did they fight in the last battle and how would you describe their fight?

GD: The far-future humans in Robert Reed‘s “Eater-of-Bone” and “Katabasis,” technologically enhanced, genetically altered, and nearly invulnerable, even regenerating when all that’s left of them is a brain, would probably win most fights, although the old women who have to fight off an invasion of killer robots all by themselves in Linda Nagata‘s “Nightside on Callisto” are a pretty tough bunch too.

Which villain would most scare you to be alive, and why?

GD: I’d hate to run into the interdimensional, Lovecraftian creatures who attack spaceships in Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear‘s “The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward.”  The enigmatic alien invaders that must be fought with giant, human-operated robots in David Moles‘s “Chitai Heiki Koronbin” are pretty scary too.  As are the vampire-like creatures who haunt space stations and colonies in search of prey in Lavie Tidhar‘s “The Memcordist.”

What setting was the most creative, and why?

GD: The planet in Indrapreamit Das‘s “Weep For Day,” one half of which is locked in eternal night, is fascinating.  As is the busy, interplanetary, multiculturial, somewhat funky society in Lavie Tidhar’s stories.  Or the space-going construction crews, not always completely human anymore, who work in deep space in Pat Cadigan‘s “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi” (Locus Award for Best Novelette).  The solar system slowly recovering from a system-wide, devastating war in Paul McAuley‘s “Macy Minot’s Last Christmas On Dione.”  The future India, caught between cutting-edge technology and ancient customs and folkways, in Elizabeth Bear’s “In the House of Aryaman, A Lonely Signal Burns.”

What technology do you wish you had, and why?

GD: It would be nice to be eternally young, immortal, and nearly invulnerable, like the characters in Robert Reed’s “Great Ship” stories.  It would be nice to be able to fly, by yourself, without an airplane, like the characters in Robert Charles Wilson‘s “Fireborn.”  It would be great to be able to take a Grand Tour of the solar system, like the character in Paul McAuley’s “Mary Minot’s Last Christmas On Dione.”

What hero would you like to see cast as a villain, and why?

GD: The immensely strong alien porter, Katabasis, from Robert Reed’s story of the same name, would make a formidable villain if he was so inclined.

Thanks for your time and awesome contribution to Science Fiction!
Tim Ward

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection is available in Hardback, Trade Paperback and eBook from Amazon, Macmillan, Goodreads, or wherever books are sold, July 23, 2013.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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