K. Tempest Bradford

K. Tempest Bradford

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The Best Short Fiction of 2012 (According To Me) + 2012 Fiction Stats

Now that I’ve finished reading short stories for 2012, it’s time for some lists and statistics! I know, I know, lists can be boring. But not this one. I put together a list of what I consider the best short fiction of 2012. This is culled from my Favorite fiction lists I’ve been doing all year. Keep in mind that this is pretty much limited to free fiction online, so it doesn’t include stories from print mags like F&SF, Asimov’s, and the like.

If you plan on nominating works for awards, I encourage you to consider these. All are eligible for the Hugo, and some are eligible for other awards (I marked the ones I could think of below).

I’ve listed them in chronological order from most recently published backwards.

Now as to stats.

There are 19 stories on my best of list, that’s out of 82 favorite stories for 2012. I don’t have an accurate count for how many stories I read in total, sadly, but I know I read a great deal. I can’t claim to have read every story published for free online. A lot of time I stuck to the magazines I know I like the most. But toward the middle of the year I did pick up some new reading and tried to dip into new-to-me markets more often.

Just taking the 19 stories on my Best Of list, it’s clear that I dig Clarkesworld and Lightspeed Magazines the most, since there are 4 stories from each. Next is Strange Horizons, with two stories that made the list. (Also keep in mind that this only represents stories published in 2012 and not reprints from other years).

This pattern pretty much holds when you look at the breakdown of all magazines that made my favorites list this year.

Lightspeed is at the top (again, this is with originals) followed closely by Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons. Apex also has a good showing. After that it drops pretty dramatically. For some magazines, this is because they publish far fewer stories in a year. Eclipse Online is new, so the percentage of stories I’ve liked from the magazine is high, relatively. However, it is telling that DailySF is only on my list once. If you include the reprints I liked (9 total) then Lightspeed gets 22 thumbs up from me for the year.

I would be interested to hear from the editors of these magazines on how many stories they published in 2012 so I can get an idea of what percentage of their offerings I liked.

Of my favorite stories, 60 were written by women and only 19 written by men. Two were written by persons of unknown (to me) gender. There are 18 authors of color on my favorites list. Most of the male authors I like are POC.

The SF/F split continues to be about even. 48 of the stories I liked are science fiction and 51 are fantasy. Only 4 horror stories and 3 I classed as Interstitial (with some overlap with SF/F).

Several authors show up in my favorites more than once: Aliette de Bodard, Rahul Kanakia, Ken Liu. This is partially a testament to how prolific they are, but also does represent my fondness for them. Liu in particular comes to mind whenever someone asks me about favorite authors or for suggestions on what to read. Should also mention here that I’m in Diverse Energies with both Liu and Kanakia — to be in this company makes me very happy. (I also really liked their stories.)

Overall, I’ve enjoyed reading all this short fiction in 2012. It’s definitely inspired me to write more. Plus, I like being able to see the growing expansion of the genre as I discover new gems. I will continue to read as much short fiction as possible in 2013. In fact, I’ll likely read way more.

The crew over at Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth asked me to join the blog, and I happily said yes. So more print mags are in my future. I also talked to AnnaLee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders about possibly doing a short fiction roundup for io9. Hopefully that will happen this month.

You can see all of the short stories I liked this year by surfing the tag on my blog or over on Delicious. On Delicious you’ll see some more numbers that may interest you.


  1. Djibril Djibril on 01.01.2013 at 21:10 [link] (Reply)

    To answer your question, The Future Fire published 22 stories online in 2012 (including the 6 sample stories from Outlaw Bodies, which I don’t know if you’ve included in your reading). Glad you liked some of them, anyway, even if none made your top 19 for the whole year!

    1. Djibril Djibril on 01.01.2013 at 21:13 [link] (Reply)

      (Of course, if you only read issue 24, from which all our stories you mentioned in your September list came, then you liked 50% of what we published. I like those odds.)

      1. tempest tempest on 02.01.2013 at 01:32 [link] (Reply)

        I discovered you at Issue 24. I read issue 25. Future Fire is still on my reading list :)

  2. tempest tempest on 02.01.2013 at 14:43 [link] (Reply)

    Thanks to Clarkesworld listing all of their fiction for the year in their reader’s poll, I now know that the magazine published 36 stories this year. I liked 12, overall, which is 33%.

    1. tempest tempest on 03.01.2013 at 16:24 [link] (Reply)

      Apex editor Lynne Thomas says that the magazine published 27 original stories and 13 reprints. Of the stories I favorited, 8 of them are originals and 1 is a reprint. Thus, I liked about 30% of Apex’s original fic.

      Lightspeed published 48 original stories (if this list of Hugo-eligible works is anything to go by) and I liked 13 of them. That’s about 27%.

      By my rough count, Strange Horizons published 32 original stories and I liked 11 of them. That’s about 34%.

      So, if you look at percentages, the magazines with original stories I like best are: Strange Horizons (34%), Clarkesworld (33%), Apex (30%), and Lightspeed (27%).

      1. Niall Niall on 04.01.2013 at 06:41 [link] (Reply)

        Yep, SH had 35 stories in 2012, of which 3 were reprints.

        (Also, in your first graph, should we be on three rather than two? Yanez, Klages, Liu?)

        1. tempest tempest on 15.01.2013 at 14:41 [link] (Reply)

          Hmm. yes. Dunno why my data said otherwise. Possibly because I had the Yanez story accidentally marked as 2011 for a long time.

  3. TwistedSciFi TwistedSciFi on 05.01.2013 at 16:41 [link] (Reply)

    Wow, I guess great minds think alike, because I had The Wisdom of Ants by Thoraiya Dyer and Astrophilia by Carrie Vaughn on my “Best Of” 2012 list. I’m a huge Ken Liu fan too, and my favorite work from him in 2012 was The Waves from the December 2012 edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. I digest most of my short fiction as podcasts and am especially fond of both Clarkesworld and LightSpeed. I also like EscapePod as well for short audio fiction. Will be interesting to see what award season brings in 2013. Thanks much for sharing your list!

  4. [...] Tempest Bradford – Best Short Fiction of 2012 [...]

  5. [...] in the 2012 horse races. Some of them have even been on the Year’s Best/Recommended lists of various cool [...]

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I'm a writer, most often committing acts of genre (fantasy, science fiction, and other stretches of the imagination). You can find my short stories in many and various magazines and anthologies and podcasts. In addition to being a writer I also engage in activism and fandom -- often both at once.