Futurdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsFuturdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction edited by Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin UnderwoodFuturdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction edited by Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood

In their introduction to Futurdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, editors Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood offer up their motivation for the collection:

We hope to inject the short-fiction market . . . with an extra serving of undisguised wonder at the possibilities the future may hold [and] give the next generation of speculative readers and writers a taste . . . of the infinite possibilities inherent in both the science fiction genre and the short story form [and to] represent a wider range of viewpoints than is typically seen in American popular culture.

That’s a lot to aim at and more power to them for putting this collection of twenty-one stories and a dozen poems together with that goal in mind. I’d like to say they fully succeed, but as with most anthologies (at least in my experience), Futuredaze ends up a mixed bag, with stories and poems varying widely in their effects.

To be honest, I found the anthology to tip too far over on the lesser side of things in balance, though certainly one problem is I am not exactly the target audience here — a younger (far, far younger) reader with little experience in the genre and thus one who might not note well-worn writing paths or quibble over style. Recognizing that disconnect, I can say that this is not one of those crossover YA titles that adults will enjoy as much or more than more youthful readers. Beyond that, though, I have to also say that it’s hard for me to imagine many of these tales lingering long in the minds of those younger readers. It isn’t necessarily that they are bad stories, just that there is little in them to hold the reader’s attention for long, whether within the story itself or for any time afterward. Often, my notes for each story began with a simple, “meh.” Didn’t dislike, didn’t like — mostly just didn’t have much of a reaction at all.

Sometimes it’s that the stories, as mentioned, travel well-worn science fiction paths. Sometimes it was that they traveled just as well-worn YA paths, with the same thematic concerns of proving oneself or dealing with parents or bullies or coming up against the unfamiliar. Given sharply drawn enough characters or original, stimulating prose, these wouldn’t necessarily be obstacles to enjoyment, but unfortunately, both were lacking throughout most of the collection. A few characters stood out, but I’m not sure I was ever pleasantly startled by a particular turn of phrase, a particularly original and vivid bit of imagery (even in the poetry, which fairly cries out for such originality and vividness).

Very often, as well, the stories felt more like authors struggling for an authentic teen voice rather than actually achieving it. Slang either felt anachronistic or forced, speech sounded more like adults mimicking what they think of as “teen-speak” rather than actual teen speak and so forth. Granted, this is always one of the toughest aspects of writing for teens, but very few authors here nailed it.

While the majority of stories and poems fell short for me, I did enjoy “The Stars Beneath Our Feet” by Steven D. Covey and Sandra McDonald, which did have an authentic teen voice to me and Camille Alexa’s “Over It,” which while sometimes feeling a bit forced in its slang and how it addresses a young girl dealing with a “virtual assault,” (the title coming from her friends’ refrain of advice), has a depth and poignancy of voice that stands out among the others.

In their intro, the editors speak of wanting to reclaim some attention from the science fiction and fantasy novels sweeping up young readers’ attention: THE HUNGER GAMES, HARRY POTTER, etc. It’s a worthy goal, but based on the stories in Futuredaze, I’d have to recommend the kids keep reading the novels if they’re looking for compelling and engaging characters and interesting prose/style.

Publication Date: February 12, 2013 Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction includes 33 original short stories and poems that spark the imagination, twist the heart, and make us yearn for the possibilities of a world yet to come. Futuredaze includes pieces by Jack McDevitt, Nancy Holder, Gregory Frost, Lavie Tidhar, Sandra McDonald, Brittany Warman, Stephen Covey, E. Kristin Anderson, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Jenny Blackford, and many more! Reflecting many of the ideals first set forth by science fiction icons such as Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury, Futuredaze challenges the imagination with young adult fiction that includes far-flung futures, dystopian alternate worlds, life among the stars, and a host of startling stories that embrace the idea of “What if?” that has driven the science fiction genre forward for more then a century. Now, it’s time to give voice to the next generation of science fiction readers and to those of us still young at heart.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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