Uneven, as anthologies tend to be.
I am stating out the outset that I’m probably not all that qualified to review the anthology AnarchoSF: Science Fiction and the Stateless Society, Vol. 1. Perhaps I am indirectly qualified: I am familiar with a bit of anarchist theory and history. I read 1984 and Brave New World, some Philip K. Dick and Iain M. Banks. And I did review Anarchy Comics a few weeks back. Plus, someone’s got to review this stuff. Especially the anthologies.
I wish I could say I enjoyed AnarchoSF. There were a few good pieces in here. Ursulla Pflug’s odd little story “The Water Man,” set in an anarchizing New Orleans, warns of the lingering temptations of cash—“jazz”—and the power it bestows, i.e. you can buy untainted water. Ricardo Feral’s humorous take on trendy leftwing factionalism, “Silent Night,” tells the story of one old hick’s ingenious seasonal solution to the drone problem. “The Sea Books” by Chris Bird, though perhaps thematically a bit out of place, is a wonderful allegory of the power of knowledge—hundreds of thousands of books washing ashore a seaside village—that reads like a tongue-in-cheek homage to early Lovecraft.
The anthology included two classics culled from the public domain. Philip K. Dick’s “The Last of the Masters” is an unsurprisingly unromantic take on how awesome anarchism will be—once we finally kill the last of the robot bureaucrats. Though far less readable than Dick’s story, E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” is perhaps one the most ominously relevant dystopian tales that I have ever read—all the more remarkable as it was written in 1909.
The remaining entries in AnarchoSF were far more forgettable. Not terrible, just forgettable—as is the case with most anthologies. With consistent content, however, this format could work. I do like the inclusion of classic short fiction, particularly from the public domain. Some more nonfiction, more art, some comics. This could work. Maybe. Either way, valiant effort.
Objective score: 4/10
Bonuses: +1 for Sea Books and +1 for Dick
Penalties: -1 for making me read a poem
Nerd coefficient: 5/10
Dana, Rick (ed.) AnarchoSF: Science Fiction and the Stateless Society Vol. 1 [Obsolete! Press, 2014]