I have never been a huge fan of short stories. I prefer to seek my teeth into something meatier, a novel. Short story collections by a single author have always felt particularly unsatisfying to me. Invariably, the stories vary in quality but share similar themes, insights, and style, so that they all start to run together and no one story stands out in mind. A short story collection doesn’t seem to impact me the way a novel does.
This year in particular, I have read several anthologies chosen for a specific theme, and I’ve found these collections to be much more satisfying reads. It takes a good editor, and I think when it comes to choosing genre fiction, John Joseph Adams has a track record you can count on. He chooses stories from a wide range of authors, ranging from the can’t-miss classics to very contemporary writing. The stories are a well-balanced mix of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and that blend of genre with realistic fiction that can be called slipstream. Adams presents a comprehensive take on his themes that will give any new reader to the subgenre a terrific grounding as well as add several more authors to your reading list.
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse is a collection of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories, which examine surviving the end of the world from every angle, from the religious to the posthuman to the mundane. It’s worth reading just for the classic and rarely collected story “Speech Sounds” by Octavia Butler. This excellent collection introduced me to Paolo Bacigalupi.
Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories is the strongest of the three anthologies I read, a real retrospective of dystopian literature. There are so many essential stories here by world-class authors: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson; “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin; “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick; and “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut–just to name a small sampling. A story by a new-to-me author, “Evidence of Love in Case of Abandonment” by Mary Rickert, absolutely terrified me.
Other Worlds Than These: Stories of Parallel Worlds is a balanced mix of science fiction multiverses and fantasy wonderlands, all about people traveling to alternate realities and what they find there. While there are not as many classics in this collection (barring a terrific old story by Stephen King, “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut”), there were plenty of new discoveries by such contemporary authors as Kelly Link and Jeff VanderMeer. “[a ghost samba]” by Ian McDonald just blew my mind.
A well-edited anthology can be a great introduction to a genre you’ve been wanting to try and a good way to discover new writers.
Note: I originally posted this somewhere else, but I thought it was cute, so I’m reposting it here.
With so many ways to die out, it’s a wonder our species can get out bed in the morning. Yet, despite all odds, the sun rises each day, and the planet continues in its natural course. How long can this go on?
While there are unlimited scenarios for complete annihilation of the species, here are the top 50, ranked in order of likeliness to happen. This list will be adjusted as circumstances warrant.
- Robot uprising
- Nuclear war started by self-aware computers
- Nuclear war started by unaware humans
- Global warming
- Another ice age
- Mother Nature’s revenge
- Soylent green is people!
- We’re no longer able to have babies
- Stupid people breeding exponentially more than smart people
- All the men die out (hey, maybe that one wouldn’t be so bad)
- The Mayan calendar said so
- Economic downturn
- Genetically engineered superflu
- Swine flu
- Bird flu
- Some other disease, possibly alien in origin
- Aliens themselves, blowing the shit out of us
- Some vaguely understood alien-government conspiracy involving pod people
- The terrorists win
- Meteor strike
- Comet passes by real close
- The sun blows up and/or goes out
- Peak oil
- Mass suicidal impulse
- The series finale of Lost erases all will to go on living
- Everybody gets really fat
- We run out of food
- We run out of water
- The antichrist returns and hell reigns on earth
- A big-ass flood
- A big-ass fire
- Some other awful thing dreamed up by a vengeful, pissed-off god
- Ancient monsters rise up from deep inside the earth to devour us all
- Ancient monsters come from another dimension to devour us all
- Rip in the space-time continuum
- Singularity appears deep inside the earth
- Large Hadron Collider
- Someone invents time travel and whoops! they changed the future
- Some other scientific experiment goes horribly awry
- Mad scientist thinks he’s doing us a favor
- Apes get really smart and really mad
- Man-eating plants
- Everyone goes blind at the same time!
- It was all a dream.