Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ecotones: Story by Story

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 

This anthology, with my story, The Silva, is has been released into the wild. I just finished reading my contributor’s copy and found it to be an eclectic and excellent collection of stories.

An ecotone is a region of transition between two biological communities. This is the theme that binds the stories in this diverse anthology together. This is rich territory to explore and there is a little of everything here from high fantasy to hard science fiction. I love variety, so I truly enjoyed everything my TOC (table of contents) mates brought to the table. After reading Ecotones, I’m even more delighted to be a part of this anthology!

Here are my quick impressions of the stories in this collection.

Inundated by Jonathan Laidlow
I love this kind of story. Sea monsters and undines threaten a fishing village and the land beyond it. This story is filled with fantastic creatures, yet is grounded in a very recognizable world – our world. As floodwaters encroach a father searches for his daughter and his wife who isn’t entirely of his world. The relationship between the father, his estranged wife, and missing daughter are evocative and poignant.

The Green by Lauren Beukes
What if alien life got inside your suit, got inside your body? What if they devoured and repurposed your flesh while keeping you on your feet, turning you into a kind of green zombie? What if your corporate bosses saw an opportunity in this grim turn of events? This dark tale is told in the gritty voice of a low-level employee with very few choices available to her. Excellent.

Seeds by a Hurricane Torn by Daniel Ausema
Years after a hurricane devastates a coastal town, some people return to try to reclaim the area. The magic system is based on botany so gardening is magical, which I found delightful. When these characters try to reclaim the land they find that the sea may carry an undiscovered magic of its own. I loved how magic illuminated the border between these two divergent ecologies.

Green Man by P. J. Richards
Establishing a colony in an alien environment is difficult, not all attempts are successful. An elegiac story of a last survivor on a doomed mission and his final bid for a kind of survival. Like Beuke’s tale, this story illustrates the strength of this anthology’s theme by exploring what it might mean to interact with an alien biological environment

Stochasti-city by Tobias S. Buckell
This one is a reprint but new to me. A gritty but ultimately uplifting look at a future where large social uprisings can be hacked by new, integrated technologies. Set in a future Detroit that is both more decayed and somehow more vibrant than the one we have now. This one rollicks along following a likable deadbeat who finds his way into a new life.

Homo Panthera by Andrew Leon Hudson
The introduction to this story says that it is “part of a larger evolutionary science fiction project.” While it does feel like part of a larger whole, it also succeeds as a complete story in itself. This one is military SciFi with an environmental edge. The story is told by a contractor tasked with guarding one of the last panthers from poachers. The world is richly drawn and full of detail, which makes the story feel immediate and relevant to today.

The First Feast by Victor Espinosa
This one is classic high fantasy and a sweet boy-meets-girl story. It starts out as a young elf’s first encounter with humans at an annual feast where these two different races mingle. This one also feels like it might be part of something larger, but the story comes to a satisfying conclusion. The ecotone here is in the realm of magic, which illustrates how different cultures view the natural world around them.

Compatibility by Ken Liu
This brief story hilariously explores some of the problems that labor-saving and companion technologies may present in the not so distant future. Anyone who has had computer compatibility issues will relate.

Not a Problem by Matthew Hughes
Another short, humorous piece about the dangers of relying on others to fix your problems. The twist ending though not terribly surprising, is funny. The strength of the voice, and hubris of the narrator, carry this piece.

The Pattern Box by Christina Klarenbeek
The crew of a long-range colony ship wakes up to find themselves off course and headed for a crash landing on an unknown planet. Told from both the point of view of the alien life form that witnesses their arrival, and the frightened, disoriented colonists, this is an intriguing first contact story. I could definitely spend more time in this world with these characters.

A Theft of Flowers by Stephen Palmer
Intrigue in a market that is not only on the border between desert and jungle, but between the virtual and the real world. A diverse cast of human and non-human characters add layers of meaning to this life and death story of economic survival.

The Grass is Greener on the Other Side by Igor Ljubuncic
This one has a lot going for it, a false utopia/dystopia setting, a young boy who wants to carry on his family’s military tradition, and a girl from the wrong side of the biodome. The interior narration from the protagonist is balanced with the action of the story to make this a compelling read.

Paolo, Friend Paolo by Kurt Hunt
A mad industrialist tries to harness an alien object, but it’s his longtime assistant who comes to better understand the alien identity that almost certainly will change life on earth. Full of big ideas viewed through the humane sensibilities of the narrator, this is an excellent story to close out the anthology.

There you have it. If these look like the kinds of stories you might enjoy, go pick yourself up a copy of Ecotones!