Short story collections, especially in the speculative fiction genres, can be difficult beasts. Drowned Worlds, however, gets past some of the limitations and trials by setting out a theme: what happens after the ice caps melt and sea levels rise?
An array of options are explored over the 15 short stories, from colonizing other planets to dystopian horrors to more or less life as we know it, with y’know, more water.
To be honest, most of the stories haven’t left great impressions individually, but as part of a themed anthology, it’s the range of options and approaches that really gelled for me. In one story, scientists make the ultimate sacrifice to save the species reliant on now-destroyed coral reef; in several, tourists flock to the drowned cities of the past; and in one, the tourists come to a sticky end 😉 Ancient Inuit myths make an appearance, alongside new myths forming in the Arctic. We get glimpses of new kinds of living arrangements, from floating garbage islands to cities encircled by giant flood walls. Mostly, we also get to see a lot of humanity, changed or not by the new state of the Earth.
I’d also suggest that by having this shared background, the accessibility of the stories was much increased. With spec fic, the short format often makes it difficult to get up to speed with the concept presented before the story is over. Here, knowing even just a little bit going in gave you that slice of background to get started.
My favourite story was actually the last, Catherynne Valente’s The Future Is Blue. We are told that the narrator, a young woman, must allow people to spit on her, attack her, and call her names. The course of the story then jumps back to her childhood on a giant floating island of garbage – a brilliantly sketched out environment – to explore the life people now lead as well as slowly revealing the cause of the narrator’s position. It’s not a cheery story, really, but the structure and build up to the reveal appealed to me.
Kindle: 289 pages / 15 stories
First published: 2016
Series: short story anthology
Read from 3rd-14th July 2016
My rating: 6/10