A couple weeks ago, I finished a wonderful new science fiction anthology. Dark Beyond The Stars is a star-studded and potentially ground-breaking collection of stories all set in space in one form or another. The authors and piublishers haven’t made a big deal out of it, but I believe the fact that women make up the entire line-up from cover to cover is significant. When I’m looking for role models for my daughter, I can positively look to these authors as bold, confident women who aren’t afraid to write science fiction in a field where their gender can sometimes be controversial in itself.
I already wrote a fairly comprehensive review of the anthology on Amazon and I’ll share that here. The book is officially out on Kindle today and for a couple more weeks, they are selling the Kindle version for 99 cents, so if you haven’t gotten your copy yet, now is the time.
For the past year and a half, I’ve fallen back in love with short stories. It was seeing the anthology From The Indie Side, edited by David Gatewood, that brought it all back. It reminded me of the collections of science fiction short stories and novellas I devoured as a teenager. I didn’t always love all the stories, but each one resonated in some way the more I read them, and I slowly learned that huge ideas can be vacuum-packed into a smaller word count.
So I eagerly leapt at a chance to read the latest anthology edited by David Gatewood, Dark Beyond The Stars. Again, I can’t say I fell in love with every story, but the collection featured story after story that reached something deep inside and pulled me along until the page count finally ran out. Dark Beyond The Stars takes readers on an epic journey through space, rewarding them with tales guaranteed to entertain as well as elicit tears.
I also don’t think I can address the quality of the book without mentioning a unique fact about the anthology — each and every writer is a woman. I hope to someday live in a world where this note is unnecessary, but that day is not today. There are some out there who will refuse to read a collection that features only women writers. There are some who may cling to the out-dated belief that science fiction is a men’s game. There are those who wouldn’t even give a each of the writers a chance based on their misogynistic thinking.
Those people would be wrong. These women prove that science fiction is a poorer field without them in it. Dark Beyond The Stars is a rich and full universe of stories that, I believe, benefit from a woman’s perspective and voice.
Now, as I analyze the volume, I’m not going to go into detail on each and every story — other reviews have taken care of this and readers can find those details in those reviews — but I’ll highlight a few of the pinnacles of the book for me.
First off, the choice of Susan Kaye Quinn to start the anthology with her story “Containment” is a sure-fire winner. While Quinn sets the story firmly within the universe she’s established in her latest novel “The Legacy Human,” the story stands securely on its own. As with many of the stories in the collection, the point doesn’t become what happens, but really what does it all mean? In this case, we meet an artificial intelligence who works as the manager of mining on Thebe. As the story slowly develops, we peel back layers of the onion to discover our A.I. is more than what he is allowed to be. The themes of A.I., wealth inequality, and slavery are prevalent throughout the story and make it one to remember.
Another story I loved was Ann Christy’s “Lulu Ad Infinitum” and consequences of a horrific accident on a colony ship headed into space. One of the passengers, Lulu, is left alive, and is confronted with the fact that the only way to continue is with help, and the only way to get help is by cloning. As the mind wanders over decades and generations, what does the ship look like and who is Lulu after all this time?
In the same themes of a colony ship, Theresa Kay’s “Protocol A235,” takes the view of disaster happening in space to the extreme. In contrast to Christy’s Lulu, however, Theresa Kay pulls a slow burn as the first-person protagonist slowly finds out what’s happened, and the life that she has in front of her. The horror of the situation seems a little more apparent to the reader, but watching it play out makes her story one of the gems of this collection.
And the heartbreaker of the bunch had to be Jennifer Foehner Wells “Carindi.” Those familiar with Wells’ “Fluency” know the intricacies of the alien ships, operated by octopi-like beings, but commanded by a different species entirely. Ei’Pio is one of the former, resigned to a fate where she cannot move after a plague wiped out the population of her ship. She discovers a lifeform in the aftermath, one confined to a stasis suit who will be her companion for years. The story plays out until a decision must be made and they must leave their area of space or die. Just as I loved “Fluency,” “Carindi” adds a greater depth and history to Wells’ universe.
Ultimately, David Gatewood succeeds in editing another premier anthology, but he is merely the pilot ship for an armada of warships made up of supremely talented writers. I loved Dark Beyond the Stars and hope that there is more to come from this group.