Gardner Dozois Reviews Short Fiction

Global Dystopias, Junot Díaz, ed. (Boston Re­view) November 2017.

Children of a Different Sky, Alma Alexander, ed. (Kos Books) November 2017.

Mad Hatters and March Hares, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Tor) December 2017.

There’s no pretense of optimism about the future in Global Dystopias, a special issue of the Boston Review edited by Junot Díaz. The title tells you just what you’re going to get, and most of the stories here are brutal and grim. Oddly, many of the dystopias presented here veer into the surreal to one degree or another, with only Maureen McHugh‘s global pandemic really a realistic possibility. The best stories here are Charlie Jane Anders‘s “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue“, a sort of updated version of Kafka’s The Castle taken to an extreme, with a faceless gov­ernment unit, acting for no particular reason the victim ever understands, doing its best to strip an individual of everything that makes them an indi­vidual; “The Reformatory” by Tananarive Due, an even more brutal example of a “correctional institute” doing much the same sort of thing as in the Anders story; and Maureen F. McHugh‘s “Cannibal Acts“, about refugees in a remote outpost struggling to do whatever they need to do to survive in the face of a worldwide pandemic that has killed the rest of the human race. Grim stuff, and not for those with weak stomachs.

The fact is, though, I’m getting tired of dysto­pias. When you can see just by turning on CNN that you already live in one, they lose something of their appeal. I’d like to see some stories instead that provide realistic hope for a viable human future – which is why I wish movements like solarpunk well (although I’m a bit skeptical that they’ll actually be able to deliver).

Children of a Different Sky, edited by Alma Alexander, is a mixed SF and fantasy anthology about refugees and immigrants. Part of the profits are being donated to various charitable institu­tions that help refugees, such as Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF, with a list of the addresses of such charities in the book’s front matter, if reading Children of a Different Sky moves you to make donations of your own. The best stories here are Aliette de Bodard‘s “At the Crossroad of Shadow and Bone“, which literalizes a meta­phor for war in a horrifying fashion, as a relentless and unstoppable churning black mass that rolls slowly across the countryside, swallowing and obliterating everything in its path; and a straight mainstream story, “The Horse Head Violin” by Jacey Bedford, a moving and ultimately hopeful story about Belgian refugees fleeing to Britain during WWI. Also good here are stories by Brenda Cooper, Seanan McGuire, and others.

I usually don’t review horror anthologies, but although there are streaks of darkness in it (it is, after all, an Ellen Datlow anthology), the subject matter of Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland tends to make the stories more whimsical than horrific, and so more to my liking. The strongest stories here are Andy Dun­can‘s compassionate study of Alice illustrator Sir John Tenniel “Worrity, Worrity“; Ysabeau S. Wilce‘s madcap “The Queen of Hats“; Richard Bowes‘s study of an Alice in Wonderland movie that never was, “Some Kind of Wonderland“; and Seanan McGuire‘s rather sad and poignant study of a reverse-Alice, one who came out of Wonderland to face the problems of the real world, “Sentence Like a Saturday“. There’s also good work here by Jane Yolen, Jeffery Ford, Delia Sherman, Priya Sharma, Genevieve Valentine, Cathrynne 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 January 2018 issue of Locus.

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