A collection of 22 short stories featuring several big names of literary fiction experimenting with science-fiction themes and concepts.
Introduced by editor Weisman, a veteran of the SF landscape, the anthology presents a broad spectrum of stories, though only a few display conventional integration of the science of science fiction. For every story grounded in scientific developments, there is another that is best described as magic realism. If any one story embodies the overall tone, it may be Chris Tarry's “Topics in Advanced Rocketry,” wherein the conceit of a rocket ship serves as mere vehicle for ruminations on family dynamics, the created celebrity, and 21st-century disaffection. (Lampshading the point, the rocket itself has fake dials which our "astronauts" cannot control at all.) Several stories stagger about under the weight of their own interpersonal relationships with hardly a plot to be found (J. Robert Lennon's “Portal,” Jonathan Lethem's “Five Fucks,” Jami Attenberg's “In the Bushes,” Jim Shepard's “Minotaur,” Rivka Galchen's “The Region of Unlikeness”...). That said, other stories in the anthology straddle an effective and potent line between the tight plotting of good SF and their own literary sensibilities: Julia Elliott's “LIMBs” is a poignant exploration of technology enabling discovery of one's personal past—and how one must outwit that technology to regain one's agency. Bryan Evenson's “Fugue State” is a dreamlike zombie-plague tale that leaves one unsettled—an understated contrast to Junot Díaz's “Monstro,” which handles the same theme but with more pyrotechnics. Deji Bryce Olukotun's “We Are the Olfanauts” creatively condemns our emerging media-and–safety-net global culture, and Eric Puchner's “Beautiful Monsters” is an enjoyably queasy take on eternal youth.
By their natures, anthologies are often hit and miss: there are misses aplenty here, but the hits, when they come, are solid and lingering.