Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology edited by S.B. Divya and Mur Lafferty

November 12, 2020

Celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of cutting-edge science fiction from the hit podcast, Escape Pod. Featuring new and classic stories from Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ursula Vernon and more.

 From editors Mur Laffterty and S.B. Divya comes the science fiction collection of the year, bringing together bestselling authors in celebration of the publishing phenomenon that is, Escape Pod.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read any short fiction so when I discovered an anthology was due to be published celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the magnificent podcast Escape Pod I decided it was high time to remedy that oversight. This collection features fifteen science fiction tinged visions of our world and beyond and it’s just a bit awesome.

Some random thoughts about each story –

Citizens of Elsewhen by Kameron Hurley – If you’re going to protect history and the progenitors of humanity, then you need to get it right. Even if that means re-doing a mission over and over again. Kameron Hurley doesn’t mess about when it comes to kicking this anthology off. The nature of life, existence and how we shape our future is dissected and laid bare in just a handful of pages. I’m always impressed by the way Hurley’s writing demands your attention.

Report of Dr Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five by T Kingfisher – Space midwives, multiple births and one entirely unexpected patient. I can’t say any more than that. You need to read the story, and all will become clear. I’d imagine you’ll be as surprised as I was.

A Princess of Nigh-Space by Tim Pratt – I’m a firm believer that in every short story collection there are one or two entries that are screaming out to be expanded upon. This is one such case. I always enjoy a bit of multiverse related mayhem. I was left with a profound desire to know what happens next.

An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition by Ken Liu – An exploration of emotion and empathy, joy and sorrow. Tinged with sadness this short tale manages to be both huge in scope but intimate in nature. I re-read this one a few times as it left me with a lot to ponder.

Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right by Sarah Gailey – I shouldn’t be surprised that I adored this story. I’ve always been a cat person after all. It turns out tiger lawyer’s closing arguments tend to be just as compelling as you probably imagined they would be.

Fourth Nail by Mur Lafferty – This is another story that I would love to read more of. I felt like I’d be given the briefest glimpse of something awesome. Clones, orbital space stations, characters being hunted for sport. I need to know what happens next dammit!

Alien Animal Encounters by John Scalzi – A handful of short experiences involving humanities often unsuccessful attempts to understand beings from other worlds. This story solidifies my theory I have often suspected to be true – humans are indeed idiots and should not be left unattended at any point.

A Considerations of Trees by Beth Cato – Something ancient dwells in a forest that has been transplanted to a space station. How does this otherworldliness tie in with missing children and a murdered businessman? A quirky, fantastical detective tale featuring baked goods and a sidekick that I immediately loved.

City of Refuge by Maurice Broaddus – Even as the Earth gasps its last people are still plagued by racist assholes. Broaddus uses his story to shine a light directly on the endemic racism that exists today and will continue to haunt the future unless we tackle it right now.

Jaiden’s Weaver by Mary Robinette Kowal – In a complete one eighty from the previous story this is a sweet tale featuring fartycats, fuzzywyrms and teddybear spiders. I’ll be honest, you had me at fartycats.

The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity by Tobias Buckell – Should humanity be reintroduced into the eco-system of Earth’s far future? I loved the idea of viewing us an extinct species. Are we worthy of a second bit of the cherry? Especially when you take our inherently barbaric behaviour into account. From the perspective of the robots who have replaced us the quick answer is probably not.

Clockwork Fagin by Cory Doctorow – For me, one of the joys of short fiction is where an evocative title can lead you. Even before I started reading Clockwork Fagin, I’m sat thinking that sounds like it should be an album by Steely Dan. For the curious amongst you I can confirm that it’s not. Steampunk Dickensian hijinks ensue when a group of orphans figure out a way to turn the traumas of their lives to their own benefit.

Spaceship October by Greg Van Eekhout – Inequality in the depths of space. On the good ship October those that can afford it spend their time frozen, blissfully ignorant of the passage of time. Meanwhile the less well-off suffer increasingly unpleasant conditions. If you discovered that, and you could do something about it, what would you do?

Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends by Tina Connolly – More than just a story about love and staging a production The Wizard of Oz on a generational ark ship. This is a story about the importance of the arts in society. How it makes us want to strive to do better, to be better.

Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death by N K Jemisin – As I jot down my thoughts regarding these tales, a petulant racist man-baby throws his toys out the pram yet again for losing an election he thought he could steal. There has been lots of discussion regarding how to deal with this loathsome sort and his ilk. N K Jemisin offers a simple yet elegant solution – dragons. This is the perfect story to end this perfect anthology. Jemisin’s writing never fails to educate, inform and entertain.

The thing that impresses me most about this collection is the level of insight the reader is given into the human condition. I’ve said this in the past, and it still holds true today, I love it when fiction forces me to engage my brain. I can heartily recommend seeking out Escape Pod, there is something here for everyone.

Escape Pod is published by Titan Books and is available now.

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