Dover Publications, 2016
In Grave Predictions, Drew Ford has selected some of the best representations of post-apocalyptic and dystopian short fiction available: stories both beautiful and terrifying. These include tales from some of the most outstanding authors of the genre, such as Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Each story is far ahead of its time, with its own distinct presentation of the future, and evokes a range of emotions from the reader. It’s amazing how science fiction writers have more of a pulse on the future than most people care to recognize.
Eugene Mouton’s “The End of the World,” first published in 1872, presents a tragic story about global warming before it even had a name, and culminates in the proclamation that “THE EARTH IS DEAD.” In W. E. B. Du Bois’ “The Comet” (1920), Jim Davis, an African-American man, is sent down to the vaults on a task by the bank president, only to emerge to cold, dead world. It’s reminiscent of the Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough at Last” in that respect. As he makes his way down the city streets he finds Julia, a wealthy white woman, who is seemingly the other survivor. The theme of racial tensions and the breaking down and reconstruction of barriers is central to this story. Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” (1951) focuses on a writer who walks aimlessly through the city at night when he is stopped by robotic police for aberrant behavior. No one walks around the streets anymore when they have the warm glow of their televisions screens, after all. “Upon the Dull Earth” (1954), by Philip K. Dick is the tragic story of Silvia, Rick, and the fate of the world. Silvia summons angels, believing they are her ancestors who will someday usher her home. She intends to use lamb’s blood, but when she accidentally draws her own blood, they appear to take her home. Rick cannot accept her death, and tries to bring her back, even though it may mean the destruction of his world. In Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s “2 B R 0 2 B” (1962), the United States population has been limited to forty million people: someone must die in order for someone else to be born. Edward Wehling, Jr.’s wife is about to have triplets, but there is only one volunteer for euthanasia. Desperate, he finds a last minute solution to ensure his children will live. There is a witness to Edward’s predicament, who makes a fateful decision as well.
Other titles in this anthology include Arthur C. Clarke’s “No Morning After” (1954); Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” (1967); Urusla K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (1973); Brian M. Stableford’s “The Engineer and the Executioner” (1976); Stephen King’s “The End of the Whole Mess” (1986); Joe R. Lansdale’s “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back” (1992); Greg Bear’s “Judgment Engine”; Mark Samuels’ “The Black Mould” (2011); Ramsey Campbell’s “The Pretence” (2013); and Carmen Maria Machado’s “Inventory” (2013). Highly recommended.
Contains: racial epithets, abuse, body horror, disturbing imagery
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker