"Year's Best" Anthologies edited by Gardner Dozois
I had always shied away from short stories. Somehow those I had tried reading in my youth had not appealed to me as much as novels. However, at this point in time, I need to use recorded [audio] books, and the choices in SF are not as extensive as on paper. So I've read a few collections in the past year or two.
I have found some stories that have made me more open to reading short stories. On the other hand, I've run into a few things I didn't like.
Consider "The Year's Best Science Fiction" anthologies edited by Gardner Dozois. Generally, I find the selected stories to be good reading, although not necessarily hard SF. Even if I wanted to read the magazines that first published these stories, they are probably only available on paper. So I can't say how Dozois' selections would compare with what I would select. Yet, it's hard for me to imagine he hasn't done a good job of picking them.
Verdict: Good enough to interest someone who had been a "novel person".
The first issue I have with
Dozois is that his introduction to these volumes tend to be the longest piece
in the book. It's not there is nothing in the introduction that interests me,
but there's SO MUCH that most reader could do without. What book editor has
switched jobs from one publishing company to another. What authors have had
relatives that died in the last year. Trends in book store chains. Maybe this
doesn't matter to readers who can easily flip the pages to find where the
stories begin. It takes longer to do that with a book on cassette. I suspect to
most readers much of the material in the introductions looks more like appendix
information. Maybe it would be better in the back of the book.
There are also some stories that I find are stretching things too far to classify as "science fiction." One story I recently read in one of these collections apparently qualified because there was a device referred to on a number of occasions that is probably not yet on the consumer market but easily could be in the next 5 or so years. (Functionally, it was similar to a more compact version of the electronic ankle bracelets that wealthy prisoners like Martha Stewart wore. So it's essentially a further development of existing technology.) The device may have made the story simpler to write, but didn't play a crucial role in what happened. This is the only element that could justify calling it "science fiction". To the extent a story can be described in one sentence, it was a view of a dysfunctional family in modern America.
On my wish list for "best of year" anthologies, I'd ask to have lists of the names of stories and/or authors (such as "honorable mentioned" lists) to indicate the subgenre within SF. Maybe I'd be a "better person" if I read anything that was "critically acclaimed". But if it's worth having a year's best collection limited to only SF, rather than any great prose, why should readers be ashamed of preferring some subgenres and checking out those works first? Most of us don't have the time to read them all, even if we wanted to.