I wanted to craft a personal anthology of speculative fiction, but that proved impossible. There is no more speculation in fiction. Or rather, there is only speculation.
I won’t list our shared moments of bewilderment that have defined the past decade-ish, because we’re sick of reading about them, and because I simply don’t have to. You know ’em. The dictators, the diseases, the technologies. Though shocking global events are not unique to the 21st Century, our own ennui, our ability to process that shock into something ambient, might be. And I now find that I look at fiction that deals with impossibilities and implausibilities differently than I might have done in another period, in another life.
When I had a chapbook published by Tangerine Press in 2021, my brilliant editor Michael Curran kept returning to the same word to describe a particularly strange story of mine: askance. I liked it. It didn’t specify premise or plot of voice, but only a mood, a cinematographic glitch, and the phrase has stuck with me.
These stories share that glitch: A dog is shot into space, and there, we are given the soft observations of a gracious mind. A questionnaire wants to know if you enjoy alternative music, before you find yourself gazing into a dark basement. And in a time when science-fiction was made up largely of steel blasters and pulpy vixens, ‘The Anything Box’ reminds us of the precarity of childhood, and the duty we have move through the world with compassion, even when that world hurls perplexing new objects our way.
So here it is, my anthology of what might once have been called speculative, now perhaps para-speculative, or, rather, askance fiction. Some of the stories sit within the parameters of traditional sci-fi and some are far from it. But each has helped me feel understood in a world which defies understanding.