Today we digitally release a ground-breaking and definitive anthology of short stories from some of the very biggest names in science fiction and fantasy . . . Presenting:
An anthology of post-apocalyptic short fiction from genre heavyweights such as Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Cory Doctorow, Gene Wolfe, Jonathan Lethem, Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias S. Buckell, Jack McDevitt, Neal Barrett Jr., Richard Kadrey and many many others….
(see a full list here)
At the same time, we’re also releasing THE LIVING DEAD – an anthology of zombie stories from even more superstars of the SFF genre . . . More on that next week, but for now it’s fair to say that if you’re into zombies and apocalypses, both these anthologies are perfect reading whilst waiting to see the WORLD WAR Z movie! They’re both edited by John Joseph Adams, the bestselling editor of many anthologies and a four-time finalist for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards.
Today we’re focusing on WASTELANDS: STORIES OF THE APOCALYPSE. We asked the authors involved to give us a few comments about what inspired them to write the stories included . . .
Cory Doctorow on his story “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth”from WASTELANDS
The most important thing about a system is how it fails, though mostly we pay attention to how it works. Who cares how many houses you could buy on cheap credit if they all end up as subprime roadkill when the whole crooked business unravels?
We tell ourselves that civilisation fails badly. Stories I love, from Day of the Triffids to 1984, paint a picture of a world where disaster is attended by riots, rape and cruelty. The reality – shown time and again – is that disaster is attended by kindness, care, and compassion. When the lights go out, we don’t eat each other, we help each other.
‘Elite panic’ is the sociological phenomenon that causes the masters of the universe to send guns into Haiti after the quake – ahead of the humanitarian aid. It’s why the City of London is blanketed in CCTVs. It’s why police all over the world are so pants-wettingly terrified of public protest and treat every march like a riot in potentia.
We need to tell ourselves stories about the goodness of our neighbours as remedy for the vile slander that our stories have told us about the human race. It is the only way to counter elite panic.
Gene Wolfe on his story “Mute” from WASTELANDS
“Mute” was written to show that horror need not wallow in blood and wrap itself in the bowels of its victims, that loneliness, isolation, and vulnerability can be more than sufficient.
Tobias S. Buckell – “Waiting for the Zephyr” from WASTELANDS
Waiting for the Zephyr came out of a question asked by an online magazine looking for submissions. “What happens when we run out of oil?” It intrigued me because I was living in a small town in midwest America, where highways and long distances are the norm. What would happen in a large oil collapse? My answer to their question was that the towns would become like islands, separated from each other by achingly long distances. Having grown up around an actual island in the Caribbean, on a boat, I then began to speculate further.
Jonathan Lethem on his story “How We Got In Town and Out Again” from WASTELANDS
I wrote this story as the culmination of what at the time was for me an obsessive cycle of fictions that pushed back against the idealized vision of a cybernetic-virtual human future, in the form that vision was being propagated in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s – especially in the Bay Area, where I was living at the time. The novel Amnesia Moon could be considered a part of the same sequence, and a host of shorter stories including “Walking the Moons”. With this one I more or less got it out of my system, I think . . .
Nancy Kress on “Inertia” from WASTELANDS
Epidemics have always interested me. Like other inherently dramatic situations, they call forth both the best and the worst in everyone involved. In 1990, when I wrote “Inertia,” there were a million people infected with HIV in North America alone, with 200,000 confirmed cases of AIDS. Dire articles and fiction predicted that victims would be interred in quarantine camps. I didn’t believe that (and it didn’t happen), but the situation did start me wondering: What kind of epidemic, with what transmission mode, would result in quarantine camps? And how might everyone react to that? The result was “Inertia,” which ended up being less about disease than about love.
Elizabeth Bear on her story “And the Deep Blue Sea” from WASTELANDS
I wrote this story when I lived in Nevada. It was inspired by the bleak, blasted, endless desert highways; the ghost cities of Rhyolite and Goldfield; the killing distances of the Mojave. I have made the trip Harry takes in this story, although I did it in the relative safety of a car, and any ill-considered bargains I may have made did not involve devils.
Dale Bailey on his story “The End of the World as We Know It” from WASTELANDS
This story began as an attempt to answer the question of why post-apocalyptic stories are so popular and quickly became a meta-exploration of other questions. Don’t apocalypses occur all the time, on a small-scale personal level? And what is the role of a purportedly just God – if there is a God –in all this?
David Grigg on his story “A Song Before Sunset” from WASTELANDS
This short story is very special to me as it was the first story of mine to be published professionally. I’m also very fond of the character I created for it – the aged concert pianist in a post-apocalyptic world which has lost almost all of its culture. I wrote it originally for a writer’s workshop run by Lee Harding at a science fiction convention in 1974. It was declared the joint winner of the associated competition, and then selected for inclusion in Lee’s anthology “Beyond Tomorrow” together with those from some very well known names in the field.
Jack McDevitt on his story “Never Despair” from WASTELANDS
“Never Despair” is taken from a 1998 post-apocalyptic novel, Eternity Road. Our high-tech civilization has gone away, and a few survivors need someone to lift their spirits and give them reason to believe. Who better than a virtual Winston Churchill?
Jerry Oltion on his story “Judgement passed” from WASTELANDS
From an agnostic perspective, the world would be a better place if religion would just take a holiday. With that in mind, you could consider ‘Judgment Passed’ to be a wish-fulfillment apocalypse.
M. Rickert on “Bread and Bombs” from WASTELANDS
I wrote “Bread and Bombs” in response to 9-11; or maybe it would be more accurate to say I wrote it in response to our country’s actions after that attack. It could just as easily be called All my Fears for our Children.
Neal Barret, Jr – “Ginny Sweethips’ Flying Circus” from WASTELANDS
The end of civilization will bring about some truly bad moments. I felt that “Ginny” might show that there’s a bit of fun left even when the show’s over.
Richard Kadrey – “Still Life with Apocalypse” from WASTELANDS
“Still Life With Apocalypse” is a snapshot of the end of the world. A moment in time when there’s so little time left. It’s meant more as a quiet meditation on the end times than a grand statement. Every apocalypse is different and the end of the world is about as personal as you can get.