Since I worked up all of my lists for World Fantasy purposes, I've divided the world of short fiction into two: short fiction (under 10,000 words) and novella (10,000 to 40,000 words).
This list is much longer than the others, since it includes all of the stuff I liked enough to scribble down on my WFA pad. For that, and other reasons, this list will be the least helpful for those of you trying to figure out what will win. As usual, everything is in alphabetical order by author, and I'll refrain from saying that anything is my favorite. Perhaps you should think of this as a virtual "Best of the Year" collection?
- "Angry Duck," Scott Bradfield (F&SF 7/05) -- I don't think even Gordon Van Gelder, who originally bought it, likes this story as much as I do. But how can you not love the story of a duck professor?
- "Is There Life After Rehab?" Pat Cadigan (Sci Fiction 8/17/05) -- Cadigan always has a great line in wry and ironic dialogue, and here she has a great hook to hang them on.
- "Chester," David Gerrold (F&SF 6/05) -- My second animal story of the list, after "Angry Duck." Perhaps I'm becoming an old softie? But this is a story that doesn't go the way you expect, which I really appreciated.
- "The Cape," Joe Hill (20th Century Ghosts) -- I don't consider "Best New Horror" to be a fantasy story, so I think this was Hill's best work at this length in genre for 2005. And I certainly don't ever want to meet a Hill character, in a darkened alley or a brightly-lit room.
- "A Cheap and Frugal Fashion," Heather Martin (Electric Velocipede 8) -- My wife has had tightwad tendencies, off-and-on, so this story really spoke to me, and I particularly loved the everyday-ness of it.
- "Go Between," China Mieville (Looking for Jake) -- Somewhat political, as we've come to expect from Mieville, but this also has an existentialism that's not as usual, and put me in mind of Greg Egan stories like "The Infinite Assassin."
- "'Discrete Mathematics' by Olaf and Lemeaux, or, The Severed Hand," David Connerley Nahm (Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet #17) -- Another wonderful, wonderful story that you might have to be me to appreciate. Metafictional in the very best ways.
- "A Christmas Card," Reggie Oliver (The Complete Symphonies of Adolph Hitler) -- Most of Oliver's collection was pretty much the same kind of thing -- well-done ghost stories in various types of old-fashioned-feeling middle-class British surroundings -- and they were all decent stories, but the repetition hurt them a bit. This one, the last story in the book, headed off in a different direction and was very successful at it. I hope he writes more like this.
- "Bottom Feeding," Tim Pratt (Asimov's 8/05) -- For those still counting, this is the third animal story. It also features a great embodied metaphor of the past.
- "CommComm," George Saunders (The New Yorker) -- Saunders can be hit and miss for me -- sometimes he's just too arch for my tastes -- but this one is a very solid hit, right in the gut.
- "The Two Old Women," Kage Baker (Asimov's 2/05) -- But I'm a sucker for Baker's stories, always.
- "Two Hearts," Peter S. Beagle, (F&SF, Oct/Nov 2005) -- Which does not descend into sentimentality, but remains in the realm of honest sentiment -- quite an achievement for a sequel this long-delayed to a story that beloved.
- "Follow Me Light," Elizabeth Bear (Sci Fiction 1/12/05) -- Creeped me out a bit, but in a good way.
- "Magic in a Certain Slant of Light," Deborah Coates (Strange Horizons) -- Which I only fuzzily recall now.
- "Fancy Bread," Gregory Feeley (TEL: Stories) -- Not really fantasy at all, but still a good story.
- "Sunbird," Neil Gaiman (Noisy Outlaws, ...) -- A bit obvious, but we'll let him get away with that -- it was a YA anthology, and Gaiman made me enjoy his faux-Lafferty even though I don't have much taste for the original.
- "Gillian Underground," Michael Jasper, Tim Pratt and Greg van Eekhout (Polyphony 5) -- Minotaurs are always cool.
- "La Peau Verte," Caitlin R. Kiernan (To Charles Fort, With Love) -- Kiernan's stories in Charles Fort all had a similar structure (mostly that they stopped before they ended), but it probably worked best in this new story.
- "Monster," Kelly Link (Noisy Outlaws, ....) -- This felt different from the stories in Magic for Beginners, somehow -- more dangerous and uncertain -- so I hope Link is continuing to push her stories into new places.
- "Master Lao and the Flying Horror,"Lawrence Person (PostScripts Summer 2005) -- Not as serious as most of these stories, but a wonderful piece of swashbucking.
- "The Other Grace" Holly Phillips (In the Palace of Repose) -- There was a SF story in 2005 with an extremely similar premise (Daryl Gregory's "Second Person, Present Tense"), which I thought was more ambitious and more successful. That has nothing to do with this story, which is a fine piece; it was just the luck of the draw. But the two stories have been rolling around my head together ever since.
- "Anyway," M. Rickert (Sci Fiction) -- I'm afraid I don't remember what this one was.
- "Single White Farmhouse," Heather Shaw (Polyphony 5) -- I think of this as a feel-good story, which may say something about me.
- "Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play," Michael Swanwick (Asimov's 7/05) -- On my toteboard, this counts as SF, which is the only reason it's not in the Top 10. It had enough fantasyesque elements to mention it here, though. One of the best stories of the year, whatever genre it is.