2084: A Science Fiction Anthology
Publisher: Unsung Stories
Author: Various (Anthology)
Fifteen predictions, seventy years in the future. By 2084 the world we know is gone. These are stories from our world seven decades later. In 1948 George Orwell looked at the world around him and his response was 1984, now a classic dystopian novel. Here fifteen writers asked themselves the same question as Orwell did – where are we going, and what is our future? Visit the dark corners of the future metropolis, trek the wastelands of all that remains. See the world through the eyes of drones. Put humanity on trial as the oceans rise. Say goodbye to your body as humanity merges with technology. Warnings or prophesies? Paradise or destruction? Will we be proud of what we have achieved, in 2084? Our future unfolds before us.
Fifteen predictions, seventy years in the future. By 2084 the world we know is gone. These are stories from our world seven decades later.
In 1948 George Orwell looked at the world around him and his response was 1984, now a classic dystopian novel. Here fifteen writers asked themselves the same question as Orwell did – where are we going, and what is our future?
Visit the dark corners of the future metropolis, trek the wastelands of all that remains. See the world through the eyes of drones. Put humanity on trial as the oceans rise. Say goodbye to your body as humanity merges with technology.
Warnings or prophesies? Paradise or destruction? Will we be proud of what we have achieved, in 2084?
Our future unfolds before us.
Not all the visions are truly visionary.
“This isn't a book of Orwellian stories,” George Sandison states in the introduction to 2084. This may seem an odd way to begin a Kickstarted collection of stories inspired by Orwell’s 1984; Sandison argues that Orwellian had become a byword for dystopian, but one which doesn't capture the hope and tenderness slipping through the cracks in Winston and Julia's world. Instead, the inspiration from Orwell lays in his foresight; the aim is to showcase 15 predictions of what the world will look like 67 years from now; to look ahead, as Orwell did. In that, 2084 achieves its aim, with the majority delivering moving depictions of near-future worlds. However, not all the visions are truly visionary.
2084 collects together stories with themes such as immigration, institutional racism, Big Brother, AI, climate change, social media, alienation, and many others. The outlook is decidedly dark, although it was never likely that a book inspired by 1984 was going to show a land filled with kittens and rainbows. At least, not real ones.
Babylon by Dave Hutchinson kicks the door down as the first story, throwing the reader into a world where harsh immigration policies have cut the world to pieces. It certainly holds the West’s attitudes on immigrants up to the light for an unpleasant investigation, featuring a wall which would make Trump cry in envy. The Infinite Eye by JP Smythe follows a similar theme, focusing on the plight of refugees and their lives in a Big Brother society. Avoiding sentimental clichés, it's an affecting story about maintaining one's humanity whilst being part of a system.
There are, of course, stories about controlling behaviour. Anne Charnock’s A Good Citizen, reflects upon referendums and the superficiality with which we can treat deeply complex matters. Ian Hocking’s Fly Away, Peter echoes Orwell’s predictions of a state subjugating reality to its whims, a post-truth world which may seem uncomfortably familiar. By examining human lives, and the way his “imagined” society damages them, Hocking delivers an emotionally-devastating tale.
March, April, May by Malcolm Devlin looks at this same subject from the angle of social media interaction, exploring how online social spaces tamper with our IRL behaviour. Amusing as well as disturbing, it gives the reader much to think about. Should you possess a smart speaker, ready to blip to life at a wake word, you may glance at your convenient gadget with a great deal more suspicion after finishing this story.
Our relationship with technology is also examined in detail by other authors. Percepi by Courttia Newland starts as a seemingly predictable piece: the old “human meets AI, human becomes obsessed with AI, human loses AI and/or life” story. However, it fast evolves, speeding through an increasingly unnerving account of what it means to be human. Uniquo by Aliya Whiteley offers a short reflection on the fears of growing old in a world of advancing technology, but with a slightly more upbeat tone than some of the other works within 2084. Jeff Noon’s Room 149 focuses instead upon humanity preserved digitally, a touching tribute to the Orwellian theme of searching for connection.
There are melancholic stories concerning the environment, namely Here Comes The Flood by Desirina Boskovich and The Endling Market by E.J. Swift. Humankind's inability to appreciate the needs of the natural world is depicted in different ways by the authors, but each is a warning of what may happen should our actions continue to their logical conclusion.
Moments of amusement appear, but they are odd bedfellows when nestled between such serious themes. Oliver Langmead’s Glitterati is an exercise is sartorial satire, wry and macabre at turns. Christopher Priest’s Shooting an Episode also scrutinises our own self-fascination, but in a more claustrophobic, humourless manner. It is the better for it as Priest mercilessly dissects reality TV culture and our own responsibility for the monster. However, whilst interesting in different ways, neither feel like visionary statements.
An homage to meme culture, sci-fi and Internet-speak (rather than doublespeak), 2084 Satoshi AD by Lavie Tidhar practically winks mischievously at the reader. After a few rounds of Doge and “loltalk”, it sounds more like a cynical sneer than a tribute, but Tidhar resolves the tale in a way that will leave those born in the internet, molded by it, with a chuckle or two.
Whilst overall an engaging collection, two stories feature truly unique voices. Saudade Minus One (S-1=) by Irenosen Okojie is hard to grasp, the poetic language spiralling to create an unsettling world. The plot itself is slight, yet Okojie uses language to construct a deep-seated sense of alienation. There are times where the descriptions can seem unnecessarily obtuse, hiding the events beneath nightmarish, hallucinatory depictions. There are hints that these “visions” are the result of mental illness, or perhaps this is just the way some cope with the barren landscape. The conversations seem plucked straight from a Lynch movie, often loaded and sometimes nonsensical. You may struggle with it, but it feels like this is the author’s intent, to emphasise the otherness of the world and characters she is portraying.
The second voice belongs to Cassandra Khaw. Her Degrees of Ellison is a pleasing nod to Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, where the world's realities can be finessed to suit the desires of the powers-that-be. Khaw places a very human story at the heart of the tale, allowing it to interact with futuristic technology in an infinitely plausible way. Khaw’s writing is easy to spot, evocative and tightly wound. She employs visual imagery in a way few authors do, setting the scene as if the reader is watching a film. It's a stunning way of capturing attention, crossing the line between media formats to engage us.
A common complaint levelled at anthologies is that, with different voices, there is a lack of cohesive tone. In 2084, the tales are dystopian but their variety is a strength - 15 stories solely focused on Big Brother would have been predictable. Instead, we are presented with visions of worlds that might be: some intriguing (if thin) commentaries, with others deeply affecting. The anthology hits hardest when stories reflect upon what being human will mean in this near-future. It's a fitting tribute to 1984, whose real power was not to terrify but to break your heart with soft flourishes of humanity. If nothing else, readers may well furiously Google authors who’ve caught their eye, seeking out their other works.
If Big Brother approves, of course…
The authors too numerous to list in the boxout are Dave Hutchinson, Desirina Boskovich, Ian Hocking, Anne Charnock, E.J. Swift, Oliver Langmead, Jeff Noon, Courttia Newland, Cassandra Khaw, JP Smythe, Irenosen Okojie, Malcolm Devlin, Lavie Tidhar, Alice Whiteley and Christopher Priest. Whew!