Shineanthology’s Weblog

An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

SHINE Reviews, part 3: For a Few Dollars More

More reviews of SHINE (I seem to be doing them in batches of six: so this one would make the number of the beast complete, and prove SHINE is really a badass anthology for the good…;-), and these are already a week old:

“De Vries has assembled an excellent anthology. There are no real duds, and fully half the stories are absolutely outstanding; while there are no hard and fast correlations, the majority of the latter are among the longer stories. If another collection of stories as good as this is published this year, it will be an annus mirabilisShine is one of the best single anthologies of recent years.

  • Gardner Dozois in the April Locus Magazine (link leads to Table of Contents: review is not online) discusses at some length how truly difficult writing optimistic SF is, and says that “the stories here that probably do the best job with this complex balancing act are The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar, Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic by Gord Sellar, and The Earth of Yunhe by Eric Gregory.” He also says that SHINE “also contains good work by Jacques Barcia, Ken Edgett, Madeline Ashby and others.” A quote:

“although not all the stories work, a fair number of them do a credible job of successfully balancing drama and optimism without sacrificing cultural complexity.”

While Gardner Dozois admits that writing near-future, upbeat SF is very hard (and that “portraying yet another desolate and decaying dystopia where all hope has been lost and the future promises nothing but more of the same or worse” is “taking the easy way out”), he still seems to implicitly assume the default position that optimistic SF must run the tightrope (“this complex balancing act”) without sacrificing cultural complexity, while pessimistic SF somehow does *not* need to run that same tightrope (after all, in most cases it has already destroyed most ‘cultural complexity’). I do prefer to be kept to a higher standard, but I also find this general uncritical attitude towards downbeat SF somewhat ‘taking the easy way out’.

Finally Gardner Dozois conclude with “Perhaps optimistic SF is just more upbeat mundane SF?” As I said in the previous reviews post, the theme of SHINE is *near-future*, optimistic SF (very much on purpose, because that is the greatest challenge: I wanted writers to think, very hard, about solutions to today’s problems). That doesn’t mean I’m defining *all* optimistic SF as near-future, or mundane.

  • Rich Horton in the April Locus Magazine (link leads to Table of Contents: review is not online) is positive overall, if not enthusiastic (giving a special mention to Gord Sellar’s Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic):

“I approve, on the whole, and I enjoyed the stories, on the whole, but … I want greatness, and this book is full of goodness.”

I suppose we can agree to disagree about the ‘greatness’ of certain stories, but I do wonder why an anthology full of stories where people try to change things for the better needs to be ‘approved’, while anthologies where the population is decimated, the Earth is brought to the brink of destruction (sometimes beyond) and nihilistic characters gleefully engage in violence get that stamp of approval by default. Maybe this says something about the current mindset of written SF?

  • Paul Graham Raven at Futurismic chimes in, and is critically positive (as can be expected of him: he won’t take my word on anything…;-), picking and choosing the stories that worked for him (and those that didn’t):

“[…] it also ably demonstrates the potential of optimistic science fiction to entertain and speculate at the same time.”

“Shine left me feeling like a cat lazing in the sunshine, happy and inspired.  It’s vital and relevant, an almost living thing.  If it’s not looked back on as a significant early step on a new path for sci-fi – along with The Apex Book of World SF – I’d be surprised.”

“One thing that does deserve significant praise, though, is the international scope of the stories. The solutions, the hope, comes from around the world, from Africa to South America to Asia to Europe to North America.  There’s no focus on a single continent or culture. I think, perhaps, that’s what makes the collection so inspiring.”

“Whilst a great number of Sci-Fi books look at the darkside of mankind’s future, this offering Edited by De Vries really does look at some of the positive aspects of what is yet to come. Its put together with a lot of raw new talent and as such allows a reader the chance to try new people for a relatively cheap price. A great deal all round and back that up with the different angle it’s a real gem of a title to own.
Great Stuff.”

Finally, while the indefatiguable Charles A. Tan has interviewed almost all authors of the SHINE anthology on SF Signal, he missed one. Who? Find out in “The Lost Interview” coming here and at DayBreak Magazine soon…

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