Provocative, challenging stories that project the tech innovations of today onto the moral framework of tomorrow.

FUTURE TENSE FICTION

A diverse group of contemporary authors imagine our shared future in these speculative tales.

These 14 stories peer into a variety of futures only just visible from where we stand. Many imagine solutions to pressing contemporary emergencies (climate change, overpopulation, economic inequality) and then, in the way of all the best literature, seek out the complications in that perfect picture. In Nnedi Okorafor’s “Mother of Invention,” the Niger Delta has been transformed into a nation-sized plantation of the “innovative air-scrubbing superplant known as periwinkle grass,” which simultaneously solves the earth’s CO2 emissions problem and strikes a blow against world hunger with its versatile seeds. The only problems are the “pollen tsunamis” and the resultant deadly allergic condition that strikes the story’s protagonist in the final days of her pregnancy. In Charlie Jane Anders' “The Minnesota Diet,” the “cutting-edge 'Smart-City' of New Lincoln” is a fantasy land of predicative-software enhanced, zero-carbon-footprint urban living. But when an agricultural collapse necessitates the reprioritization of food shipments, the entire city of “midlevel computer engineers, quality-control experts, content creators, architects, marketing experts, musical theater geeks and service workers” is deemed redundant, and starvation sets in. Other stories start with our current time’s most pressing moral issues and imagine them worse. In Madeline Ashby’s “Domestic Violence,” smart homes—programmed to surveil, predict, and protect—become another tool in a domestic abuser’s arsenal. Mark Stasenko’s “Overvalued” imagines the endgame of skyrocketing college tuition costs as a complex industry of Wall Street-style investments, where the future of promising underprivileged youth is heavily leveraged on the competitive market. A standout story by Carmen Maria Machado sees a young girl exposed to the vast simultaneity of time in a fashion more lyric than the rest of the anthology’s offerings. The charming “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis,” by Annalee Newitz, interjects both humor and hope. Science fiction has long been the great equalizer in the American literary landscape—capable of imagining more inclusive futures even as it struggles to represent them equitably on its pages. Because of the diversity of its authorship, this anthology does more than imagine what the world might be like if all of our perspectives were included. Instead, it moves past the picture of representation to a clear, uncompromising, imaginative look at just what it is we are all included in.

Provocative, challenging stories that project the tech innovations of today onto the moral framework of tomorrow.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944700-95-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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