Science fiction is not a cheerful genre. You might think that people preoccupied with the future would be purveyors of all that is happy and uplifting-flying cars, wonder cures, brave new worlds, friendly aliens, robot maids-a merry universe filled with optimistic geekery.
You'd be wrong, mostly. Oh, the happy-sappy stuff is out there, but it's dominated by gloomy, grimy, horrific tales of Humanity Gone Wrong. Stories that wake you in the wee hours to whisper in your ear, "You will all die-or you will desperately wish you had."
Enter Shine, "an anthology of near-future optimistic science fiction." Editor Jan de Vries has collected 16 stories with a common theme: There is hope for the future. Is he peddling naive visions of rainbows and lollipops? Hardly. de Vries is convinced that getting to the future is going to be an uphill climb. It will require blood, sweat, and ingenuity. We will fall along the way, and we will pick ourselves up and keep going. We will never surrender, and we will win through.
Lofty sentiments-more worthy, I think, than your run-of-the-mill apocalyptic death cult dystopias, though I expect it will take something more than a stiff upper lip to set things right on `ol Terra del Sol, and I consider myself an optimist.
At any rate, these are some thoughtful, well-written stories that don't settle for easy answers. Like all speculative fiction, they are children of the times that spawned them. There's a preoccupation with Green issues and technology. Transhumanism, the melding of mind and machine, pops up quite a bit. There are fewer space travel/colonization stories than I expected, but Shine focuses on the near future, wrestling with problems we experience now or expect soon. The authors are multinational, offering some fresh perspectives set in unusual locales.
An exhaustive review of all the stories would be too time-consuming, and I've rambled enough. It's a good anthology. If you're hankering for optimistic, sophisticated sci-fi, it's here. Buy, read, enjoy, and prepare to be challenged a little. A few of the stories include rough language and adult situations, so if you're sensitive to that, be forewarned.