Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Brave New Worlds

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories ed. by John Joseph Adams

A few years ago, I read my way through Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, also edited by John Joseph Adams.  It was an anthology of post-apocalyptic stories that I really enjoyed.  This volume is all dystopian stories, similar vein, but not quite.  In fact, I think I can say for sure that I prefer post-apocalyptic over dystopian.  I believe this is because I enjoy reading about people who have survived, who are rebuilding, and all the ideas and creativity that can come out of that.  In a dystopia, people are often unable to take control of their lives, and bad things are happening to them, usually by other people, most likely the government.  Just one observation I made of my own preferences.

That isn't to say this isn't worth reading!  I took the list of the table of contents from John Joseph Adam's website, and will make brief remarks on the stories. Most remarks will be questions since most of the stories seem to ask them, and answering them would give them away. 

The Lottery — Shirley Jackson
Apparently this is the old standard of dystopian stories.  The story itself was good, also shocking, but I was more interested in reading about the reception of the story when it was first published in the New Yorker.  Subscription cancellations... hate mail... all to show the power a story can have.

Red Card — S. L. Gilbow
I'm not going to lie, I loved the concept of this story, where certain people get license to kill with no consequences.  It does introduce a different type of conflict in daily relationships!

Ten With a Flag — Joseph Paul Haines
The first of several fertility related dystopian stories.  What happens when the government knows to much about your unborn child?

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas — Ursula K. Le Guin
Oh, Ursula Le Guin and how she can build a world.  What about this little sentence - "Let the tambourines be struck above the copulations..."  She describes a seemingly perfect world.  It was horrifying, and the last sentence is the title.

Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment — M. Rickert

A culture where if women dissent, they disappear.  Phew.  I remember this author from the Wastelands anthology - her story Bread and Bombs haunted me for months (I'm still not sure I understand it, but you can read it full-text online here.)

The Funeral — Kate Wilhelm
In a controlling society, a glimmer of hope...  this reminded me of the tone of Never Let Me Go, perhaps just with the children and the headmaster type character.

O Happy Day! — Geoff Ryman
This story seems to ask the question of what would happen if a group of homosexual men were given the task of loading people onto the train cars bound for concentration camps?  It felt more like an exercise in "what if?" than a fully developed story.  This story had me stalled for quite some time.

Pervert — Charles Coleman Finlay
I loved this story, actually.  A nice twist to question how we think of sexuality in our society.  Can we make this required reading for people who want to make laws about other people's relationships?

From Homogenous to Honey — Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot
A graphic novel offering.  What if moralistic dictators could time travel to rid the world of immorality as they defined it? 

Billennium — J. G. Ballard
A crazy nightmare of overpopulation, one that John Brunner would be proud of.

Amaryllis — Carrie Vaughn
This was a repeat read for me, since she was a Hugo Award finalist this year.  Another fertility dystopian story, with a twist involving fish.

Pop Squad — Paolo Bacigalupi
The price of achieving immortality?  Making reproduction against the law, and babies into nothing more than pests needing to be exterminated.  How's that for a fun job?  An okay concept, but at this point I was kind of tired of fertility dystopias.

Auspicious Eggs — James Morrow
And the opposite of the reproduction horror spectrum - where women who don't reproduce are put to death.

Peter Skilling — Alex Irvine
Sometimes saving yourself for the future is a gamble.

The Pedestrian — Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is a master at writing horror into the everyday.  Even a walk.

The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away — Cory Doctorow
Doot doot doo.  This story was tl;dr.  (That is shorthand for too long, didn't read... having this volume as bedside reading wasn't always the best choice, and I usually love Doctorow's dystopian voice.  I'd read Little Brother before I'd try this again.

The Pearl Diver — CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan

Talk about complete loss of privacy - the government and your boss are both watching you, and they're collaborating.  Wait, this doesn't seem that off....

Dead Space for the Unexpected — Geoff Ryman
“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman — Harlan Ellison®
I've grouped these stories together because they both have to deal with accounting for your time in ridiculous ways.

Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution? — Genevieve Valentine
Are you sure you don't know something we need to know?  Some of the writing reminded me of the overload of media and commercialism from Stand on Zanzibar.

Independence Day — Sarah Langan
Self-regulation, ridiculous surgery, and constant danger.

The Lunatics — Kim Stanley Robinson

Men forced to mine the moon practically every waking moment, and the work days are getting longer.  I don't want to ruin the story by saying any more.

Sacrament — Matt Williamson

The art of torture once it becomes a regulated form.

The Minority Report — Philip K. Dick

I've never seen the movie, but knew the basic premise.  The actual story is great, and the pacing really struck me as being well done.   I couldn't get the "precogs" out of my head.  In all the action, the true dystopia has to be the lives they lead.

Just Do It — Heather Lindsley

This might be my favorite story of the anthology.  It is funnier than most, but anyone who remembers the chapter in Fast Food Nation where he meets the smell/flavor chemist will definitely appreciate this story.

Harrison Bergeron — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Everyone is equal!  For better or worse!

Caught in the Organ Draft — Robert Silverberg

When the old and rich implement a draft so that they can live forever off of younger peoples' organs.

Geriatric Ward — Orson Scott Card

Completely devastating story about society trapped in an early onset aging epidemic.

Arties Aren’t Stupid — Jeremiah Tolbert

People are genetically engineered to be good at one thing, and to be in pain when they can't do it.  Deep in my memory this story made me think of a Sesame street with the two puppet types - one that wanted the fruit in the tree but was too short to get to it, and the taller puppets with the arms that wouldn't bend so they couldn't feed themselves.  (This will make sense when you read the story.)

Jordan’s Waterhammer — Joe Mastroianni
Deeply disturbing society where love and sex are mysterious words passed down from the ground above, and human life has no value.

Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs — Adam-Troy Castro

This story!  This story will stick with me.  Smart of JJ Adams to stick it near the end.  True dystopia occurs when people are willing to endure anything for amenities.

Resistance — Tobias S. Buckell
Dystopia and voting.  For anyone who didn't live through the chad scandal.

Civilization — Vylar Kaftan

I loved this story, written in a Choose Your Own Adventure style!   

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