The New Voices of Science Fiction ed by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman
Tachyon Publications, pb, £12.99
Reviewed by John C Adams
This anthology features twenty stories previously published in the likes of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Clarkesworld. These are emerging authors with diverse voices who’ve broken through since 2014. There’s so much talent in these pages that it’s hard to choose. So, in a break from tradition, I’ve provided a few lines about each to whet your appetite.
‘Openness’ by Alexander Weinstein, strikes a personal tone. We all know that falling in love is complicated, but this piece portrays just how much more complex it is going to become in future courtesy of technology.
‘The Shape of My Name’ by Nino Cipri is the second story. As someone who’s non-binary, I’m constantly affirmed by reading the work of authors who understand what it is to be like me. The line ‘the future feels lighter than the past’ stayed with me long after I’d finished reading their story.
Next up, ‘Utopia, LOL?’ by Jamie Wahls. His life is an enigma, but where’s the mystery when we know everything about each other? #reviewerssaythedarnedestthings.
The premise of ‘Mother Tongues’ by S. Qiouyi Lu is that identity and relationships enjoy a complex relationship with language. By the end of their story, I understood a little better how leaving your home to make a life somewhere new complicates the sense of self.
The next story is ‘In the Sharing Place’ by David Erik Nelson. It took us through the five stages of grief with a jaunty tone that was delightfully inappropriate and clearly very proud of that fact. I love irony.
‘A Series of Steaks’ by Singaporean writer Vina Jie-Min Prasad centred around the forging of meat, of all things. I’m a vegan, and this story was very timely in its focus on how our diet is produced.
‘The Secret Life of Bots’ by Suzanne Palmer intrigued me. Bots are so omnipresent that we forget their existence. That’s a dangerous complacency, as this story elucidated.
‘Ice’ by Rich Larson reminded me that one of the least justifiable uses of future technology will be in the sphere of sibling rivalry. It will be among the most profitable, too. I showed it to my kids, who both rolled their eyes and looked daggers at each other. Guess that counts as positive reader feedback.
‘One Hour, Every Seven Years’ by Alice Sola Kim showcased the difficulties experienced by time travellers trying to reclaim their childhood.
‘Toppers’ by Jason Sanford reminded me how much I love a good dystopian future story, and what a guilty pleasure it is to take a vicarious joy in human suffering.
‘Tender Loving Plastics’ by Amman Sabet was redolent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, exploring techno surrogates for parental love and care.
Rebecca Roanhorse’s ‘Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience’ raised uncomfortable questions about who’ll be writing the algorithms that determine our identity in the future.
‘Strange Waters’ by Samantha Mills explores the ownership of knowledge, something that’s going to become even more of an issue as this century progresses.
‘Calved’ by Sam J Miller really spoke to me as a frazzled parent of a teenager.
In ‘The Need for Air’ by Lettie Prell, I could really feel the author’s previous career as Director of Research at the Iowa Department of Corrections. Write about what you know…
…This was also true in spades of ‘Robo Liopleurodon’ by Darcie Little Badger, who has a PhD in Oceanography.
‘The Doing and Undoing of Jacob E Mwangi’ by Lily Yu centred around a fundamental shift in identity that gave the story real narrative tension.
‘Madeleine’ by Amal El-Mohtar gathered together many of the themes of this volume and was well placed to generate further thought on a number of topics.
‘Our Lady of the Open Road’ by Sarah Pinsker paid homage to the lifestyle of the itinerant musician. I love a good tale of the road.
Stories that revolve around remorse often have a resonance to them that remains long after the book is finished, and this was certainly the case with ‘A Study in Oils’ by Kelly Robson, with which this anthology concluded.
This isn’t the most analytical review you’ve seen from me this year, and it isn’t the shortest either, but I wanted to try something a little different as an experiment by including every writer for a change. The anthology itself is so varied that, whatever your taste, you’ll find plenty that sparks the quivering dread of what’s to come which is a hallmark of a truly excellent volume of SF.
Review the reviewers! If you’ve read this anthology, or just have some thoughts on any point made in this review, tag me at @JohnCAdamsSF on Twitter to share them.