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The 2015 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Poetry of 2014 edited by Rich Ristow

Have you heard of the Science Fiction Poetry Association?

Black eyeglasses rest upon an open book.
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Science Fiction Poetry Association, 2015.

I have a lot of random passions, hobbies, and interests. Arguably, the most niche interest I have is speculative poetry, poetry influenced by science fiction, fantasy, and horror themes.

The small hub of this geek-literary ultra-niche is the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). The SFPA runs the major awards of the genre. The Rhysling Award recognizes the poem speculative poem of the year. There are two categories: “Best Long Poem”, for 50 or more lines (or, for prose poems, 500+ words), and “Best Short Poem”, for 49 or fewer lines (or, for prose poems, 1-499 words). The Dwarf Stars Award recognizes the best speculative poem of 10 lines or fewer (or, for prose poems, 1-100 words). The Elgin Award recognizes the best speculative poetry book or chapbook published in the preceding year.

I find all of this fascinating. As far as I can tell, the SFPA has just under 100 active members. I think that’s adorable. I also think it’s awesome that an active community of people exists around poetry influenced by science fiction, fantasy, and horror themes. I fell in love with poetry through performance poetry, and I still admittedly harbor my suspicions and biases against other styles of poetry. However, there’s something about speculative poetry that speaks deeply to me. I read a lot of speculative fiction, but sometimes prose can fail to communicate everything I find enchanting about scifi, fantasy, and horror. Speculative poetry thrives in those lacunas.

Anyway, let’s move on to what I actually read. Members of the SFPA nominate poems for each year’s Rhysling Awards. Those poems are then complied into an anthology, which is sent out to SFPA members. (The public can of course buy the anthologies as well. That’s what I did.) SFPA members read the anthology and then vote for their favorites to select that year’s Rhysling Award-winning poems.

Again, I think this is really cool. This process means that Rhysling Anthologies are both a selection of the year’s best speculative poems as well as a tool, a voting instrument for SFPA members. It wouldn’t really be practical to expect SFPA members to hunt through the various venues in which Rhysling-nominated works are published in order to vote, so the Rhysling Anthology puts them all in one place. This means that The 2015 Rhysling Anthology doesn’t actually tell you which poems won the award, because the anthology was published before the voting occurred. If, like me, you have The 2015 Rhysling Anthology and you want to know which poems won the Rhysling Award, you can just look up up online. I found this kind of cool; it let me judge the poems on my own, and then go see if my favorite poems were also loved by others.

Anyway, here are the poems in The 2015 Rhysling Anthology that I’m crazy about:

(No, I’m not presently a member of the SFPA. Yes, that will soon change.)