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Editor David Afsharirad lives in Austin, Texas. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas and North Carolina State University, where he earned an MFA in creative writing. A life-long reader and writer of short fiction, his stories have appeared in various magazines and journals.

The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF Vol. 4 by David Afsharirad

The Year's Best Military and Adventure SF series roars into its fourth year, with more stories of derring-do, military combat, and edge of your seat suspense. Thrilling tales of grand science fiction adventure and military action. Selected from the top print and digital markets, these stories are guaranteed to challenge, provoke, and entertain.

Includes these stories:

"The Secret Life of Bots," by Suzanne Palmer
"The Snatchers," by Edward McDermott
"Imperium Imposter," by Jody Lynn Nye
"A Thousand Deaths through Flesh and Stone," by Brian Trent
"Hope Springs," by Lindsay Buroker
"Orphans of Aries," by Brad R. Torgersen
"By the Red Giant's Light," by Larry Niven
"Family over Blood," by Kacey Ezell
"A Man They Didn't Know," by David Hardy
"Swarm," by Sean Patrick Hazlett
"A Hamal in Hollywood," by Martin L. Shoemaker
"Lovers," by Tony Daniel
"The Ghost Ship Anastasia," by Rich Larson
"You Can Always Change the Past," by George Nikiloloulos
"Our Sacred Honor," by David Weber

Plus, you be the judge! INTERACTIVE READER VOTING. One story from this anthology will be chosen via proctored online voting for The Best Military and Adventure Science Fiction Reader's Choice Award, presented at DragonCon in Summer 2018. For more information, go to Baen.com

 

REVIEWS

  • "...[Afsharirad] seeks out the kind of fiction that routinely gets overlooked by the editors of the other Year's Best SF books"

    – Black Gate
  • "Brave tales [that] take the reader on a fascinating, thought-provoking, enjoyable journey…"

    – Publisher’s Weekly
  • "[A] nice eclectic mix of magazines—hardcopy and digital—and original anthologies. Afsharirad seems to have cast his nets admirably wide. . . . The variety of styles and topics and themes, and the high level of craft in this assemblage, prove that this subgenre is flourishing. . . . [The collection] should be welcome by raw recruits and veterans alike."

    – Locus (about Volume 1)
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

THERE ARE A LOT OF PERKS to being editor of The Year's Best Military and Adventure SF series, I'm not going to lie—not least of which is that I'm essentially getting paid for reading great science fiction short stories. Not to say there isn't work involved. (Please don't tell Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf I said this was a cakewalk and that I would do it for free.) But all in all, it's pretty great gig, and I'm truly thankful for having it. Aside from getting to read great stories, I get to share those stories with readers who, for whatever reason, might have missed them when they first appeared in various magazines (print or online) or anthologies. And it's great to put a few dollars more (as Clint Eastwood would say) into the pockets of very deserving writers.

Another fun perk of editing Year's Best is handing out the Year's Best Military and Adventure SF Readers' Choice Award every year at DragonCon. The prize ($500 dollars and a handsome plaque) is awarded based on an online readers' poll, with the table of contents of Year's Best serving as the ballot. Michael Z. Williamson won the inaugural award for his story "Soft Casualty." The following year, David Drake took home the prize for "Save What You Can." And this past September, at the Baen Traveling Roadshow, I was pleased to announce that Sharon Lee & Steve Miller had won for their Liaden Universe® short story "Wise Child." Unfortunately, Sharon and Steve weren't able to make the trek from Maine to Atlanta to receive the award in person but were kind enough to send along a prepared statement, which was read by Baen editor Jim Minz.

I'll be at DragonCon again this year, handing out the fourth Year's Best Military and Adventure SF Readers' Choice Award, so please do vote for your favorite story from this anthology! To find out more and to vote, go to http://www.baen.com/yearsbestaward. But hurry! Voting closes August 15, 2018.

So, what stories will appear on the ballot this year? (In other words, what can I expect to find in this book I'm holding?)

I'm glad you asked, because I think this year's book is as strong as ever, and I don't envy you, reader, having to choose a favorite out of the lineup.

Kicking things off is Suzanne Palmer's story "The Secret Life of Bots." This charming tale originally made its appearance in the online magazine Clarkesworld. It concerns itself with a war that pits humanity against an implacable alien menace. Humankind is on the ropes, but help is on the way . . . from a most unlikely source.

In Edward McDermott's "The Snatchers," we are transported back to wartime France in the 1940s. Transported along with us is our protagonist, a "snatcher" tasked with going back in time to retrieve a famous French author before said author goes MIA. The plan is to bring him back to the future (hat tip to Doc Brown) where he can have the literary career he never did in his time of origin. But time travel is a dangerous business, all the more so when you're time hopping into a war zone.

Mr. McDermott's story is long on action and adventure, but it is also a contemplative, human tale of love and loss. These themes were made all the more poignant when I learned from his widow that Mr. McDermott had passed away earlier this year. Sadly, he never learned that "The Snatchers" was selected for this volume, but I hope that he would have been pleased to see it published here, and that its inclusion might serve as a tribute to his fine skills as a writer of science fiction.

Jody Lynn Nye makes her first appearance in a Year's Best Military and Adventure SF with her story "Imperium Imposter," and I must say I am rather surprised she hasn't popped up here in the past. Nye is one of the best practitioners of humorous science fiction working today, and I always look forward to reading her latest work. "Imperium Imposter" takes place in her Imperium series, which follows Lord Thomas Kinago and his Man Friday Parsons. Kinago seems to have an almost preternatural ability for getting himself into and out of tight spots—though credit where credit is due, much of the time Parsons assists in getting him out of the various jams in which he finds himself. In "Imperium Imposter," it's the fact that Lord Thomas wasn't kidnapped that is the problem, and to say any more would be to spoil the fun. "Imperium Imposter" originally appeared in the excellent anthology, Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and published by Titan. If you like "Imperium Imposter" or "Our Sacred Honor" (which closes out this volume), then you could do worse than to pick yourself up a copy of Infinite Stars. It's chocked full of the kind of white-knuckle action, in-depth worldbuilding, and cosmic sense of wonder that makes science fiction such a joy to read.

On the heels of "Imperium Imposter" is one of two stories that originally appeared in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. This one is "A Thousand Deaths Through Flesh and Stone" by Brian Trent. It's a military science fiction story that concerns itself with human consciousness, the psychological effects of war, and time travel—after a fashion. It'll also keep you on the edge of your seat.

To say that Lindsay Buroker's "Hope Springs" is a story of a honeymoon gone wrong is an understatement. Alisa Marchenko thought she and her new husband former imperial Cyborg Corps colonel Leonidas Adler had left the war behind them—at least for a few days, while they soaked in the famous hot springs on the moon known as Hope Springs. But then duty comes calling, in this romp of a tale, set in Buroker's Fallen Empire series.

Brad R. Torgersen makes his triumphant return to the august pages of The Year's Best Military and Adventure SF with his story "Orphans of Aries." Torgersen has appeared in the series twice before: in the inaugural volume with his story "Picket Ship" and then again in the second volume with a tale entitled "Gyre." Brad sat out volume 3, but now he's back! "Orphans of Aries" is an adventure story in the classic mold, with likable characters, interesting worldbuilding, and a twisty plot that will keep you guessing.

Science fiction has traditionally looked to the future for inspiration. That's certainly the case with Larry Niven's "By the Red Giant's Light." In it, Mr. Niven takes the reader to the far future, to a time when our sun has become a red giant. The tale is set on Pluto and features as its cast a post-human human and a robot sent to observe the planet Mercury with a very powerful telescope. They'll have to find a way to work together if they're going to avoid destruction, as a comet is headed straight for the former ninth planet.

Readers may remember Kacey Ezell's story "Not in Vain," either from last year's Year's Best or from the John Ringo and Gary Poole edited anthology Black Tide Rising in which it originally appeared. That story centered on a cheerleading troupe facing down a zombie apocalypse. "Family Over Blood" lacks zombies and cheerleaders but is no less engrossing. The story is told from the point of view of a private in the Freehold Military Forces who must engage an alien foe every bit as unstoppable as a zombie horde. It takes place in Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold series but should appeal to any fan of military SF and/or great writing.

David Hardy's "A Man They Didn't Know" takes place in a well-constructed future that feels like the American Old West, in all the best possible ways. A United States Deputy Marshall must track down his man and bring him to justice. But Kent Hill isn't searching Dodge City or Tombstone. No, he'll have to search much farther afield—like, in the asteroid field between Mars and Jupiter. This one pairs great with a ten-gallon hat, a six-shooter, and a shot of whiskey (or sarsaparilla if you're the teetotaling type).

"Swarm" by Sean Patrick Hazlett is a military science fiction tale that feels like it was ripped from the headlines of tomorrow's newspaper, with a neo-Cold War brewing and technology that feels all-too-plausible. It's one of the shorter entries in the book but packs a big punch.

Martin L. Shoemaker's "A Hamal in Hollywood" has as its protagonist an immigrant hairdresser in Los Angeles. But the story centers on immigrants from another planet, the angelic-looking Dahans and their decidedly un-angelic-looking servants, the hamals. "A Hamal in Hollywood" is the third story in this volume to have originally appeared in Rocket's Red Glare, edited by James Reasoner. (The other two are "Orphans of Aries" and "A Man They Didn't Know.") The concept behind Rocket's Red Glare is space opera with an American bent. Reasoner did a great job putting the book together and it's worth checking out.

Those of you who have listened to Baen's podcast, The Baen Free Radio Hour, may have heard it mentioned that Baen editor and podcast host Tony Daniel and I first met when I was Tony's student at the University of Texas at Dallas, where Tony was teaching an intro to science fiction and fantasy literature class. We read a lot of great stories and novels in that class, including works by Fredric Brown, Arthur C. Clarke, J.R.R. Tolkien, Bruce Sterling . . . and some dude named Tony Daniel. I wasn't sucking up to the teacher when I said that "A Dry Quiet War" was one of my favorite stories he assigned. (Okay, maybe I was sucking up a little, but it was true, nevertheless.) Tony has been a great mentor and friend in the years since, and it's a real privilege to be able to include his novella "Lovers" here. But lest you think this is nepotism or me sucking up to my old professor for retroactive grades, read "Lovers" for yourself. I'm certain you'll agree that it deserves to be included, regardless of whether or not I owe Tony Daniel big time for letting me take the final early so I could catch Hal Holbrook doing Mark Twain, Tonight!

Like Jody Lynn Nye, Rich Larson is an author who I am surprised to see included in The Year's Best Military and Adventure SF for the first time. Larson is an incredibly prolific short story writer whose work I have admired for some time. In story after story, he proves that quantity and quality can go hand in hand. He's appeared in almost every major science fiction market that I can think of and makes his first appearance in Year's Best with "The Ghost Ship Anastasia."

I mentioned that at 1,200 words, "Swarm" was one of the shorter stories in the book. Well, "You Can Always Change the Past" by George Nikolopoulos beats it as shortest by nearly a thousand words. If I write much more here, the introduction is going to be longer than the story, so I'll just say that like "The Snatchers," "You Can Always Change the Past" highlights the dangers of mucking around in the timeline. It's a great, (very) short read, and though it originally appeared in Galaxy's Edge, it feels as if it might have been a missive from the Twilight Zone.

Finally, we round out this, the fourth annual volume of The Year's Best Military and Adventure SF, with a novella by New York Times best-selling author David Weber. Mr. Weber's prose has appeared in Year's Best before—he supplied the introductions to the second and third volume in the series—but "Our Sacred Honor" marks the first time a Weber story has made an appearance, and I for one couldn't be happier to have it. "Our Sacred Honor" is set in Weber's massively popular Honorverse series. The story originally appeared in Infinite Stars, and I think it will serve to tide Honor Harrington fans over nicely until October, when Uncompromising Honor, the nineteenth book in the Honor Harrington series, hits brick-and-mortar and virtual bookstore shelves.

So there you have it. Fifteen tales of derring-do and military heroics. Stories that prove that the new Golden Age of science fiction is now. Turn the page and start reading. And don't forget to vote for your favorite.

Excelsior!

—David Afsharirad

Austin, TX

February 2018