This year's selection again provides stories from a variety of magazines around the country, mostly modest in style with odd glimpses of flash and talent. Here is John Updike's perplexed paleontologist caught between the safe, genial creatures of the past and the problematic ties of the present. Michael Rothschild introduces a trio with Bunyanesque passions, facing a brutal winter, their commitments inadequate to see them through. Mae Seidman Briskin writes of a teenager with fundamentalist ideas about compensation, denying basic needs in search of ""an education."" Cynthia Ozick presents a complex, enigmatic diplomat, penetrating matters of identity and experience with an unassuming African assistant. In H.E. Francis' ""Chronicle of Love,"" a man's apparent reverie masks the obsessional growth of guilt and grief over the suicide of his lover. And Ward Just writes with grim regard for the newspaper correspondent losing touch, sending animal fables from the war zone. Seventeen stories in all, fairly even in quality with a few that are indeed best.