Unsung Stories, 2017, 344 pages
Fifteen predictions, seventy years in the future. By 2084 the world we know is gone. These are stories from our world seven decades later.
In 1948 George Orwell looked at the world around him and his response was 1984, now a classic dystopian novel. Here eleven writers asked themselves the same question as Orwell did - where are we going, and what is our future?
Visit the dark corners of the future metropolis, trek the wastelands of all that remains. See the world through the eyes of drones. Put humanity on trial as the oceans rise. Say goodbye to your body as humanity merges with technology.
Warnings or prophesies? Paradise or destruction? Will we be proud of what we have achieved, in 2084?
Our future unfolds before us.
I backed this anthology on Kickstarter because I recognized a few of the contributors' names, and was curious to see what this anthology purportedly written in the tradition of George Orwell's 1984 would have to say. Each short story is a different, pessimistic view of the future.
While individual stories were fine, I thought it was a somewhat weak anthology overall. The power of Orwell's imagining in 1984 was that he tied his allegorical future society to existing horrors; the connections were clear enough, and yet left enough room for interpretation that in the decades since, people on all sides of the political spectrum have read it as a warning of what those other people will do if they come to power.
The stories in 2084, on the other hand, are mostly run-of-the-mill crapsack world future dystopias. Economic collapse, environmental collapse, robot apocalypse, it's all here except for alien invasions or Cthulhu rising (not that type of anthology), but few of the stories really resonated with a warning of how current trends might become a future hell.
The starting story, Babylon, by Dave Hutchinson, was perhaps the most contemporary, depicting the Muslim refugee crisis settling into eternal encampments of political and economic migrants waiting outside Europe's borders, wanting to come in. The protagonists of the story are North African infiltrators making use of advanced technology to help get their people across Europe's high-tech borders; on the surface, it seems we're meant to root for the main characters, but it could also be read as a warning about Europe's future.
Desirina Boskovich's Here Comes the Flood combines economic and environmental collapse with reality TV, in an impoverished future of a few enclaves struggling to keep the lights on, while slowly trying all the elderly survivors of the profligate previous generations for their wasteful crimes against their descendants.
Fly Away, Peter by Ian Hocking, was perhaps the most chilling story in this collection, and the most clearly 1984-like, with a look at how day care in an authoritarian dystopia might look.
A Good Citizen by Anne Charnock is a cynical look at voting, in a world where citizens who can barely eat are distracted with votes on trivial issues, where elections really have no more meaning than an Internet poll.
The Endling Market by E.J. Swift was perhaps the saddest of the lot, about a black market for nihilistic 1%ers who get a thrill out of making a trophy of the last of a species.
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Kingfishers are emblems of prosperity. The blue of its colouring is associated with historical concepts of royalty. Kingfisher assets have been known to bring great wealth in a time of peace.
Glitterati by Oliver Langmead, on the other hand, was the funniest story, lampooning the stylish snobbery of the leisure classes.
It was generally agreed that Simone was a fashion genius, after all. The way his body lay splayed on the ground, blood leaking out of every part of him why, it was a masterpiece. His image made the front cover of several magazines, and for a few weeks afterwards fashionable people killed themselves on Thursdays. Then a new fashion came in, for sequins, and Simone was forgotten.
There are a total of fifteen stories in this anthology. Some are good, most are okay, a couple were just boring. It isn't a bad collection but none of them stood out as particularly memorable or future classics of dystopian fiction. Worth reading, but I was really hoping for this generation's 1984 or Brave New World (a tall order from a short story anthology, I know), and mostly what I saw were various iterations of rehashed Hunger Games or Westworld, faint Orwellian echoes with updated technology, or dark parodies of Facebook.
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