I supported this book through its Kickstarter campaign and I am so excited that it is finally here. You can pre-order now and get your own copy on May 30.
“People with disability already live in a post-apocalyptic world,” says Robert Hoge in his Introduction to this volume. The central character of every story in this anthology has some sort of disability or chronic illness – but the point of the story is not that. The point is people getting on with surviving the apocalypse. Some do it with more grace than others; some do it with a lot more swearing and crankiness (I’m not saying that’s bad; looking at you, Jane, by KL Evangelista). Some do it almost alone, others with a few people, still others with lots of people around (which can be good and bad). The apocalypses (apocalypi?) they face are also incredibly varied, from comets hitting the planet to various climate-related problems to aliens to disease to we-have-no-idea; the settings include Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the moon, space, and indeterminate.
The first four stories give an excellent indication of what the anthology as a whole is like. Corinne Duyvis opens the anthology brilliantly with a story that includes a comet, refugees, spina bifida, food intolerances, teen stardom and adult condescension. “And The Rest of Us Wait” sets a really high bar. Next, Stephanie Gunn throws in “To Take into the Air My Quiet Breath” which combines cystic fibrosis, sisterhood, influenza, and taking desperate chances. Seanan McGuire serves up a story that somehow manages to combine being really quite cold and practical with moments of warmth; the protagonist has mild schizophrenia and autism, and not only does she have to deal with surviving a seriously bizarre problem with the rain but also one of the girls who used to tease her. No. Fair. And then Tansy Rayner Roberts does banter and romance with “Did We Break the End of the World”? Roberts somehow makes looting not seem quite so bad and THEN she does something REALLY unexpected at the end to actually explain her apocalypse which I should have seen it coming and totally did not.
So that’s the opening. A focus on teenagers, and I guess this could count as YA? But some of the protagonists in other stories are adults, so I don’t know what that does to the classification. At any rate I’d be happy to give it to mid-teens with an understanding that yes, there is some swearing, but as if that’s a problem. They should maybe skip “Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel” if arachnophobia is a problem, though.
Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench have created an excellent anthology here. The fact that each protagonist has a disability or chronic illness isn’t quite beside the point, but it kind of is: that is, most of the time while reading the stories I wasn’t thinking “oh, poor blind/deaf/handless/whatever person!” I was thinking “I want to be with that person when doomsday comes down because they’ve got this survival thing down like nothing else.” Of course I’m not suggesting that these stories could or should have been written with able-bodied protags, or that the disabilities have been added in to be PC (which, remember, isn’t actually a bad thing). Instead what this anthology shows is that being diverse and inclusive isn’t bad for fiction. In fact it’s great for fiction. It’s an important reminder to (currently, mostly) able-bodied types like me that HELLO you are not the only people; and for people living with disability and illness this is of enormous importance, because it reminds them that (unlike what we see in many other books and films) they’re not automatically destined to die in the opening scenes of an apocalypse. They have stories and they’re important, like everybody else who’s not a straight white (able-bodied) man.