So I’m coming to this one a bit late. Reading about 2012 in the year 2014, and it wasn’t until I looked at the info page inside the cover that I realise this anthology was published in 2008. This anthology takes eleven of Australia’s best known speculative fiction authors and allows them to present unique ideas for the near future (at least at the time of writing it was the near future!) It will be interesting to see in ten years how these stories and ideas stand – to see if the issues of terrorism and climate change still stand, or how they’ve since developed. A very worthy anthology of powerful messages and scary visions. These are the types of stories that entertain you on an initial level, but when you give them further thought, it really makes you wonder just how possible these things are – or, scarier – how soon they could be to becoming part of our history.
“Watertight Lies” by Deborah Biancotti
This story gave me the chills. Like Gabriella (Gabe) I would be awful at the climbing and the deep, dark, confined space. The characters drive this story so very well, giving it such an earthy Australian-feel with their easy-going nature, and also their roughness. I’ve seen angry people quarrelling over land (who also happened to be farmers) which made this piece all the more real to me. Most importantly, the ending is what makes this piece. It ends perfectly, though I won’t say how. A very interesting start to the anthology, that takes such a likely issue that’s so close to happening already, and makes it feel real.
“Fleshy” by Tansy Rayner Roberts
I’m not usually squimish, but I was eating when I read the description of ‘Fleshy’ while I was eating and I had to put my food down. I love a good story that totally makes you forget the ending (when the start has revealed something then does the whole ‘wait wait, let me back up and start from the beginning…’ thing – so you basically know what’s going to happen already – but by the end I’m so sucked into the story that the ending comes, and I realise, oh, wait, I knew that! One of Tansy’s strengths is her characters, where you can identify with them and feel committed to their story so very quickly.
“Oh, Russia” by Simon Brown
In a realistically quiet story of grief, we have lines such as ‘his father loved him the way a father loves dreams of a better future, but never as a child.’ which really make you pause and take note of every carefully crafted word Brown uses.
Overall this is a powerful story that uses parallels effectively, taking a piece of the future and wrapping it in human connections, giving it a much deeper connection of ‘this is real’.
“Soft Viscosity” by David Conyers
Wars over oil and terrorism leads us to seeing what people are willing to do if they can take a tablet that disables their morals and care factor. Which means torture basically has no limitations. This is a hard story to read in that it begs the question of could it really be that easy to do anything to a fellow human being – regardless of how we near in the news often that proves this already. This piece was the lightest on speculative fiction elements, unless I’ve missed something… (Beyond the pill, which, well, the news shows us that’s possible without the pill, regardless.)
“Apocalypse Now” by Lucy Sussex
Written as though it’s a quick information guide, someone hacked into wikipedia this is a chilling guide of paranoia during apocalyptic times, showing what’s happened in the past to what’s common in their ‘now’. At barely four pages long it’s a pack and a punch, and as it’s written saying ‘we’ it really involves you in what’s happening. Never quite explaining everything, you’re left wondering… which also adds an element of unease.
“The Last Word” by Dirk Flinthart
Two people, Lewis and Jane, who used to be a couple have met for a drink at Jane’s request. Her grant’s been cancelled, but Lewis has money… and as Jane’s research is in melanomas, and as she’s tried everyone else she can think of… she’s called Lewis. She only needs $30,000… so after a bit of snark, when he writes her a cheque for $40,000, she has to seriously consider the caveats he adds. And whether she will accept them.
This piece has excellent characters, and its a story you fall into easily. The ending is neat and tidy, and all in all it’s one of the stronger pieces of the anthology.
“Ghost Jail” by Kaaron Warren
Rashmilla is a beggar weighed down by the ghost of her twin sister. She begs at the cemetery, selling dried peas, and people give generously due to fear of punishment in the afterlife. Some people can see ghosts, others can’t. When Rashmilla helps a young boy, the family don’t even thank her. A policeman does however, and in this tale of guilt and social turmoil we read an uneasy story that remains with you long after you’ve put down the collection.
“Love You Like Water” by Angela Slatter
This is a very good piece of writing, but it would have been good to see an element that would have made it possible for this to have happened in the world by 2012. This drew me out of it somewhat, when it’s supposed to be set in 2012, in ‘four years’ time’, it says on the back cover. Slatter’s writing is fantastic though, and this piece is just as strong as her others.
“Skinsongs” by Martin Livings
Set in London, this piece shows the obsession and lengths people are willing to go to for celebrity status, or ensuring that status remains. It leaves you thinking how stupid the world already is, that this doesn’t seem as ridiculous as it should. Told simply in one room with two characters, this is one of the pieces that lasted with me the longest, and kept coming back to mind.
“David Bowie” by Ben Peek
With two people pondering aloud what they would do if you suddenly knew that the world had five years left before that was it – it’s all over – and it can’t be saved, they discuss the point of music and then onto deeper things, which takes you by surprise. A real punch to the gut. The way the story is formatted (not in regular descriptive conversation) you also wonder if there’s the possibility of how the two people are connecting in some technological manner, rather than next to each other and aloud. A very effective piece.
“Oblivion” by Sean McMullen
A dying man talks to a nurse by his bedside, and the parallels of their lives are great. What is money if your family won’t return your calls and you’re dead before you’re 50? In a story that just keeps getting sadder as you read on, it makes you so glad for what you have; especially if you have a simple life.
This is a strong ending to the anthology, and it shows the editors chose well when putting their pieces into publishing order – not something you can always say with an anthology. It’s always good to end with peace.
Though short at 118 pages, the font is TINY and the ideas are massive. This is an anthology well worth getting.