Thursday, April 21, 2011
Welcome to the Greenhouse review
I've subscribed to Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by Gordon Van Gelder, for some time now, and while I've flat out loved several issues in the past, lately the stories haven't been per my tastes, which, in all fairness, has fluctuated greatly in the last few years. In attempting to hammer out the reasons why (and why that market is so hard to break into), I've come to the conclusion that I love misdirection. There's nothing more compelling and memorable for me personally than a story that goes one way and then wham! hits you with all its got, in a completely new direction. Or, I'm great if the direction is predictable, but there's an emotional bang for the buck. (Take, for instance, a story I commented on a few blogs back, in Strahan's Best of SFF Volume 5, and originally, Subterranean: the Maureen McHugh. Not only was I shocked about halfway through at the main character's actions, but I was horrified at the person he was, and that I'd "liked" him in the first half of the story. And then this..! Also, from Black Static issue 18, a story that I will likely never forget: Mercurio D. Rivera's "Tu Sufrimento Shall Protect Us." As this SF Signal review said, one of the best of the year.)
But those kinds of stories, with misdirection, don't appear often in F&SF, and so I wasn't sure what to expect with the new Van Gelder-edited anthology released by O/R Books, Welcome to the Greenhouse. Marketed as science fiction on climate change, two things I happen to be very interested in, I've now happily dog-eared and folded it up, and I consider it a boost to my anthology collection.
The stories cover a variety of positions regarding climate change: eminent change, change currently taking place, post-change, etc, and do an excellent job at avoiding any hitting on political views with hammers of authority. The result is a thought-provoking collection, although it leans to the grimmer side (which I found appropriate). The authors include many familiar to the SF world, such as Bruce Sterling, Alan Dean Foster, Mathew Hughes, and Paul Di Fillippo, and some I've never heard of, including Michael Alexander and Chris Lawson. Out of the sixteen stories, only three are by women - which is a shortcoming, I think, but not enough to avoid the book. What's more important is that climate change is being discussed and written about, which will hopefully encourage the reader to consider both the facts and possibilities of this as an issue one day, or even today. It's far too easy to stick one's head in the sand and pretend it doesn't exist, and several of these stories even reflect upon that, too.
(This is also why the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres rock. We also have Atwood, Bacigalupi, Kim Stanley Robinson, and dozens of other books regarding this topic out there on the shelves.)
The stories. Most of them will appeal to those who subscribe and devour those regularly published in F&SF. To my delight, there were also some that appealed to people like me. Not so much with the misdirection, but with the emotional weight they carried, or that they threw me off from the beginning and I never quite regained my ground, resulting in a meaningful read.
My favorite three:
Gregory Benford's "Eagle." Even though I read it a week ago, I still remember how I felt when I was finished the last sentence, sitting in my favorite chair at the coffee shop. Power is a funny thing; who has it, who doesn't, and who should have it. And where's the line, when it comes to the health of our world? I wasn't certain what to think, or if I had even been rooting for the right person, which made me uncomfortable, and made the story memorable, perhaps for a long time to come.
"The Bridge," by George Guthridge. It horrified me once I finally got into it, as the content isn't for those that shy away from the ugly, and the unhappy, non-storybook endings. Not quite as brutal as Paul Haines' novella "Wives," from the X6 anthology of last year, but a distant cousin.
Paul di Filippo's "FarmEarth." I went into this story with certain expectations, as di Filippo's writing isn't for a reader like me. This story started off with unusual words and flippant narrative, yet I was so interested to find out what he wasn't telling us that I was drawn in despite myself. Before I realized it, the story got bumped up to my top five of the collection. And even in the last few days, I've found myself thinking about what di Filippo was saying, and how quickly we as a culture are so quick to believe what anyone tells us, without thinking for ourselves.
All in all, it's a varied and worthwhile read. Add it to your anthology collection!