Fiction From the Future: Near and Far

I’m back, y’all! Life’ll getcha sometimes, and I’m sure it was really rough last week without my book thoughts, but fear not because I’ve got some for you today!

I’ve already said that I’m not really a fan of dystopian novels, so it came as a surprise even to me when I found myself drawn to Future Tense Fiction while browsing through my library’s “New Books” section (maybe I’m like a little bird attracted to lots of colors). If you noticed, I didn’t include an author, and that’s because this novel is a collection of fourteen short stories. Don’t worry, all of the stories are only about 10-15 pages each, so it’s overall a pretty quick read.

It’s always a little tricky sharing thoughts on compilation works–you’ll like some, you won’t like others, that sort of thing. But I thought it was really cool how the whole book comes to us from the efforts of Slate Magazine, the New America think tank, and Arizona State University. Starting in 2016, the three groups came together to commission a series of stories that imagine different futures, which ultimately culminated in this book.

Moreover, I love the fact that the stories come from an apparent variety of backgrounds. The contributors include American, Nigerian, Latino, European authors who are also involved in tech start ups, television, academia–there are few limits to who the editors reached out to, which I think made this a very strong and well-curated collection of stories overall.

Of course, there were a couple that didn’t really hold my attention–I’m sorry, but while a future where there’s a famine and home insulation is edible is a unique concept, it didn’t really move me–there were others that I loved and would have wanted to read more–a robot who learns how to speak crow and saves a city with its crow friend, how cool!

It’s difficult too, to really give a consistent critique of characterization or organization since a) they’re all short stories and b) each author obviously had a different style. However, I think across the board, even if I would have wanted to read more about a story (like a future where you inherent your dying relative’s memories…how would that work out long term??), I felt that in general, all the stories were an appropriate length and gave at least a semblance of closure with each one. There were a couple of stories where I was a little confused about timelines or relations between characters, but I don’t think that took away from any one story because they were all somewhat to very enjoyable.

If you’re looking for a book to disrupt your usual readings, or you like sci-fi, I’d definitely recommend this book. Even if you’re a person like me who “doesn’t like the genre as a rule,” I really enjoyed it and think that there’s probably at least one story that you’d like, so it’s worth giving a chance. There aren’t any super cybermen/intergalactic stories that are too sci-fi-y; all the stories are definitely about real people who have real things happen to them, it just happens in the future and maybe there’s a little more tech than just what we know today.

~As a quick aside, I also really liked how across the stories, the authors would sometimes mention things we do know today: like Tesla Cars or Gabby Douglas, it made the stories seem that much more possible.~

Well, that’s all I’ve got for this week. As always, feel free to shoot me a message with a recommendation for a new book. In the mean time, I’ll be reading The Absinthe Earl by Sharon Lynn Fisher, so look out next week for my post on that!

Happy Reading!


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