Issues present and pressing in the media have often inspired storytelling; here in Australia there’s been quite a few stories dealing with issues of refugees, for example, in the last few years. Climate change is one of those issues that seems to be inspiring people all over the world in various ways at the moment; I immediately think of The Wind-Up Girl and Sara Genge’s short stories. Here, Gordon van Gelder has collected 16 stories about that topic, with a wide range of narratives resulting. Some are set in the immediate aftermath of climate change altering the world, while others are set centuries into the future. Some deal with large-scale societal reactions, while others are intensely personal stories. There are some that could easily appear in any anthology or magazine – well, all of them could, really; what I mean is that some take the issue of climate change as a fundamental core element, while for others is sets a stage and then remains very much in the background. It’s an interesting anthology overall, and I have two favourites.
Jeff Carlson contributes “Damned when you do.” It’s a messianic story, which usually doesn’t work for me; I think the difference here is that rather than follow the new Christ-figure, or being written from the point of view of a devotee, the narrator is Albert’s father. And he’s as bewildered by what’s going on as the rest of the world, watching Albert’s actions. It’s not a story that easily fits into either a fantasy or a science fictional mould; slipstream is I think the best description for it, and the author it brought to mind for me is Rob Shearman. Carlson is not overwhelmingly interested in what Albert can or should do, about technological change or one man’s impact on the world; at heart this is a story about family, and parents watching their child grow. I really, really liked it.
My other favourite is completely different, although interestingly it too focusses on familial relationships. MJ Locke has the honour of being the last story in the anthology, with “True North.” Here, an old man – grieving for his wife in a fairly recognisable post-climate change disaster world – is given a new lease on life (wow, that sounds cliched, but it’s true and it works!) when confronted with a bunch of refugee children. What I enjoyed about this piece was the world-building, and the elements it includes – patriotism, refugee as well as climate change issues, power vacuums, and what sheer bloody-minded determination can accomplish. It’s a fitting way to conclude the anthology.