Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Drowned Worlds, edited by Jonathan Strahan

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(SF Climate Change) This anthology contains fourteen original stories and one reprint set in drowned or inundated futures. (102,700 words; Time: 5h:42m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆, Average

"Drowned Worlds," edited by Jonathan Strahan, published on by .

Drowned Stories

This anthology was inspired by The Drowned World, by J.G. Ballard (1962), in which rising solar radiation melted the Earth's ice caps. Although the editor allowed the writers to set their stories on any planet, and to write about inundation from any cause, all but one are set on Earth, and all at least imply that sea-level rise was caused by human beings.

Three of the stories are outstanding, but five are disappointing either due to lack of much of a story or from too much scientific unbelievability. Some authors have constructed beautiful and/or haunting landscapes but put little or no actual story into them. Others don't seem to have much familiarity with the science of global warming. (E.g. although global warming is a real problem, it's not going to destroy most of the US in the next nine years.) This is a topic that lends itself to heavy political messages, and two stories succumb to that.

Overall, it has the expected number of four-or-more-star stories but it's a little heavy on two-star ones.

Specific Recommendations

Destroyed by the Waters, by Rachel Swirsky, takes place around 2065, when a older gay couple goes diving in the ruins of New Orleans where they had their honeymoon fifty years before. They are still grieving the adopted son they lost when Baltimore was flooded, and they're hoping to find some peace.

This story does the best job with the science. It's right at the edge of the worst-case scenarios for warming over the next fifty years, but it's upfront about that.

Established older couples are uncommon in SF, much less gay male ones, but the relationship depicted here is pitch perfect.

Last Gods, by Sam J. Miller, takes place in a more distant future where the seas have risen and the land is mostly ruined, so as far as we know, humanity hangs on in a string of villages down the coast. Backward and ignorant, the survivors worship orcas as gods. A young disbeliever wants to change things, and the narrator (a handicapped young woman and a true believer) helps him because she loves him.

The Future is Blue, by Catherynne M. Valente, deviates far from scientific rationality, but it's an allegory, so that's okay. The entire world is covered with water, but there is a civilization built on an enormous patch of garbage (think Texas-sized.) The narrator, a teen-age girl, is being punished for something awful that she did, and the story is about learning precisely what that was and why she did it.

Objectively, Garbagetown is a pretty horrible place, but the author manages to make us see it through the narrator's eyes, and to her, it's beautiful.

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