These and more questions are the topics of "The Year's Best Science Fiction: 31rd Annual Collection", edited by Gardner Dozois (published in July 2014 amazon). The collection shows the state of art in science fiction and offers a kaleidoscope of plots, ideas and styles and caters to a lot of different tastes. There are other best of the year collections but Dozois` compilation has been the market leader for 3 decades.
This anthology harvests the science fiction year 2013 and offers 32 short stories from prominent authors and newcomers. I managed to finish reading 17 of them.
My favorites are:
"Transitional Forms" by Paul J. McAuley: An adventure story playing with issues of evolution, technological progress and genetics. Pure hard science fiction.
"Zero For Conduct" by Greg Egan: A kind of feminist thriller about science and quantum physics set in a hostile cultural and political environment. A perfect mixture of science and suspense.
"The Other Gun" by Neil Asher: Another one of his typically militaristc and bizarr stories set in a violent universe controlled by hive minds. As usual the authors blends a lot of strange ideas with dry humor.
"Finders" by Melissa Scott: A compact thriller abound scavenging a superior alien technology. Hard-boiled - a kind of futuristic hig-tech Raymond Chandler story.
I also enjoyed:
"Grey Wings", by Karl Bunker: An exotic and a bit feminist story about a new kind of sports set in a near-future Africa.
"Martian Blood" by Alan M. Steele: Old-style adventure story in the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs
"One" by Nancy Kress. She is one of my favorite science fiction writers because she usally blends a lot of cuttting edge science with interesting plots. This one doesn`t belong to her bests but has stll an over average quality. Hre the author tells how a super-sensitive brain changes behavior fundamentally.
"Murder On The Aldrin Express" by Martin L. Shoemaker tells an old fashioned "Whodunit" dedective story" on a spaceship. A kind of modern Sherlock Holmes.
"Technarion" by Sean McMullen: Alternative history set in a 19th century London how a man transformed into a serial killer
The harvest is not quite as strong as Dozois`30th annual collection but still fun to read (driveby). As usual the editor wrote for each story an introduction where he outlines the background and most important works of the presented author. At the beginning there is a lengthy summation of important events, trends and publications in the world of science of fiction in 2013.
This and the nice selection of stories make the book a must for fans and collectors of science fiction.