I will never tire of pointing out how speculative fiction acts as a mechanism for brainstorming ideas for solving problems that we currently face. Even if no solution is found, it serves as a way to visualize and identify potential issues. Stories sometimes accomplish what facts do not. In this sense, writers are scientists too.
One of the biggest problems we face today is that of climate change. It shocks me that there are people who deny climate change when the signs are all around us. The need to preserve our planet has never been greater. When I came across this anthology of science fiction narratives centered around the theme of climate change, I couldn’t help but want to read it. The fifteen stories in this anthology paint a picture of a world so alien and frightening, and yet so familiar, that only we could have created.
I am a fan of anthologies put together by Jonathan Strahan. They are always thoughtful, varied and highly entertaining. Drowned Worlds too, is similarly, a brilliant anthology.
The anthology begins with Elves of Antarctica by Paul McAuley, which describes how Antarctica may be the only home we have left, after the seas swallow everything else. In Ken Liu’s Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit – Forty Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts offers insights into the climate change refugee crisis. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Venice Drowned is one of my favourites. It presents how human greed will find new ways to express itself, even after we have taken everything. Brownsville Station by Christopher Rowe got my pulse racing with its atmosphere of impending doom. Another story I really liked is Who Do You Love? by Kathleen Ann Goonan, which explores just how much we may have to change ourselves to restore what we have lost.
Because Change was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy, by Charlie Jane Anders and The Common Tongue, the Present Tense, the Known, by Nina Allan are a sort of autobiography of characters in inundated worlds. Jeffrey Ford’s What is portrays the other side of climate change : drought and desertification. It is definitely one of my most loved stories in this anthology. Rachel Swirsky writes movingly about a gay couple dealing with the loss of their son in the flooding of Baltimore, in Destroyed by the Waters.
In The New Venusians, by Sean Williams, the questions of changing a planet are debated by a rebellious teenager and her grandfather. Inselberg by Nalo Hopkinson, is a story I really enjoyed about a very unusual tour by a very unusual tour guide. James Morrow’s Only Ten More Shopping Days Left Till Ragnorök borrows from legend and mythology to create a narrative that is hopeful. Sam J Miller’s Last Gods blew me away as it showed a humanity that had returned to worshipping nature. Drowned by Lavie Tidhar has a flavour of part nostalgia and part murder mystery. The story I loved the most came at the end of the anthology, Catherynne M. Valente’s The Future is Blue, which will ensure that you will never look at trash the same way again.
All together, these stories paint a convincing picture of a dystopia of our own creation. They are a warning bell, yes, but they are also a message of hope and resilience.
Drowned Worlds, published by Solaris, is forthcoming on July 12th 2016.
FTC disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.