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.