Seeds of Change

(This review first appeared on on August 29, 2009)

Nine short stories equal one great read in Seeds of Change, the latest anthology edited by John Joseph Adams. The authors contributing to this collection serve up works that range from tragedy to comedy—each of them thought provoking.

In his introduction, Adams states that the idea is for these stories “to challenge our current paradigms and speculate on how they might evolve in the future….” So topical are the issues explored here, they read like a list for the upcoming presidential debates: racism, global warming, the real price of oil consumption, the nature of government and the ethics involved in new technologies. There is even a cautionary tale about voting privileges and what happens when we give others the power to interpret our intentions: “Resistance” by Tobias S. Buckell. His is the only story set off-world. The other eight contain earthbound visions of a near future that seems just around the corner, if not already on our doorsteps.

The anthology hits the ground running with the first story, Ted Kosmatka’s “N-Words,” which shows that, though the targets of prejudice change, the essence of racism remains the same. Jeremiah Tolbert and Mark Budz tackle social differences from other angles. Tolbert’s “Arties Aren’t Stupid” explores the results of a severely pigeonholed workforce and its ensuing revolt. Budz’s “Faceless in Gesthsemane” shows one possible reaction to a world where nanosurgery could eliminate our ability to judge people by looks alone.

“Drinking Problem” by K. D. Wentworth stands out because of its humor. A man walks into a bar, asks for a beer and gets more than he bargained for when handed a new “Smart Bottle.”  Theses bottles are smart, not only because they will reduce the need for recycling, but also because they can talk to their owners.

Two exceptional stories in this collection are “Endosymbiont” by Blake Charlton and “Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu. Charlton’s story follows a girl who has undergone chemotherapy as she questions the possible unreality of her existence and the next step in human evolution. Okorafor-Mbachu’s story, set in the Niger Delta, shows us the life of a woman who suffers an abusive husband, poverty, and a ravaged environment. The woman’s only joy is playing the guitar, a lonely occupation until her music enthralls one of the spider shaped androids that guard the oil pipeline behind her house.

Ken MacLeod’s “A Dance Called Armageddon” paints a portrait of pub-goers waiting for the outcome of the ultimate endgame. Jay Lake’s “The Future by Degrees” takes a look at the changes and dangers faced by a salesman marketing an alternate energy source.

One of the biggest paradigm shifts from this book is its marketing. Adams and Prime Books aren’t the only ones utilizing the internet to sell and market their books, of course, but what they’ve done for Seeds of Change is truly impressive. It’s available in print as well as eBook­—not unusual these days—but that’s only the start. To sample the anthology’s contents before purchasing a copy, go to where three stories and excerpts from the other six can be read online or downloaded in PDF, HTML or Mobipocket. Or, for just four minutes and thirty-five seconds of your time, you can watch the YouTube trailer for this book and the one for Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse (another anthology edited by Adams, reviewed here at StaticMulitmedia by Sunila Samuels).

Also worth checking out on the anthology’s website are the “Bonus Features” which include links to the authors’ bios, websites, and six interviews. One of the authors who does not have an interview posted there is Ted Kosmatka, will be interviewed soon for a feature here on StaticMultimedia.

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