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Afterglow – Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors is a collection of short stories, edited by the climate news site Grist, and assembled as part of a contest called Imagine 2200. The contest attracted over 1000 entries, which the panel of judges whittled down to the 12 stories you find this book.

The book starts of with a Foreword by adrienne maree brown, followed by an Editor's Note and the 12 stories making up the bulk of the content. At the back you get Acknowledgments, and, helpfully given that most of the contributors are not 'known' names (yes, my ignorance is showing), short Contributor Biographies.

The Foreword by adrianne maree brown discusses how writing fiction allows us to dream, to conceive possible futures which we can then work towards making them reality. She explains how this especially applies to climate fiction and to the collection at hand, and that not having these dreams/stories means that we don't have a template to aim for, so doing this is crucial to our attempts to work our way out of the crisis at hand.

The Editor's Note mainly describes the actual contest that led to this collection.

I felt this, whilst clearly CliFi, was not really Solarpunk (it's also not billed as such!); whilst it has a lot of the rather naïve (and sometimes charming) belief in the capabilities of either technology or nature to make everything good again it lacks the focus on this in most stories; they rather are set in a 'changed', post-climate event world, telling stories set in this new and rather different world.
Also – a lot of the stories are deeply mired in spirituality, traditional cultural mores, and sometimes plain woo, all the same whilst relying on modern 'future level' technology and medicine. It seems a lot of the failings of our current world are carried over into the future, which is not a view that gives me much hope.

Below are short capsule reviews of the individual stories – if you feel this would spoil your enjoyment of reading them (and plan to read them!) then you might want to stop here.

Lindsay Brodeck – Afterglow
This is a mix of classic tropes – a strained relationship, set on a sad and broken Earth, with the last pods to Kepler about to depart... but also with hope due to a movement re-building/re-wilding from the ground up, with the help of some strange (and not fully specified) beings. I wasn't sure how positive this story really feels – it came across quite ambivalent, FWIW.

Saul Tanpepper – The Cloud Weaver's Song
A story about climate change, about adapting to climate change to survive, and about societal inertia in the face of the need to change further, despite the lessons of the past - told in the shape of an oral history.

Rich Larson – Tidings
A series of snippets, windows into a world healing, adjusting, moving on from the past. Really nice, even if the cynic in me tags it as too good to be true.

Abigail Larkin – A Séance in the Anthropocene
A girl on a Cherokee reservation, learning about the past, about carbon-burning which triggered the 'Dark Decade', and the following Re-alignment.
Very earnest. Very optimistic. Yes, this is programme here, I understand.

Michelle Yoon – The Tree in the Back Yard
This is set in a flooded Malaysia which is now a chain of islands; following a woman learning to talk to the spirits of the deceased, under their saplings in the 'Back Yard' (climate friendly, carbon-recovery kind of grave yard?). A slice of life, feeling unfinished, too. And strangely out of place in the collection

Renan Bernardo – When it's time to harvest
A story set in a flooded RiO, with an old couple needing to find a way of letting go of the work of their lives, an automated vertical fam that provides food and thus survival for their community.

Ada M. Patterson – Broken from the Colony
A tale of transformation, told in retrospective (transgender?) as well as the current time (human to coral colony?), set on an island disappearing into the sea. Poetical, and slightly confusing/ unsettling/ dissociating. Also – I read this in parallel with Peter Watt's Contracting Iris, which gave some kind of mental Moire effect... 
The standout story in this collection, for me.

Savitri Putu Horrigan – The Case of the Turned Tide
Many things did not come together for me in this story; and neither the storytelling nor the the message (all corporations are evil if they have a positive impact, so it's ok to steal from them) did much for me.

Tehnuka – El, the Plastotrophs, and Me
Deeply styled in Diaspora Tamil, and set in a small cooperative ina post-bad-time-clean-up world; this does not strike me as a very positive or promising environment. We find societal strictures, non-acceptance of 'incomers', strict top-down control of who can/can't have children, a distinct lack of medical provision, et al...
Colour me not impressed with this future.

Ailbhe Pascal – Canvas-Wax-Moon
Post-climate something? Gender-fluid? Ethnically coloured? Matriarchal-Earth-Magical...
But mostly: Teenage Angst.

Mike McClelland – The Secrets of the Last Greenland Shark
A story of the final days, with life ending on Earth – seen through the Eyes of the last Human, who, through means never explained, is mentally linked to the last of all other species, both (still) living ones and others which have gone already. 
The story is touching, clever, sad but comforting. And has an ending that didn't work for me...

 

Title: Afterglow – Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors
Editor: Grist 
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher:  The New Press
Publisher URL: http://www.thenewpress.com
Publication Date: 2023
Review Date: 230423
ISBN: 9781620977705
Pages: 256
Format: ePub
Topic: CliFi
Topic: anthropology

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

 

 

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