15 Best Science Fiction Anthologies

A good anthology can stretch your mind in a way that a singe novel can’t. You’ll have to plow through the occasional clunky story, but these books will also expand your sense of what science fiction can be.

 

15
Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology
edited by Bruce Sterling – 1986

The first cyberpunk anthology, filled with hard-edged, street-wise prose, and frighteningly probable futures of high-tech societies and low-life hustlers.

14
Brave New Worlds
edited by John Joseph Adams – 2010

Brave New Worlds collects tales of totalitarian menace by some of today’s most visionary writers, including Neil Gaiman, Paolo Bacigalupi, Orson Scott Card, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Ken Liu, Shirley Jackson, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

“Familiar classics by such luminaries as Shirley Jackson, Ursula K. Le Guin, and J.G. Ballard rub shoulders with new standouts in this dark anthology of 33 dystopian futures and alternate worlds. Most of the stories are bleak, many are hopeless, and all serve as powerful warnings of what we may let ourselves become.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

13
21st Century Science Fiction
edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden – 2013

This anthology includes authors ranging from bestselling and established favorites to incandescent new talents including Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. Valente, John Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear, and Peter Watts, and the stories selected include winners and nominees of all of the science fiction field’s major awards.

“A bumper crop of 34 stories from authors who first came to prominence in the 21st century, compiled by two of the most highly respected editors in the business….Grab this book. Whether newcomer or old hand, the reader will not be disappointed.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

12
Dark Matter
edited by Sheree Thomas – 2000

This book’s subtitle is “A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora.”

The central analogy for this first collection of SF stories and essays by black authors is “dark matter,” the scientific term for a non-luminous form of matter not directly observed, but whose existence is deduced from its gravitational effects on other bodies.

Twenty-eight pieces of fiction, both short stories and novel excerpts, and five critical essays make for a stout anthology. Stories include everything from Charles Chestnutt’s 1887 tale “The Goophered Grapevine” to over a dozen stories from 2000. Other authors: Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, and satirist Ishmael Reed.

“All [the stories] manifest a powerful effect, far stronger for being largely unacknowledged, and perhaps heralding… a coming explosion of black SF.”
—Publishers Weekly

11
Do Not Go Quietly
edited by Lesley Conner and Jason Sizemore – 2019

Resistance. Revolution. Standing up and demanding to have your space, your say, your right to be. From small acts of defiance to protests that shut down cities, Do Not Go Quietly is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy short stories about those who resist. This anthology chronicles the fight for what is just and right, and what that means: from leading revolutions to the simple act of saying “No.”

10
The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF
edited by David G. Hartwell – 1994

Featuring more than sixty short stories by modern science fiction’s most important and influential writers, The Ascent of Wonder offers a definitive and incisive exploration of the SF genre’s visionary core.

“A focused, disciplined collection brilliantly introduced by the editors and Gregory Benford; readers will be treated to the progression of the field and vastly entertained, too.”
—Booklist

9
The Future Is Female!
edited by Lisa Yaszek – 2018

Space-opera heroines, gender-bending aliens, post-apocalyptic pregnancies, changeling children, interplanetary battles of the sexes, and much more: a groundbreaking new collection of classic American science fiction by women from the 1920s to the 1960s.

“Valuable … educational and enjoyable, a significant retrospective of science fiction’s foremothers.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

8
Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation
edited by Ken Liu – 2016

Invisible Planets, edited by multi award-winning writer Ken Liu—translator of the bestselling and Hugo Award-winning novel The Three Body Problem by acclaimed Chinese author Cixin Liu—is his second thought-provoking anthology of Chinese short speculative fiction.

The thirteen stories in this collection, including two by Cixin Liu and the Hugo and Sturgeon award-nominated “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, add up to a strong and diverse representation of Chinese SF. Some have won awards, some have garnered serious critical acclaim, some have been selected for Year’s Best anthologies, and some are simply Ken Liu’s personal favorites.

To round out the collection, there are several essays from Chinese scholars and authors, plus an illuminating introduction by Ken Liu.

“Greatly varied in theme and approach, all of these stories impress with their visionary sweep and scope…superb compilation.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review

7
Steampunk
edited by Jeff VanderMeer – 2008

Steampunk is Victorian elegance and modern technology: steam-driven robots and space-faring zeppelins fueled by gaslight romance and mad scientists. Steampunk is trim corsets and brass goggles.

Curated by the World Fantasy award-winning team of Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, this riveting anthology lovingly collects classic steampunk stories, pop culture-fueled discussions of steampunk, and essential recommended reading lists for the discerning―or new―steampunk fan.

“This is a superb introduction to one of the most popular and inventive subgenres in science fiction.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

6
Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the 20th Century
edited by Orson Scott Card – 2001

Along with a critical essay by Orson Scott Card reassessing science fiction in the twentieth century, Masterpieces includes short fiction by writers who have forged a permanent place for science fiction in the popular culture of today…and tomorrow. It offers a glimpse of the greatest works that mixed science with fiction in trying to figure out humanity’s place in the universe. Featuring bold, brave, and breathtaking stories, this definitive collection will stand the test of time in both this century and those to come.

“The giants of the genre contribute to this highly accessible collection…Replete with representative tales from the legendary Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke, Gibson, Le Guin, Pohl, Niven, Ellison, and Silverberg, this collection attempts to introduce readers not to the authors’ greatest hits but to some of their best but lesser-known works, and it is successful in almost every case.”
—VOYA

5
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction By People of Color
edited by Nisi Shawl – 2019

Winner of the 2020 Locus Award for best Anthology, Finalist for Best Anthology, World Fantasy Awards 2020, Nominated for Best Anthology, Ignyte Awards 2020

“There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns,” proclaimed Octavia E Butler.

This anthology showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights and powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their indefinable overlappings. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and clichés, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.

“This book’s wide range of stories is its greatest strength; though no reader will love them all, every reader will find something worth rereading.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

4
A People’s Future of the United States
edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams – 2019

In these tumultuous times, in our deeply divided country, many people are angry, frightened, and hurting. Knowing that imagining a brighter tomorrow has always been an act of resistance, editors Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams invited an extraordinarily talented group of writers to share stories that explore new forms of freedom, love, and justice. They asked for narratives that would challenge oppressive American myths, release us from the chokehold of our history, and give us new futures to believe in.

They also asked that the stories be badass.

The result is this spectacular collection of twenty-five tales that blend the dark and the light, the dystopian and the utopian. These tales are vivid with struggle and hardship—whether it’s the othered and the terrorized, or dragonriders and covert commandos—but these characters don’t flee, they fight.

3
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume Two-A
edited by Ben Bova – 1974

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Two (published in two volumes, A & B) is a compilation of twenty-two of the best novellas published between 1895 and 1962.

The two volumes were originally published in 1973 (Two-A) and 1974 (Two-B) after the stories were selected by a vote of the membership of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA, now known as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America).

Volume Two-A has complete novellas by the following authors:

Poul Anderson
John W. Campbell, Jr.
Lester del Rey
Robert A. Heinlein
C. M. Kornbluth
Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore
Eric Frank Russell
Cordwainer Smith
Theodore Sturgeon
H. G. Wells
Jack Williamson

2
The New Voices of Science Fiction
edited by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman – 2019

Your future is bright! After all, your mother is a robot, your father has joined the alien hive-mind, and your dinner will be counterfeit 3D-printed steak. Even though your worker bots have staged a mutiny, and your tour guide speaks only in memes, you can always sell your native language if you need some extra cash.

The avant-garde of science fiction have arrived in this space-age sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology, The New Voices of Fantasy. Here you’ll find the rising stars of the last five years: Rebecca Roanhorse, Amal El-Mohtar, Alice Sola Kim, Sam J. Miller, E. Lily Yu, Rich Larson, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Sarah Pinsker, Darcie Little Badger, Nino Cipri, S. Qiouyi Lu, Kelly Robson, and more. Their extraordinary stories have been hand-selected by cutting-edge author Hannu Rajaniemi (The Quantum Thief) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (Invaders).

“Must-read”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

1
Dangerous Visions
edited by Harlan Ellison – 1967

Anthologies seldom make history, but Dangerous Visions is a grand exception. Harlan Ellison’s 1967 collection of science fiction stories set an almost impossibly high standard, as more than a half dozen of its stories won major awards—not surprising with a contributors list that reads like a who’s who of 20th-century SF.

One thought on “15 Best Science Fiction Anthologies

  1. Your #3, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Two-A, would be my #2. And The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Two-B is my #1. I’ve worn out two copies (I’ve even kept the coverless paperback that survived (sort of) Hurricane Alicia in August 1983; I’m looking at it right now) so I got the audiobook, but the narration on my all-time favorite story, Clifford Simak’s The Big Front Yard, isn’t up to snuff IMO.

    I’m hopelessly wedded to the Golden Age and there are three things I really don’t like: Harlan Ellison, Steampunk, and Hard SF. So we disagree. But that’s cool; everybody has their own opinion. You went to the trouble of making a more expansive list than I would or even could do (because I’m into a time slip). I appreciate that and will dip into some of your suggested readings. I’m just saying how I’d rank them. (I also reordered the Bill of Rights, to make it more right, again IMO.)

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