My recent reading of Thinking, Fast and Slow, made me realize that I often judge stories and books whether I liked the ending or not, regardless of whether what came before was good or bad overall. Having a strong preference for a fitting ending makes, at least to me, sense in these cases, but I also realized that when it comes to collections or anthologies, it really doesn’t. Oftentimes I judge those on single stories that really had a strong impression, either positive or negative, and I don’t know how often the impression of the last story influenced my opinion of the whole.
But as ridiculous as it seems when I see others (or as I have done myself in the past) counting the number of stories they liked vs disliked, it really seems to be a good measure whether a collection or anthology was good or bad (as fuzzy as these things are). I admit buying TFiJ for one story, which didn’t disappoint, but it’s hardly a good measure of the quality of the entire anthology.
So let’s do numbers. I liked 70% of the stories, which divides into 30% strong liking and 40% moderate liking. On the other side, there’s only 7% strong dislike (basically one story) and 23% moderate dislike. What these numbers tell me, is that I obviously liked the entire anthology a lot, which admittedly wasn’t actually my impression when I finished it. What I thought was I liked a few stories, but that the overwhelming rest was rather mediocre. That’s a fascinating result.
Still, if there’s one thing the anthology lacked, for a better word, where more stories of the kind Sterling wrote with Goddess of Mercy: down-to-earth speculations about Japan’s future. Sure, with most of these stories you could make a connection to Japan or Japanese culture in some way, but an anthology with such a title gives the impression (at least to me, I admit this is all a bit subjective and not cold hard fact) of near futures where Japan plays at least some important role (even Sterling’s story didn’t manage that, but it came the closest).
I wasn’t even expecting fantasy stories in there. On the other hand, I enjoyed the fantasy stories more than some of the more conventional SF stories and the stories I liked the most, weren’t even close to what I was expecting in terms of content. So there’s that. An anthology I bought for one story (Itoh’s Indifference Engine), which didn’t provide what I anticipated and which I still enjoyed more than I thought.
Ken Liu – Mono No Aware (2012)
Felicity Savage – The Sound of Breaking Up (2012)
David Moles – Chitai Heiki Koronbin (2012)
Project Itoh – The Indifference Engine (2007)
Rachel Swirsky – The Sea of Trees (2012)
Toh EnJoe – Endoastronomy (2012)
Pat Cadigan – In Plain Sight (2012)
Issui Ogawa – Golden Bread (2012)
Catherynne M. Valente – One Breath, One Stroke (2012)
Ekaterina Sedia – Whale Meat (2012)
Hideyuki Kikuchi – Mountain People, Ocean People (2012)
Bruce Sterling – Goddess of Mercy (2012)
Tobi Hirotaka – Autogenic Dreaming: Interview with the Columns of Clouds (2009)