Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich

Everything Change CoverEverything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction is exactly what the subtitle says that it is. The short stories are the twelve best stories submitted to the 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest held by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at the Arizona State University. Perhaps best of all, the anthology is freely available from Arizona State University’s website (a google search of the title will lead you to the right page easily enough).

I went into this anthology wanting to love it. I feel strongly about climate change, considering it a disgrace that it is not being taken more seriously, and as I had yet to read any stories about the topic, I was excited to fix that now. With that excitement came, admittedly, rather high expectations: I wanted to be blown away. Which is why it saddens (and, to be honest, angers) me to say that this anthology was a big let-down.

But to try to tame my desire to rant, I’ll begin with what I liked about the anthology. Although the form of the stories stays rather consistent throughout the anthology, the stories are wonderfully varied in their characters, with different stories portraying characters from all over the world. This did a wonderful job of conveying the global nature of climate change, and it was invigorating to read about foreign cultures.

That said, let’s move onto what I disliked about the anthology. My biggest problem with this anthology is the quality of the writing overall. The best stories are merely decent in this department, and the worst are cringe-worthy. While it’s impossible to give just one or more reasons for this (as the collections has such a variety of authors), I can say that the overall trend was a lack of clarity in the writing, paragraphs that outstay their welcome, a tendency to wax on the poetic, and stilted dialogue.

The recurring stiltedness of dialogue was also due to the second problem I had with most of the stories here. The stories were almost universally too focused on explaining exactly how the world that the characters inhabit have come to be, rather than being content with giving hints and suggestions to the reader and accepting that what the reader imagines might not be exactly what the author did. This latter method would be much more engaging; as they are, the stories sometimes feel like they are giving you history lessons. This is most egregious when this happens in dialogue, as the dialogue ends up sounding stilted and artificial.

It does make me wonder how experienced the authors (and the editors) are with reading and writing science fiction: the tendency to explain and tell, rather than to show, is more a hallmark of early Golden Age pulp science fiction, and is something that the genre has largely grown out of.

The other thing that made wonder about the authors’ and editors’ experience with science fiction was some of the ways in which science was used in the stories. Darwin and his thoughts were surprisingly common throughout (don’t even get me started on the establishing of a creepy and disturbing eugenics based society in one of the stories), and one of the stories featured a really banal invention that was touted as being the greatest thing that could have possibly happened. I guess what I’m getting at is that the science lacked imagination. Darwin in particular has been so overused in past stories that I can’t read its prevalent use as anything but clichéd.

The final thing that disappointed me about this short story collection was that most of the stories didn’t do enough with the subject matter. Each story presented a dystopic view of the future, and some claimed to be discussing important themes related to it (like memory and parenting), but I really didn’t feel like any of the stories took that subject matter in a meaningful direction, nor did they discuss the subject with any nuance or complexity. Most of the stories left me feeling: ‘was that it?’

And so, I come to my conclusion, and considering how negative most of my review has been, it probably does not come as a shock to anyone. I don’t recommend Everything Change to anyone.

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