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Posts Tagged ‘Anthology’

Tides from the New Worlds: In Orbite Medievali by Tobias Buckelltides

Installment 9

In Orbite Medievali is based on the idea that the Earth is not, in fact, round. What would have happened to the voyage of Christopher Columbus if the world were flat? This is an idea I haven’t read before, and it really intrigued me. The terror and confusion the crew feels as they fall off the side of the world is very much how I imagine I would feel. Also, Columbus was kind of a jerk, and I liked that Buckell wrote from the perspective of the lowly grunts on the ships.

The heroes of the hour aren’t the snotty nobles, including Columbus. It’s the engineer and the cook and cabin boy. The descriptions of the experience as they fall through empty air and cascading sea water are realistic and frightening. Buckell aptly predicts how it would feel to common, uneducated men of that time to experience something so far beyond their control or understanding.

This is a good story, but hard to describe without giving too much away. Just read it and find out for yourself the questions that come to the minds of the men as they realize their world isn’t as perfect as they were lead to believe.

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You can check out Tobias Buckell on his website, or follow him on Twitter @tobiasbuckell
The master post can be found here, Tides from the New Worlds

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tidesTides from the New Worlds: Her by Tobias Buckell

Installment 8

Her is a surreal work, combining science fiction and magical realism in a way that is incredibly unsettling and mind-bending. We follow a high ranking bureaucrat as he handles the ins and outs of working and living on a giant floating woman in space. They don’t know where she came from, they know only that she exists and is a source of useful materials. They mine her toenails, they cut her hair like trees, they use patches of her skin for cloth and paper. On her breast is a space port, in her eyes people swim and sail.

The vision of a planet as a woman has been used as a metaphor since the beginning of human kind. The term “Mother Earth” is well known, although often seen as hokey. Buckell paints a startling and disturbing view of what it would feel like to do to a person what we so casually do to the planet now. The answers are unsettling and sad, the brutality that is shown in the story is casual and thoughtless.

The questions raised are serious and hard to handle. Is it our right to treat our planet so callously? Is our casual taking of resources any different than plundering a sleeping woman? There is an almost unconscious undertone of rape and molestation, and the narrator goes through the story with a constant, slightly sick feeling.

I don’t know if Buckell was truly trying to send an environmental message, or merely evoke a sense of wrongness about taking and using a person or thing so unthinkingly, but either message is valid. There is also the idea that we may someday discover unbelievable things while traveling space, but I can only hope that by that time, we are a kinder, gentler race. As the anthology progresses, I think the story ideas get stranger and more imaginative, and it’s easy to see him growing as a writer as the stories get better and better. More to come soon.

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You can check out Tobias Buckell on his website, or follow him on Twitter @tobiasbuckell
The master post can be found here, Tides from the New Worlds

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tidesTides from the New Worlds: The Shackles of Freedom by Tobias Buckell with Mike Resnick

Installment 7

In the theme that seems to be emerging, I see Buckell questioning preconceptions and trying to stretch the stories covered in speculative fiction. The Shackles of Freedom is one such story. A modern doctor, (and by modern we’re talking space age technology, easily cures cancer, etc.) decides to go to a newly colonized planet to practice medicine without all the bureaucratic restrictions that have begun to stifle him. Dr. Hostetler will be administering to a colony settled by a group of Amish colonists.

There are no administrative restrictions on his practice, but the Amish people have their own religious restrictions on what the doctor can do to help them. The torment he feels over this contradiction eats at him as people he could have easily saved at his high tech hospital die on his plain wooden table, but it becomes so much worse when the Amish girl he has come to love falls gravely ill.

Dr. Hostetler must decide whether her convictions and those of her people, are more important than her life. He must also decide whether he can continue to be the doctor of a people who refuse to be healed. The answers he finds are hard and heart wrenching.

I really liked the questions this story raised. What happens when you must continually fight against your own patients to help them? What would happen if in the future humans really did colonize other planets? Would those religious enclaves still exist, but in space? The alienness of the planet that Hostetler and his patients inhabit is usually subtle, but at one point it is brought sharply into focus.

The story is surreal, but it could also easily happen in our own country right now. The look at Amish life is also fascinating, especially as I grew up with the Amish living in my own town, present but so very separate, so very alien to me. I’m excited to share where Buckell goes next in his collection!

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You can check out Tobias Buckell on his website, or follow him on Twitter @tobiasbuckell
The master post can be found here, Tides from the New Worlds

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Tides from the New Worlds: Shoah Sry by Tobias Buckell with Ilsa J. Bicktides

Installment 6

In this collaboration with Ilsa J. Bick, Buckell touches on very traditional themes in Feminist Science Fiction, but in an interesting way. We are introduced to a future that is made up entirely of women, with men mysteriously going extinct at some point in history.

Instead of a utopia where women live together in sisterhood, there are desperately fighting factions. In a world where children are reproduced through cloning and genetic manipulation, one faction, the Talorans, wish to look for male genetic material in order to bring the other half of our species back. The other faction, the Imperialists, wish to suppress this material and bring all women under their thumbs. The title refers to the Taloran’s word for this material, and for the person that the material will help them create.

On a secret mission to a distant planet thought to contain the fabled genetic material, two women from the Taloran faction crash land and must escape from the Imperial Inquisitor coming to kill them. Dinah, the one that holds the key to the revitalization of the race, is sent off, while the other stays to fight. But as Dinah tries to escape, she slowly begins to change, and also begins to realize that her sisters do not always have her best interests at heart.

This story is fascinating to read. There are so many themes packed into it. Why are the women fighting so hard to bring Man back into the picture? Is the integrity and dignity of the individual more important than the mission? Can you trust someone who has been raised as your enemy? Does the freedom to make a choice, instead of the forcing of that choice, change the outcome? Are you forever bound by what is contained within your genes?

I truly liked this story, and I plan to pick up some of Ilsa J. Bick’s other work to see how it compares. I think this collaboration brought up some very interesting questions from the two authors, and I hope they’ll do something again someday.

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You can check out Tobias Buckell on his website, or follow him on Twitter @tobiasbuckell
The master post can be found here, Tides from the New Worlds

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tidesTides from the New Worlds: Aerophilia by Tobias Buckell

Installment 5

Buckell professes his love for airships at the beginning of this story, a fitting admission when you take in the title. I have to admit a secret love for the word dirigible here, too, which Buckell uses almost immediately in the story. I think he and Hayao Miyazaki would get along very well, since Miyazaki is also known for imagining the improbable or impossible with flying devices. Aerophilia begins in such an imaginative airship, traveling through the cloudy, gaseous atmosphere of Riley, a planet colonized by humans far in the future.

Vincent is a captive of his own split personality, Vince, as are the crew and passengers of the zeppelin Vince has hijacked. Vince has grown tired of his whiny host, Vincent, and is out to make himself rich. But his plan goes awry when the original Vincent takes over again and calls for help from an old girlfriend, Suzie. But Suzie has plans of her own, and a grudge to vent agains Vincent.

This is a fun little romp that was a quick but entertaining read with an edge. Vincent/Vince is a washed up spacer, but he truly brings to mind an old cowboy trying to go home again, to a place that no longer exists. I was a little turned off by how crazy and bitter Suzie comes off, but I don’t think Vincent comes off too much better so they’re sort of meant for each other.

Mixed in the with the lighthearted banter between Vince and Vincent and the humor of the run in with the law and the old flame, there is the message that things change and the people you once knew change, even if you continue to refuse to. Some day the wrongs you’ve done will come back to you, and we all must atone eventually. Nobody comes out clean.

The twists at the end would make this story worth reading even if the rest of it was blah, which luckily it isn’t. Stay tuned for more installments.

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You can check out Tobias Buckell on his website, or follow him on Twitter @tobiasbuckell
The master post can be found here, Tides from the New Worlds

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tidesTides from the New Worlds: Anakoinosis by Tobias Buckell

Installment 4

Anakoinosis is the word used to describe the breeding process of an alien species encountered by a group of spaceship-wrecked colonists, but the meaning goes far beyond just “reproduction”. It means the passing on of knowledge and learning, from one generation to the next, through genetic memories. That is how the whiffet pass on information from one generation to the next.

The main character in this story has no name. He/she is merely is, a being conscious and cognizant from birth with the knowledge of its parent, imparted at conception. A group of human colonists have crash landed unexpectedly on an unexplored world, and this leads to the two species meeting and forming a strange and unsettling relationship. In exchange for human technology, the whiffet people basically hand over their offspring as indentured servants, or realistically, as slaves.

The humans wish only to repair their ship and return to their original flight plan, but as their machines begin to break down, they start relying more and more on the raw labor provided by the whiffets. NN-721, as his/her ownership tattoo proclaims, is one among many who merely want to learn from the strange humans, but with a master unlike the others. The master sees something very wrong with this relationship, and does anything and everything possible to try and get his whiffet to see the realities and problems inherent in a society based on slavery.

This story brings to mind our own world’s history with slavery. In the United States, the North beat the South partly through technological advantages. If the South had not relied so heavily on slave labor, would they have innovated more? Does depravity and inhumanity cause us to become less than human? Humanity prides itself on the progress we continually make, and part of that progress is the fair and honest treatment of our fellow man. What happens when we fail to extend that attitude towards other creatures?

Perhaps this story is what would happen. Read it to find out how the master and NN-721 begin to change the whiffet people into something others might recognize as human. Buckell has created an interesting race and posed very serious questions to his readers in this short.

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You can check out Tobias Buckell on his website, or follow him on Twitter @tobiasbuckell
The master post can be found here, Tides from the New Worlds

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tidesTides from the New Worlds: In the Heart of Kalikuata by Tobias Buckell

Installment 2

This story centers around Andrea, a woman sentenced to indentured servitude after being shipped from her old home planet of Loki to the new Kalikuata, a cylindrical Orbital that’s basically a version of India in space. It begins with her disguised as a man and working as a rickshaw puller in order to pay off her handlers. Her rickshaw is designed to record the conversations of her illustrious passengers, and she is rewarded based on what is overheard.

When a simple assignment to carry a man from the spaceport to his estate goes awry, Andrea begins to realize that no matter where she ends up in the universe, she can’t continue to go on running from her problems.

Again I am impressed by the themes Buckell addresses in his story. Not only is Andrea a woman, she’s a woman of color. There’s a very telling line in this story, where Andrea accuses her handlers of using her based on her skin color. She’s dark skinned where they are white, she’s stuck doing the manual labor while they listen on high tech electronic devices in air conditioned rooms.

It’s the third world in space, and she’s found herself in a position where she has to decide whether to continue being used, or try and make a life for herself by standing up for herself. Nobody else is going to come and save this damsel in distress.

It’s a pro-woman, pro-people of color story, and the ending is very satisfying. You can still tell this is early days for Buckell, but the story is richer and more filled out than Fish Merchant. I can’t wait to share the rest of the anthology.

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