review of Tomorrow's Parties: Life in the Anthropocene

Aside from the cool cover art, I picked this up largely because I saw Greg Egan and Sarah Gailey had contributed stories. Egan's "Crisis Actors" is very different from what I expected, but interesting: it follows a climate denier who's trying to advance himself within an extremist organization. Gailey's "When the Tide Rises" centers on an undersea company town - it's dismal, but does make the idea of being able to live underwater sound alluring.

The most thought-provoking entry is probably Malka Older's "Legion", in which women worldwide use a decentralized surveillance network to catch and stop harassment and abuse. In response to concerns of misuse, they note that "[a]ny action taken by our community is likewise recorded and available", and that the platform has "no incitement ... no rallying speeches or instructions on how to make bombs or anything. Just witnesses. Witnesses who sometimes arrive to witness personally... If they arrive to find the crime continuing ... of course they will try to stop that harm from being perpetrated". It's an unusually utopian take on panopticon.

One of the characters in Daryl Gregory's "Once Upon a Future in the West" is a beleaguered member of the dwindling and hated meat industry. The story mentions in passing that raising cattle for beef requires paying a "suffering tax". That sounds simultaneously like a good idea (it would probably reduce the number of farm animals raised in cruel conditions) and absolutely mortifying (imagine your society explicitly acknowledging that something is exploitative, but saying you can do it anyway for the right price).

My favorite quote comes frrom Chen Qiufan's "Do You Hear the Fungi Sing" (translated by Emily Jin):

She realized in surprise that what she deemed as autonomous and subjective feelings were merely slaves of her surroundings. Melancholy, excitement, depression, zest . . . all of her emotions, no matter how trivial or subtle, were firmly connected to the macrocosm and the microcosm. Enmeshed with one another and with the rest of the cosmos, they were constantly convecting, radiating, conducting, volatilizing, disseminating from the surface of the Earth to the stratosphere, then all the way to the vast, deep space.

Saad Z. Hossain's "The Ferryman" touches on a plausible part of future-history that's perhaps underexplored in sci-fi: a time when technology has made immortality widely, but not universally, accessible.

Tade Thompson's "Down and Out in Exile Park" imagines a sort of anarchist society living on an island of plastic garbage near Lagos. They rely on hormones secreted by a genetically anomalous woman named Olokun to help them get along.

In Justina Robson's "I Give You the Moon", people earn credits to buy rewards - like a trip to the moon - by doing socially useful work. Unlike money, the credits can't be traded. This seems like the sort thing that sounds utopian to people because they associate money with evil, but to me it sounds dystopian - a worldwide collusion to put firm limits on what each person is allowed to experience and achieve. My other favorite quote comes from that story, though:

The past was another world from which this one was born. An inadequate parent, but the only one.