I’ve always wanted to identify the best science fiction short stories by the same method we used for the novels, but there’s just not that many lists devoted to identifying the best science fiction short stories of all time. There are some though:

This essay is for anyone who has thought about collecting science fiction short stories. First, let me thank P. F. Nel for sending me a spreadsheet of most of the annual best-of-the-year anthologies. Second, I’d like to thank all the folks at ISFDB.org for their magnificent database work. Clicking on the links below will take you to table of contents and cover images at ISFDB. Piet and I have discussed the various ways collect SF short stories:

  • Collect the original magazines (thousands of magazines)
  • Collect the annual anthologies (100-200 volumes)
  • Collect the very best retrospective anthologies (2-25 volumes)

I’ve always considered stories appearing in the science fiction magazines to be the heart of genre. Anyone who read the magazines as they came out would sense the evolution of science fiction, especially by reading the most famous titles: Amazing Stories, Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, Astounding/Analog, F&SF, Galaxy, IF, and Asimov’s. Gideon Marcus over at Galactic Journey even started blogging by jumping back 55 years to read the science fiction mags in order. It’s possible to find scans of old SF magazines on the internet, but that’s far more reading than I want to do. The easier, and quicker method of getting an overview of short science fiction is to collect the major retrospective anthologies. Some of my favorites have been:

Somewhere in the middle of collecting pulps and buying the best retrospective anthologies, would be to collect all the annual anthologies. I’ve listed below some of the most popular annual anthologies for the 20th century, and added in a few retrospective anthologies to cover the years before 1939. Piet’s list is much more extensive, so there’s a good deal to collect if you want to be a completest.

The column for year(s) is meant for when the stories were first published. The tradition for the annual anthologies is to put the year the anthology was published in the title, but collect stories from the previous year. I’ve always hated that tradition.

Year(s) Title
1816-1898 Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Science Fiction of the 19th Century
1843-1898 Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century
1865-1936 Collector’s Book of Science Fiction
1891-1911 Science Fiction by Gaslight
1901-1947 The Road to Science Fiction #2: From Wells to Heinlein
1912-1920 Under the Moons of Mars
1926 The Gernsback Awards 1926: Volume 1
1931-1937 Before The Golden Age
1931-1938 Science Fiction of the Thirties
1939 The Great SF Stories 1 (1939)
1940 The Great SF Stories 2 (1940)
1941 The Great SF Stories 3 (1941)
1942 The Great SF Stories 4 (1942)
1943 The Great SF Stories 5 (1943)
1944 The Great SF Stories 6 (1944)
1945 The Great SF Stories 7 (1945)
1946 The Great SF Stories 8 (1946)
1947 The Great SF Stories 9 (1947)
1948 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1949
1948 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 10 (1948)
1949 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1950
1949 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 11 (1949)
1950 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1951
1950 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 12 (1950)
1951 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1952
1951 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 13 (1951)
1952 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1953
1952 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 14 (1952)
1953 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1954
1953 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 15 (1953)
1954 Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels: 1955
1954 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 16 (1954)
1955 Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels: 1956
1955 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 17 (1955)
1955 S-F: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy
1956 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 18 (1956)
1956 SF:’57 The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy
1957 The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels: 9th Series
1957 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 19 (1957)
1957 SF:’58: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy
1958 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 20 (1958)
1958 SF:’59: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy
1959 The 5th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F
1959 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 21 (1959)
1960 The 6th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F
1960 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 22 (1960)
1961 The 7th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F
1961 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 23 (1961)
1962 The 8th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F
1962 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 24 (1962)
1963 The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F
1963 Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 25 (1963)
1964 The 10th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F
1964 Robert Silverberg Presents the Great SF Stories: 1964
1964 The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1965
1965 The 11th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F
1965 The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1966
1966 SF 12
1966 The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967
1967 Best SF: 1967
1967 The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1968
1968 Best SF: 1968
1968 The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1969
1969 Best SF: 1969
1969 The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1970
1970 Best SF: 1970
1970 The World’s Best Science Fiction: 1971
1971 The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF
1971 The Best Science Fiction of the Year
1971 Best SF: 1971
1972 The 1973 Annual World’s Best SF
1972 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #2
1972 Best SF: 1972
1973 The 1974 Annual World’s Best SF
1973 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3
1973 Best SF: 1973
1974 The 1975 Annual World’s Best SF
1974 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #4
1974 Best SF: 1974
1975 The 1976 Annual World’s Best SF
1975 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #5
1975 Best SF: 75
1976 The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF
1976 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #6
1977 The 1978 Annual World’s Best SF
1977 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #7
1978 The 1979 Annual World’s Best SF
1978 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #8
1979 The 1980 Annual World’s Best SF
1979 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #9
1980 The 1981 Annual World’s Best SF
1980 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #10
1981 The 1982 Annual World’s Best SF
1981 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #11
1982 The 1983 Annual World’s Best SF
1982 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #12
1983 The 1984 Annual World’s Best SF
1983 The Best Science Fiction of the Year #13
1983 The Year’s Best Science Fiction, First Annual Collection
1984 The 1985 Annual World’s Best SF
1984 Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year (#14)
1984 The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Second Annual Collection
1985 The 1986 Annual World’s Best SF
1985 Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year #15
1985 The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Third Annual Collection
1986 The 1987 Annual World’s Best SF
1986 Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year #16
1986 The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Fourth Annual Collection
1987 The 1988 Annual World’s Best SF
1987 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fifth Annual Collection
1988 The 1989 Annual World’s Best SF
1988 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Sixth Annual Collection
1989 The 1990 Annual World’s Best SF
1989 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Seventh Annual Collection
1990 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Eighth Annual Collection
1991 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Ninth Annual Collection
1992 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Tenth Annual Collection
1993 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Eleventh Annual Collection
1994 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twelfth Annual Collection
1995 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirteenth Annual Collection
1995 Year’s Best SF
1996 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fourteenth Annual Collection
1996 Year’s Best SF 2
1997 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fifteenth Annual Collection
1997 Year’s Best SF 3
1998 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Sixteenth Annual Collection
1998 Year’s Best SF 4
1999 The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Seventeenth Annual Collection
1999 Year’s Best SF 5
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