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After the Collapse
Paul Di Filippo
Wildside Press, 124 pages

How to Write Science Fiction
Paul Di Filippo
Paul Di Filippo lives in Providence, Rhode Island. He is the author of several story collections including Destroy All Brains, The Steampunk Trilogy, Ribofunk, Fractal Paisleys, and Lost Pages. Paul Di Filippo's first novel, Ciphers, was published by Cambrian Publications and Permeable Press.

Paul Di Filippo Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Paul Di Filippo
SF Site Review: Four Stories
SF Site Review: A Princess of the Linear Jungle
SF Site Review: Cosmocopia
SF Site Review: Shuteye for the Timebroker
SF Site Review: Babylon Sisters and Other Posthumans
SF Site Review: Little Doors
SF Site Review: A Mouthful of Tongues: Her Totipotent Tropicanalia
SF Site Review: A Year in the Linear City
SF Site Review: Strange Trades
SF Site Review: Strange Trades
SF Site Review: Lost Pages
SF Site Review: Ribofunk
SF Site Review: Fractal Paisleys
SF Site Review: The Steampunk Trilogy

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

In Paul Di Filippo's "How to Write [Maximalist] Science Fiction," he presents his case for what may be one of the more interesting trends in the past decades, popularized currently by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross although instigated by Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man.

Di Filippo has also done a bang-up job collecting his own themed anthologies -- from steampunk to ribofunk. Stories with a similar motif or concept tend to rub off on one another when gathered in one place, often conferring more power to each. In rock, these would be the concept albums of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters where, even if there were a weak song or two, you don't mind because they cohere well together as a whole. In the genre, similar strength came when Isaac Asimov collected his robot stories or Fred Saberhagen his alien, killing machines -- the Berserkers.

In After the Collapse, Di Filippo combines the best of both worlds: a themed collection of idea-rich stories: a world where humans have largely moved on and uplifted animals, a United States divided along religious/agnostic lines, worlds where environmental crises have come to a head and humans must do something about it.

"Life in the Anthropocene" describes an Earth where the earlier environmental collapse -- extreme global warming, overpopulation, and loss of species diversity -- is tempered with high technology which offers some relief... but also some trouble as privacy is a thing of the past. Aurobindo Bandjalan is sent off to find out why power is down one percent on French farms. With two partners, one a cat-furry named Tigerishka and the other a tranhumanist hopeful, Gershon Thales, set out only to learn that they are working against themselves. This one's quite the inventive entertainment, setting itself up for anticipated sequels.

"Clouds and Cold Fires" (nominated for the Locus award) and "Waves and Smart Magma" are set in the same future where a vast AI mind floats in the sky whose clouds serve as your cable TV anywhere on Earth, most humans have left for some transcendent existence, and chimeric plants and animals (parrot tulips that eat raw meat) abound. In the first, Pertinax and Chellapilla have to protect the tropospheric mind from humans who have not passed on to transcendence. Being made of atmosphere, parts of the AI can break off into "rogue lobes" that go insane. In the second story (reviewed earlier, sold as a single by 40k books, as well as in Mike Ashley's anthology, The Mammoth Book of Mind-Blowing SF), their son joins other wardens to attack an AI inside the volcano Mauna Loa. Fans of this breed of adventure tale should pester Di Filippo until he provides enough romps through this wild future world to collect into a book.

Students play the game "FarmEarth" where adults remotely move actual robots to rebuild the Earth's ecology. Crispian and his buddies are young and have very little access into the layers of the game, but when Adán's relative talks them into higher, if illegal, levels of access in order to affect a bolder, faster repair to the environment. Of course, they aren't doing what they think they are. This makes good maximalist SF, but the ending is somewhat undermined by taking the main character out of the fight.

Because no one understands Amy Gertslin's politics in a world where the US has been divided into red and blue states via the way they vote for political parties, Amy wants to "Escape from New Austin" of the country Agnostica and her liberal family. Her family harasses her until Nashville of Faithland attracts her to find her heroine, Gretchen Wilson. Amy runs into a trucker who helps sneak her across the border without much trouble. After she arrives in Nashville, she learns something about her heroine that she hadn't suspected. Although there's a political slant, it's not a polemic and all the characters are treated humanely.

Also nominated for the Locus award, "Femaville 29" is the FEMA evacuation center for survivors of a tsunami that hit La Calpa of the Canary Islands. Living among the refugees, Hedges is a former cop whose badge is in limbo after he accidentally shot a young boy with toy gun. Although he's made roommates with Ethan, a small-time crook who has been arrested a number of times, Hedges is loath to leave the temporary camp as they would ship him across the US to unfamiliar territory. He falls in love with Nia, a single mother with an eight-year-old girl. The girl and her friends have been building an imaginary city called Djamala. Ethan expresses interest in the city but, after the children tire of his interest, he threatens the destruction of their city. They aren't worried because the city protects itself, the children say. While this fantasy is the least maximally speculative (albeit a cool conceit, nonetheless), the psychological examination of the narrator is at times among Di Filippo's most powerful.

Although the protagonists sometimes miss out on effectuating the final outcome, After the Collapse is a collection you won't want to miss if you love the high-bit invention evident in the works of Doctorow or Stross.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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