REVIEW: Quiet Earth: “One of the best primers of dystopian literature you’ll find.”

Brave New Worlds is one of the best primers of dystopian literature you’ll find on shelves today. A perfect blend of classic and contemporary short stories about government control, technological subjugation and corporate espionage, each story offers a unique position on how we’re so apt to allow entities to control us… for our own good, of course. When I first got the 500 page book in the mail I was worried I wouldn’t have time to read it before it gets released in January. But once I started I found I couldn’t put it down. Once again, it would seem that editor John Joseph Adams knows how to pick ’em. … [Night Shade Books has] hit another home run with Brave New Worlds.” [review]

REVIEW: Dreams & Speculation Gives BRAVE NEW WORLDS a 9/10 Review

[9/10 rating] “The thirty three short stories of Brave New Worlds are addictive, dark, and thought provoking–all the best qualities of good dystopian fiction.” [review]

REVIEW: Starred Review from Publishers Weekly!

“Familiar classics by such luminaries as Shirley Jackson, Ursula K. Le Guin, and J.G. Ballard rub shoulders with new standouts in this dark anthology of 33 dystopian futures and alternate worlds. In Joseph Paul Haines’s “Ten with a Flag,” a government uses confusion to manipulate the governed. Sarah Langan’s “Independence Day” shows a tyrannical future U.S. through a teenager’s eyes. Matt Williamson’s “Sacrament” offers the torturer’s perspective on his “art.” Adam-Troy Castro’s “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs” asks how much of our souls we would surrender for nine days of guaranteed happiness plus one of horror. Grinding inevitability runs through Vylar Kaftan’s interactive “Civilization.” Most of the stories are bleak, many are hopeless, and all serve as powerful warnings of what we may let ourselves become.”

REVIEW: Gives Brave New Worlds 5 out of 5 Stars!

5-Star Review. Brave New Worlds is an excellent roundup of high-class writing talent, all offering their interpretations of dystopian possibilities that should stick with the reader long after they finish the last story.” [review]

NEWS: Brave New Worlds banners

Michael Lee, the production manager at Night Shade Books, whipped up these fancy banner/box ads for Brave New Worlds. If you like, feel free to post on your own site and otherwise share them about. (If you do, please have the images linked back to this site.)

Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams

Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams

Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams

INTERVIEW: Tobias S. Buckell, Author of “Resistance”

In your own words, please briefly describe the plot of the story.

When the inhabitants of a space station using a live voting techno-democracy fail to pay close attention to what they’re doing and end up with a dictator in charge, they end up having to hire a mercenary to fix the results of their experiment.

Please talk about the genesis of the story, how you came to write it, where the idea came from, etc.

A lot of my more politically minded friends, of various political persuasions, are always frustrated with the fact that things don’t get done their way, or even quickly. I think a lot of Americans forget that many institutions in the US are designed to slow down, muddle, create compromise, and otherwise add checks to the mob mentality of democracy or the fast actions of a single individual. In an ideal situation everyone is frustrated and making compromises in a democracy: it shouldn’t be easy. But that isn’t to say that the appeal of a prime actor that gets things done in a way frustrated voters in a democracy don’t get isn’t seductive, I just wanted to point out that those people are called dictators.

Please tell me about–or rather introduce the readers to–the protagonist.

Our protagonist is a maintenance engineer aboard the space station this takes place on, who’s been recruited into the resistance faction that wants to take down the dictator.

Did the writing of this story present you with any significant challenges (i.e., was it particularly difficult to write, etc.)? If so, please tell me about that.

Since we were to write a story about the importance of voting (and therefore self-rule), I didn’t want to be preachy. I did my best to present the argument that the desire for a fast-acting dictator is a seduction all voters get a taste of.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

This was a personal story because it’s darn close to being political for me, which is that I have gotten frustrated by listening to people in the states, where I am a permanent resident and therefore can’t vote for the president, indicate basically a desire for a strong person of their political persuasion (whatever that may be) who could basically cow the opposition and enact all the neat rules that those people think are right and could turn the country into a Utopia. I think it’s a dangerous belief. I remember teaching a class here in the mid-West to college students, a large majority of them opined that it was God that put the last president in office and should keep him there for as long as needed. I asked how that was different from the divine right of Kings in Europe and why bother with a democracy then? They had no answer for me.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

A bit too much life experience?

Anything else you’d like to add?

I was born in 1979, during a coup de etat in Grenada. I carry some of my first memories as being from 1983, during the invasion of Grenada to overthrow the government. In 1979 the revolution started with high hopes and big plans. But as time dragged on some consolidated power, and with their sweeping reforms, also fell into the spiral of quashing opposition to the point where it became draconian and people ended up lined up against walls and shot. As a result, I have an inbuilt distrust of sweeping reforms and powerful individuals in politics.

What is the appeal of dystopian fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

I think dystopia allows writers to hold up a mirror to our world and say “if this goes on…” That’s one of the classic reasons for writing it: to warn about trajectories within society. But I think the reason readers can enjoy even the grimmest dystopia is that it does, even when being a piece of social criticism, embed a certain amount of escapism in it. Both the sort of “things are still okay now” sort of comparisons that we can make as readers, and sometimes a sort of ‘if everything fell to pieces, what sort of crazy adventures would transpire’ type of narrative.

I personally enjoy the “what if” game of playing out a scenario and trying to dig a little deeper into it. If “such and such” continues, what happens next?

What are some of your favorite examples of dystopian fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Stand on Zanzibar, Blade Runner (the movie), 1984, and a host of post-nuclear-apocalypse short stories from the 50s. I think the nuclear dystopian fiction interested me because I became an adolescent right as the Berlin Wall fell and people stopped worrying about this defining, over-the-horizon fear: that a nuclear exchange would render life on Earth dystopic. As a result, I wonder how much the constant stoking of these fears by this fiction worked to help us dodge it. I recall reading an article that former president of the US Reagan used to believe a nuclear war was doable until seeing the TV miniseries The Day After, and changed his mind about that whole stance. So, I guess, go Team Dystopia!

NEWS: Site Launch!

Welcome to the website for my new anthology, Brave New Worlds. Browse around to find the Table of Contents, the Free Fiction page, and read some Author Interviews.

INTERVIEW: Matt Williamson, Author of “Sacrament”

What’s your story about?

Terrorism; torture; ad creep; the debasement of religion.

What are some of your favorite examples of dystopian fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

For capturing the horror, sadness, and absurdity of modern life, you can’t do better than the dystopian stories of George Saunders and David Foster Wallace. Saunders, in particular, seems to get everything: the way that isolated, onanistic, mechanistic pleasure-seeking has replaced human connection; the way that corporate values have replaced morality; the way in which our consumer preferences have come to completely define our identities; the way that marketing has perverted and corrupted language and culture, and pretty much rendered art itself meaningless; the profound hopelessness that you can feel while being entertained. That Saunders can write about this stuff and make you laugh is some sort of miracle.

Paul Verhoeven and Ed Neumeier’s two collaborations, Robocop and Starship Troopers, still impress me as two of the smartest, toughest, and most prescient SF works in any medium from the last 25 years. They’re no longer ignored—Starship Troopers, against all odds, has started creeping into the canon—but they’re still underappreciated and frustratingly misunderstood.

INTERVIEW: Adam-Troy Castro, Author of “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

“Of A Sweet Slow Dance In the Wake of Temporary Dogs” is about a delightful, joyous land called Enysbourg where life is an (almost) nonstop celebration. Alas, the happiness to be found there comes with a price tag most won’t want to pay.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I sometimes generate story ideas by altering well-known phrases in bizarre ways, and seeing what unusual concepts pop up. This time I took Joe Haldeman’s novel The Forever War and came up with a contrasting premise, “The Intermittent War.”

For a long time I had no idea what to do with that, until 9/11 struck and, for a while, I encountered people who said that they couldn’t ever imagine going to New York City ever again. (Ten years ago, some people were actually saying that.) I couldn’t understand that kind of thinking, and could only respond that New York was so exciting, so rich, so vibrant, so much a feast for the heart and for the senses, that if anything 9/11 made me want to be there even more.

From there it was a short jump to the well-known phenomenon of homelands torn apart by disasters both natural and man-made, that people love too much to ever want to leave. “Temporary Dogs” was an exercise in upping the contrasts.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

The war-torn middle third was rough — I had to keep horrifying myself — but the actual toughest part to finish was the wrapup, which I considered done until my then-future wife, Judi, insisted that I had not fulfilled all of my obligations to the character of Caralys. The story had to be about her as well as to my male protagonist.

What are some of your favorite examples of dystopian fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

A true dystopia is a world intolerable even if some of the people there have been fooled into believing that they’re happy. The world created in the course of Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands” is as nightmarish as any ever created, even though — as he takes pains to point out — it comes complete with a surgical solution that will force you to be happy even if that means you also lose everything special about you. (I’d probably take the operation, but that would be a form of personality suicide). Robert Silverberg’s orgiastic The World Inside is a dystopia that might actually be a blast, for a long weekend, though I understand why further exposure would be soul-destroying. Walter Tevis’s  Mockingbird and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 are nightmares for the inveterate reader. I also have to mention George Orwell’s 1984, where life was not fun for anybody, and Harlan Ellison, ” ‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” for sheer passion.

INTERVIEW: Carrie Vaughn, Author of “Amaryllis”

What is the appeal of dystopian fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

I think dystopian fiction appeals to people for a lot of reasons.  Many of the stories have a “hero against the system” plot that’s just basic good storytelling.  There’s a kind of wish fulfillment — our lives in the modern western world may not look as bad as the average dystopian system, but who hasn’t dreamed of rising up and leading a rebellion against everything that’s wrong with the world?

Dystopian fiction has so many elements:  the science fictional world-building.  The horror of the thought experiment that projects just how bad things can get.  The element of satire — a good satire is difficult to pull of but beautiful to behold when done well, and I’m not sure you can have dystopian fiction without satire, from Thomas More on up to the present.

I didn’t set out to write a dystopian story with “Amaryllis,” so I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer this question.  I actually meant it to be hopeful — things may get bad, but people will survive and hang on to a basic level of community.  Everyone in the story is actually working to uphold the system, and I’m not sure they’d feel that they’re living in a dystopia.

What are some of your favorite examples of dystopian fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Well, where to start?  The classics are classic for a reason.  Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis is still beautiful and terrifying.  I love Huxley’s Brave New World for its sheer relentlessness — it has so much going on and there’s just no way out.  The sucker-punch satire of Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” (I even liked the movie version starring Sean Astin.)  I haven’t read a lot of current dystopian fiction, though I know there’s a ton of it out there.  Dystopia as it intersects with the zombie apocalypse trend is awfully fascinating.

I’m a fan of Paolo Bacigalupi’s work because a lot of it does what I like about good dystopian fiction — they’re cautionary tales, but the characters usually aren’t aware that they’re living in a dystopia.  Part of the horror (for us, the audience) is that they’ve never known anything different, and to them this is just how the world works.


Read more about the background of “Amaryllis” in Lightspeed Magazine‘s Author Spotlight on Carrie Vaughn.

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