Gardner Dozois reviews Short Fiction

A Flight to the Future, Kathryn Cramer, ed. (XPrize/ANA).
The Best of Subterranean, William Schafer, ed. (Subterranean Press) July 2017.

A Flight to the Future is a multimedia proj­ect edited by Kathryn Cramer (although Eric Desatnik is also listed as “Creator and Producer”). Sponsored by XPrize and the Japanese airline company ANA, A Flight to the Future collects 30 very short stories, many by leading science fiction authors, all working from the same starting point: ANA flight 008 takes off from Tokyo on June 28, 2017, and, having inadvertently passed through a space/time warp of some kind, lands in San Francisco on June 28, 2037 – a literal flight to the future. The stories then concern themselves with how the passengers deal with and react to the future world they’ve been abruptly dumped into.

Considered as an anthology – there doesn’t seem to be a separate physical book available, but the stories are all online: <https//seat14c.com/fu­ture_ideas> – there are several problems with this. This is definitely a futurist anthology, and a few of the stories really don’t deal with much except the protagonists wandering around gaping in awe at the Wonders of the Future, what we used to call Tour of the Great Steam Grommet stories (“And here is our marvelous Great Steam Grommet Fac­tory! And over here is–”). Then there’s the fact that the future depicted in some of the stories doesn’t seem to be the same future in some important details, and some stories even depict what hap­pened on the flight differently from others. More importantly, even those authors shrewd enough to add a personal human story to their Steam Grom­met tours often rely on the Introduction (available both in written and animated forms) to set up the situation with time-jumping Flight 008, and don’t bother to cover the basic set-up, which means they don’t stand on their own very well as individual stories, being dependent on that context to make sense to a reader who doesn’t know the basic setup.The stories that do the best job of standing on their own, and also add an involving human story, are probably “Collapse” by Nancy Kress and “Transitions” by Eileen Gunn. Although they suffer from the above problems to one degree or another, and few of them can stand alone, the following make for interesting reading if you can make allowances: “Incorruptible” by Peter Watts, “Gap Year” by Justina Robson, “The Urge to Jump” by Karl Schroeder, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” by Mary Anne Mohanraj, “A Passing Sickness” by Paolo Bacigalupi, and “The Trouble with Brothers” by Jon Courtnay Grimwood. A Flight to the Future also fea­tures work by Bruce Sterling, Gregory Benford, Brenda Cooper, Kathleen Ann Goonan, James L. Cambias, Sheila Finch, Hannu Rajaniemi, Chen Qiufan, and others.

Subterranean Magazine, intended mainly to attract potential customers to check out Subterranean Press books by authors who also appeared in the magazine, was launched in 2005 and for ten years was one of the best of all the online magazines. Although Sub­terranean Press is still going strong, editor William Schafer decided to pull the plug on Subterranean Magazine in 2014. I still miss it. In its day it published a wide variety of excellent short fiction, from hard science fiction to fantasy to horror, perhaps the most eclectic editorial mix of any of the online magazines. Although this is loosening up a bit now, with e-zines such as Tor.com and Clarkesworld beginning to fea­ture longer stories, Subterranean was for a while also one of the few online magazines, if not the only one, willing to run novellas and long novelettes.

The Best of Subterranean, edited by William Schafer, is a retrospective reprint anthology culled from the annals of Subterranean Magazine. It’s a pricey anthology, but also a big one, with 30 stories from the magazine spread over 752 pages, a reason­able proposition considering the almost-universally high literary quality of the stories contained within. The contents are eclectic enough that almost everyone will have their own list of favorites, but mine would include “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” by K.J. Parker, “The Bohemian Astrobleme” by Kage Baker, “A Long Walk Home” by Jay Lake, “The Last Log of the Lachrimosa” by Alastair Reynolds, “Hide and Horns” by Joe R. Lansdale, “Valley of the Girls” by Kelly Link, “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang, and “The Tomb of the Pontifex Dvorn” by Robert Silverberg. The anthology also contains an unpro­duced Twilight Zone script by George R.R. Martin, plus good work by Daniel Abraham, Joe Hill, Rachel Swirsky, Ian R. MacLeod, John Scalzi, Kelley Arm­strong, Catherynne M. Valente, and others.


Gardner Dozois was the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for almost twenty years, and also edits the annual anthology series The Year’s Best Science Fiction, which has won the Locus Award for Best Anthology more than any other anthology series in history, and which is now up to its Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection. He’s won the Hugo Award fifteen times as the year’s Best Editor, won the Locus Award thirty-one times, including an unprecedented sixteen times in a row as Best Editor, and has won the Nebula Award twice, as well as a Sidewise Award, for his own short fiction, which has been most recently collected in When the Great Days Come. He is the author or editor of more than a hundred books, including a novel written in collaboration with George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham, Hunter’s Run, and, in addition to many solo anthologies, the anthologies, Songs of the Dying Earth, Warriors, Dangerous Women, and Rogues, all co-edited with George R.R. Martin, the last two of which were New York Times bestsellers. Coming up is a major solo fantasy anthology, The Book of Swords. He has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and won the Skylark Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, he now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


This review and more like it in the October 2017 issue of Locus.

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