The Disasters of Future Past
The end has come to my reading! Or at least it has in the form of fiction as Grave Predictions. Edited by Drew Ford and introduced by Harlan Ellison, this 2016 short story collection has it all with stories of mankind’s demise. From dystopian to post-apocalyptic, the stories in this collection cover a broad set of stories from over 150 years of fiction.
This short story collection is one which I really enjoyed while I grasped it. It contains some very well-known authors in this collection, each with a varying quality of storytelling and writing. Some of the stories were not only thrilling to read, but also eerily accurate to our current times.
Thrilling Reads and A Warning From the Past
As with every short story collection, there are some strong, heavy hitting narratives. With stories from authors like Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke and Ursula Le Guin, you are guaranteed some good stories in Grave Predictions.
The ones though I found to be the strongest and most thrilling were Stephen King’s ‘The End of the Whole Mess’ and Joe R. Lansdale’s ‘Tight Little Stiches in a Dead Man’s Back’. I’ll begin with ‘The End of the Whole Mess’. A story of two brothers, this tells the end of the world in a weird, creepy way that is trademark of King’s storytelling. I found myself at times not wanting to put it down it was that thrilling. The other story I enjoyed was ‘Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back’. This short story was one that was both very graphic and thrilling at the same time. The dystopian feel to it was rough and of extreme violence, something I didn’t think would be enjoyable at first, making it a good surprise.
Of all the stories in this collection, perhaps the most impactful, in my opinion, was Eugene Mouton’s ‘The End of the World’. When reading this, I wasn’t sure if I was reading an environmental essay, or a piece of fantastical fiction. It spoke of the Industrial Revolution and mankind destroying the environment. It spoke of global warming and its impacts on the people. It spoke of how the Earth will die because of humans and their industrial technology.
What is the most impactful about this piece though is when it was written. This was first published in 1872, many years before global warming was known. It reads as a piece that could have been done last week in an environmental magazine. Yet, it’s something written back in the 1870s and is so eerily like the world we live in today. This makes it a rare exception of being a story that’s old, but still feels resonates well with the world in 2023.
Weak and Dated Stories
For as strong as some of the entries in Grave Predictions, there are some stories that are weak and dated. Some of those that I found to be this are Greg Bear’s ‘Judgement Engine’ and Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’. These stories were, in my opinion, hard to follow and very dated by modern standards. This was a shame, especially for Le Guin’s story, being my introduction to her as an author. However, I won’t let this deter me from reading her in future, knowing her legacy in science fiction and fantasy. ‘Judgement Engine’ though was a real slog to get through. I don’t know if it was the characters or the storytelling, but it didn’t really stick with me. But again, that’s just me.
This is the result of any short story collection though. There’s always going to be weak stories in the collection, particularly ones containing older stories. Unless all the stories are weak, this doesn’t change my opinion on the book, seeing it as a useful source of information for stories in the apocalyptic and dystopian genres. These stories, perhaps weak by our standards, are glimpses into the past and how people at the time thought.
Grave Predictions is a fascinating glimpse into the history of post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories from many authors, both well known and less known. It contains some very thrilling stories which still ring true today, as well as some that haven’t aged well.
I recommend this collection to anyone who like dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories. The stories in here are broad and showcase how varied the genre really is. I also recommend this to anyone who might be studying dystopian fiction as a university topic. I know plenty of people in the past who would have benefitted greatly from this book in their Honours studies into the genre. It’s a steppingstone into this world of fiction and would benefit any newcomer or researcher greatly.
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