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Fantastic Futures 13
edited by Robert E. Waters & James R. Stratton
Padwolf Publishing, 200 pages

Fantastic Futures 13
Robert E. Waters & James R. Stratton
Robert E. Waters is a science fiction and fantasy writer. Since 1994, he has worked in the computer and board gaming industry as technical writer, editor, designer, and producer.

James R. Stratton (aka Jim Reichert) contibutes a story, "Goldfeather and the Glass Princess," to the anthology, written along with Robert E. Waters.

Robert E. Waters Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Robert E. Waters
ISFDB Bibliography: James R. Stratton

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dave Truesdale

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Fantastic Futures 13 is an all-original anthology following in the footsteps of its predecessors, Mermaids 13 and Apocalypse 13. As the title indicates, there are 13 stories exploring the theme of what we might expect for the future of our planet, and 13 very different visions are what we get.

Known primarily for his decades-long sojourn as a regular Analog author, Bud Sparhawk's far future short story "Pilgrim" seeks to answer the often-posed question of just what it is that makes us human. His answer is a good one and is as valid as any other put forth by many others over the years, perhaps even more so.

A long-time CSI investigator for the Baltimore Police Department, John L. French's "No Time At All" is a cleverly conceived crime story having to do with an almost-perfect robbery involving the finer points of time travel and solid, down-to-earth police work. It reminded me of several of Isaac Asimov's crime stories, as well as Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's (writing as Lewis Padgett) January 1949 Astounding story "Private Eye."

Danielle Ackley-McPhail's very short "Forever and a Day," while not totally successful, had its heart in the right place and stood out like an oasis in the desert with just this short pair of remarkable paragraphs, the setting a far future time when Mankind had left Mother Earth for the stars, leaving only its animals and the fae:

  "In the absence of mankind's fleeting vibrancy...their passion...the spark that set them apart from all other of Earth's children, nature seemed divest of its sense of purpose. Without the humans' life force and the mage energy sloughed off from them like skin to dust -- vital to the ecological balance -- those left behind faded: The animals, the plants, and even the fae, though many decades passed before any acknowledged the cause. Declan had been among the first. Though not truly dead, he and others like him drifted into a stupor from which none awoke.

"It could no longer be denied: Without humanity, the Earth and all it held were doomed."

 

This is a remarkable statement in genre literature these days, when virtually every story -- short story or novel -- dealing with Mankind's role on the planet portrays him as scum, a blight on the Earth who is destroying it in any number of ways (global warming being the knee-jerk reason du jour these past many years, and how tiresome simply from a literary standpoint). Here we see him as necessary to the life force of the planet. How refreshing.

Editors Waters and Stratton defy conventional wisdom and include one of their own collaborations, "Goldfeather and the Glass Princess." They are not the first to do so, and it's a risk, but as a few have managed to do in the past they pull it off. As with a number of the pieces here, it is set in the far future, far enough ahead so that only select remnants of any future-tech remain (and those from aliens having warred over Earth and who now live here), that it reads more or less like your familiar medieval fantasy setting. The tale centers on the wayward King's daughter, the Princess, who is of a rebellious nature and who, despite her virginal, pristine, publicity image, has a reputation of sleeping around. Caught in graphic mid-couple with a knight and encased in what appears to be glass due to an unknown "spell," the King seeks the aid of the Native American shaman/witch Sarah Goldfeather and her servant/aide Godwyn in hopes of undoing the embarrassing tableau. How it all works out makes for a fun, satisfying read, not without a bit of sexual humor to further liven the script.

Other tales offer wide variability in subject matter and treatment. KT Pinto's "Goodbye Grey Sky, Hello Blue!" offers a tongue-in-cheek scenario where a "modern" family straight out of Happy Days or Leave it to Beaver is a great contrast to a future world where zombies rule the streets and open places, and an otherwise 50s-era suburban family acts as if nothing is out of the ordinary ("Gee, thanks, Mr. D!") as they cheerfully remember to take their baseball bats and other implements of zombie destruction with them when leaving the house for work, school, or the mall. A great setup that lent itself to the juxtapostion of cultures, that on the one hand gave us humor and on the other horror. One of my favorites.

Stuart Jaffe shows a future Earth where a few live off the grid and off the land, and how one "Man in the Woods," who is mostly vegetarian and tends his gardens isn't quite what he seems as we learn from the shocker ending. And C.L. Werner revisits an oppressive 1984-ish future when non-conformity to state ideology, intellectual curiosity, and the freedom to read or view original literature or movies not altered to conform to the ideology of the State, leads to dire consequences in his "Freethinker."

The remainder of the future Earth scenarios here are as diverse and creatively imagined (even delightfully oddball, witness Patrick Thomas's "A Wave Then Goodbye," about leprechaun-owned taverns expanding the franchise into space, which somehow manages to end on a touching note) as are the random samples mentioned above, and suffuse the pages of this above average small press anthology with an energy level and sense of enthusiasm that is much appreciated.

Copyright © 2013 by Dave Truesdale

Dave Truesdale has edited Tangent and now Tangent Online since 1993. It has been nominated for the Hugo Award four times, and the World Fantasy Award once. A former editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he also served as a World Fantasy Award judge in 1998, and for several years wrote an original online column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Now retired, he keeps close company with his SF/F library, the coffeepot, and old movie channels on TV. He lives in Kansas City, MO.


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