by Stefani Nellen
this could have been dreary. Not because Stories of the Apocalypse
entail unpleasantness for humanity–that's their point, after all–but
because of the didactic nature that seems to come with many
post-apocalyptic plots. You know: blatant idea stories telling us where
humanity went wrong, who/what is ultimately worth saving, or even
celebrating the nuclear wipe-out induced return to the simple
nothing dreary in this book. The stories here are real, juicy, solid
stories instead of morality lessons in disguise, and not two of them
hard to point to favorites, so I'll try to give an impression of the
range covered by the work in this anthology. It had profound stories
that were about society more than individuals (e.g. Octavia E. Butler's
or Nancy Kress's
Inertia), two complementary pieces of post-apocalyptic meta-fiction (The End of the World as We Know
It by Dale Bailey and Episode
Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack in the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers
by John Langan), an all-too-likely scenario
telling us all about
When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth (written with awesome
authority by Cory Doctorow), and short, poetic stories that, through
stylistic elegance, transcend the grit and troubles they depict (Waiting for the Zephyr by
Tobias S. Buckell and Still
Life with Apocalypse by Richard Kadrey).
interesting dichotomy to look at in post-apocalyptic stories is the
"good humans" vs. "bad humans" distinction. A "good humans" story
regards the apocalypse as a tragedy and focuses on the challenge of
survival, while a "bad humans" story regards the apocalypse as a
well-deserved punishment and gleefully chronicles humanity's decline.
Most stories fall into the profound grey area in between the two
(leaving it up to the reader to draw their own conclusion). Still there
are relatively pure-bred examples of both in this book, and it's
interesting to see them side by side.
Sysadmins Ruled the Earth, for instance, is a "good
humans" story. Normal people are surprised by a catastrophe beyond
their control or comprehension. Lacking any innate heroic ability, they
cope in the only way they can: by continuing with their jobs. Even the
non-sysadmins among us will feel a bond with Felix, the humble but
resilient main character:
went to the door and walked out into the night. Behind him, the
biodiesel generator hummed and made its acrid fumes. The harvest moon
was up, which he loved. Tomorrow, he'd go back and fix another computer
and fight off entropy again. And why not?
It was what he did. He was a sysadmin.
contrast, The People of
Sand and Slag by Paolo Bacigalupi is a "bad
humans" story at its finest. The future: Thanks to unappetizing micro
technology, humans are on top of the food chain, God-like and immortal.
They respond to this by developing the wit and moral spine of slightly
drunk billionaire's brats. Into their oblivious life bursts a feral
dog, one of the last surviving real animals. At first, the dogs
vulnerability seems to stir understanding and curiosity in the main
characters, and there are some touching man-dog bonding moments. But
inevitably, the chore of caring for the animal becomes too much of a
burden for the superior humans, and they decide to roast the
makes you smile."
Response makes you smile. And you don’t have to clean up
after its crap. Come on. Admit it. You don’t want to take care of it
either. It's a pain in the ass."
collects classics of the genre and recent publications.
There's an extensive Further Reading List in the back for
crave more. It should also be noted that this is physically a very
beautiful book. Daniel Kvasznicza, Michael Fusco, and Jeremy Lassen did
an outstanding job with the jacket design and the interior layout,
Read The People
of Sand and Slag by Paolo Bacigalupi from this collection on Windup
work has appeared or is forthcoming in Inkwell, Apex Digest, Cosmos
Magazine, Quarter After Eight, Dzanc Books' Best of the Web 2008
Anthology, and more. She's a graduate of the 2008 Clarion Science
Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop, and otherwise splits her time
between the US and the Netherlands.
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Book website: JohnJosephAdams.com/Wastelands
John Joseph Adams
Bio: John Jospeh Adams the editor of the anthologies Wastelands: Stories of the
Apocalypse (Night Shade Books, January 2008), Seeds of Change
(Prime Books, Summer 2008), and The
Living Dead (Night Shade Books, Fall 2008). He is also the
assistant editor at The
Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Authors: Stephen King, Orson Scott Card,
Paolo Bacigalupi, M. Rickert, Jonathan Lethem
Dark, George R. R. Martin, Tobias S. Buckell, Jack McDevitt, Cory
Doctorow, James Van Pelt, Richard Kadrey, Catherine Wells, Jerry
Oltion, Gene Wolfe, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Bear, Octavia E.
Butler, Carol Emshwiller, Neal Barrett, Jr., Dale Bailey,
David Grigg, John Langan
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