What happens after the end of the world? That’s the thematic question behind AFTER, an anthology of nineteen stories edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.
Contributors include Carrie Ryan, Richard Bowes, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jeffrey Ford and more.
It’s an eclectic collection with a literary bent. In the stories, the characters often try to find meaning and control in an atmosphere of dramatic change or post-change.
My favorite stories were:
Carrie Ryan’s “After the Cure” tells the story of a young woman cured of a vampire affliction that is threatening to overrun the world. The problem is the society that cured her doesn’t trust her, while she remembers and often longs for the pure simplicity and sense of family among the undead hunters of the night.
N.K. Jemisin’s “Valedictorian” tells the story of a young woman at the top of her school and living in a society enclosed by a superior machine intelligence. The last humans barely survived the war and now hide behind a massive wall that everyone knows offers no real protection. Each year, the machines ask for the smartest among the humans to be handed over.
Carol Emshwiller’s “All I Know of Freedom” tells the story of a young woman kept as an indentured servant in the home of a rich family during a time of mass poverty and natural calamity. She stumbles across a religious community that is building a rocket ship to start a new life on another planet.
Steven Gould’s “Rust with Wings” tells the story of a young man fleeing his home with his family. Behind him, a growing infestation of strange insects that devour metal is growing.
Metthew Kressel’s “The Great Game at the End of the World” tells the story of a brother and sister playing a baseball game with a strange set of creatures on a torn section of earth thrown into space, the private collection of a vast intelligence.
The voices were refreshing to this jaded apocalyptic reader, though I wish Datlow had reached out to more authors who specialize in apocalyptic fiction.