Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Brave New Worlds

John Joseph Adams has also edited another anthology which I enjoyed a great deal: Wastelands: stories of the apocalypse.  I enjoyed all the shorts a great deal, most of them. A little bit about the editor, John has been called, The reigning king of the anthology world with numerous anthologies under his belt, and he's the founder of Lightspeed Magazine. He's a writer, editor, publisher...the man does a lot. Today, I'm taking a look at another one of his anthologies, one about dystopian futures: Brave New Worlds.


My copy
You are being watched.

Your every movement is being tracked, your every word recorded. Your spouse may be an informer, your children may be listening at your door, your best friend may be a member of the secret police. You are alone among thousands, among great crowds of the brainwashed, the well-behaved, the loyal. Productivity has never been higher, the media blares, and the army is ever triumphant. One wrong move, one slip-up, and you may find yourself disappeared -- swallowed up by a monstrous bureaucracy, vanished into a shadowy labyrinth of interrogation chambers, show trials, and secret prisons from which no one ever escapes. Welcome to the world of the dystopia, a world of government and society gone horribly, nightmarishly wrong.

When the government wields its power against its own people, every citizen becomes an enemy of the state. Will you fight the system, or be ground to dust beneath the boot of tyranny?


I'm only going to mention the shorts that I enjoyed. The first of that was the very first story: 

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

A haunting tale about a village that has a peculiar yearly ritual where all the members of the town gather to pick out a name, and whoever is chosen, well, is chosen. To what? Nothing pleasant. What I interpreted from the tale is that sometimes we get so caught up in the routine of it all that no one really questions if what were doing is right. It just is what it is, what we've always done.

Red Card by S.L. Gilbow

Probably one of my favorites. In this particular dystopian future the right to kill is a law. However, its also a drawing. You don't get to decide when you are given that right, but once you have it, you carry the card for as long as you want. No one is supposed to know who has the card. Some suspect. Some dissect and talk about the reasoning or how much the killed person deserved it. 
Linda kills her cheating husband and then has to deal with the temporary celebrity status that killing someone gives you. A sad ending, but an interesting look at human justification. No different than the death penalty. Basically, one person deciding that you don't deserve to live and the world agreeing. Chilling. 

Ten with a Flag by Joseph Paul Haines

Another one of my favorites, this one is centered on a world where you are let know in advance what type of child you are going to have and how successful he or she going to be, ahead of time. Like those tests that determine if your child is going to have an afflicting disorder.
The couple in this story gets told that their son is a ten, the highest, the smartest, the most successful. They should be happy, right? But that's ten with a flag. A flag means that their is going to be something wrong. But they can't know what it is. So the decision becomes, to keep this child with great potential or not because whatever the flag signifies isn't worth the risk? Does knowing really change anything? My answer to this is, it shouldn't, unless you just have to know everything.

Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: one daughter's personal account by M. Rickert

I found this one fascinating because it has partly happened in some places in the world. In this story, women have lost most of their rights, especially their reproductive rights, and if they don't abide by the new world order, they are killed. A daughter has had a normal life up until her mother disappears and they know that she is one of those 'traitors' that needs to be hung. The daughter is angry at her mother for causing her father and her so much grief. The daughter doesn't know what she's lost, what freedom her mother had once enjoyed and so can't sympathize. Very sad story. And makes one wonder about what you're passing over to your kids, what type of world. A world with less freedom? More. About the same. None...

The Funeral by Kate Wilhelm

Here's another one where girls do not have many rights. They are given tasks and jobs and they must obey and live the life that is appointed to them, but one girl discovers through a senile old woman that there's another place where life doesn't have to be that way. Can she figure it all out in time? Fun story told through a young girl. I like how the elders twist certain jobs, to make everything that isn't what the child is supposed to be doing in life seem terrible in comparison. "You don't want riches and fame those people are miserable. And everyone knows your job (insert job here) is so much more satisfying." Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.

O Happy Day! by Geoff Ryman

This one is the opposite of the last two. Men have no rights. And the more violent ones are sent to concentration camps and killed. The only ones who don't get killed are the gays. The gays have to assist in the killing of straight men. The story's focus is on the group of men that have the terrible job of assisting in the death of other men. They have to say and do without protesting until one guy comes along and questions it all. But how much do others want to change? How much can one person do? Is it better to live miserable in an unjust world or die? Is it worth living if you're miserable? Or does one hope a change will come along? Who starts that change? Why don't you? Tragic story about being so close but having others sabotage you. 

Billennium by J.G. Ballard

Overpopulation, the more people, the less space. This story takes a look at what a crowded world looks like, if you had little room to move to and fro, and your apartment was so tiny it’s basically a closet. I felt claustrophobic reading this tale. There was no room to walk or breathe, almost. And every so often more space was taken from the people. I actually thought the tale was a tad optimistic in its report of how a crowded world would even think to sync that well without chaos. But a warning tale nonetheless.

Pop Squad by Paolo Bacigalupi

In this one, the cure to old age has been invented and nobody dies. But if nobody dies that means that no one else needs to be born. It's against the law. If you break the law, your newborn, infant, toddler gets killed. Theirs a police squad specialize in getting rid of unwanted children. Do people really want to live forever? Would it really be living? Those are the questions this story asks. And isn’t one of the points of human nature to procreate, passing down genes, teaching the new the ways of life. This dystopian future had the illusion of a utopia. I enjoyed the struggles some of the mother’s faced when just wanting a little baby to hold and love is against the law. Another one of my faves.

Dead Space for the Unexpected by Geoff Ryman

Productivity at the work place and using time wisely. Here we have a stressed out boss who can’t be stressed out because his heart rate is being monitored and his skills, how to handle firing an employee, or how to best manage every second of every hour that he works. Give a whole new meaning to work being one’s life. Interestingly enough, I found his workload quite perfect in the perspective of a corporation. You get more for your buck out of your employees...

Just Do It by Heather Lindsley

What if companies could legally shoot darts at you to make you want their product. The ultimate in advertising. You get hit with a little sucker and everything in your body tells you that you just have to eat in that restaurant or buy those shoes. Works every time. But what if they wanted to take it a step further? In an age where websites monitor our buying habits is too hard to fathom a world where they could chemically induce us to want their junk? 
This short unnerve me because there was no escape to consumerism, and then I look around and think, well, there isn't an escape now. We just let it happen. Complain a bit, but accept. 

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonegut. Jr.

Everyone is finally equal! No one is smarter or prettier or more accomplished than you. No one talks better or has more. We are all the same. EQUAL. However, the price to pay is to dumb all the smart people down with loud chips in their brains and place bags in the faces of the pretty ones. I liked the theme and what the story was trying to say. However, I did disagree with a few points. Maybe intelligence can be measure, or can it? And Beauty certainly isn't universal. I think the entire time reading this one I kept thinking, who gets to decide who are the prettiest in the population?

Caught in the Organ Draft by Robert Silverberg

It's already known that the old decide the future of the young. They control the senate and congress and all those important positions of power, but what if the old never died. What if because they get to decide for the rest of us, they decide that the young have to donate organs to the old. An organ draft. The old live longer lives, more years of servitude, while the young get treated like cattle. Doesn't seem so far-fetch when you see the amount of young bodies whose lives get gambled with in war. They don't get to decide much now. This little tale is one to warn us that our elders don't always know best.

Of A Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs by Adam-Troy Castro

This one was bitter sweet. Imagine if you can live in paradise for nine days. The most fun and the most happy you have ever lived for nine days of dining, drinking, music, festivals, hiking...what ever you love to do, you get to do all day, every day, for nine days. Sounds perfect, right? Then comes the tenth day, and then you live through utter horror. The worse imaginable horror. Slow death, torture, rape, slaughter, bombings...the worst. The character in this story has to decide if the nine days of utter pleasure are worth the one of unimaginable pain.
Personally, I think that decision is quite easy for me. No. I hate pain. All pain. And I'm pretty sure that I'd spend every second of those good nine days dreading the tenth, and so I wouldn't fully enjoy them. Others might disagree. It depends on your personal experience. If you already live a life of misery then maybe those nine days are worth the tenth. This one was a great one. Really enjoyed it. 


In between the shorts I did like, there was a ton of others that I didn't enjoy or was indifferent to, and so I’m not going to mention them, but here are some of the honorable mentions:

Independence Day by Sarah Langan
The Minority Report by Philip H. Dick
Geriatric Ward by Orson Scott Card

Get yourself a copy of Brave New Worlds if you're also a lover of dystopian stories. 

No comments:

Post a Comment