A People's Future of the United States - Lizz Huerta, John Joseph Adams, Charlie Jane Anders, Victor LaValle
A little while ago, Donald Trump mentioned how colleges and universities could use their funding if they didn’t embrace freedom of speech and have challenged the beliefs of too many students. I think we are meant to read that as student republicans. On one hand, I can see the reason for making sure colleges embrace freedom of speech and sometimes the policing seems a bit overboard – targeting a professor and her husband because she expressed doubt about a cultural approbation policy over Halloween costumes. But on the other hand, how common are such instances, and to be honest, most of the stories seem to involve students policing the speech of professors which doesn’t seem to be Trump’s worry. If, as we often do in the classes I teach, analyze an op-ed piece – and that piece just happens to be from Tucker Carlson, then are we in violation even though I point out that CNN also has problems. Additionally, part of schooling is to teach students to support their opinions and think critically while forming them. Does the proposed policy mean that if a student believes the earth is flat, I can’t correct him? If I call a student, her without knowing that the student’s preferred pronoun is it, am I at fault, even though I would have used it if I had known, despite the fact that I think the pronoun it being used to describe a person is insulting and a denial of humanity?

Policing of speech, or too much policing of speech, from either side worries me. And Trump’s announcement just feels likes one thing from the dictator’s play book.

And that type of thing gives rise to books like this short story collection. LaValle and Adam’s collection is a bit heavier on the dystopia than a hopeful future, though there are hopeful stories. Many of the stories are open ended, such as “The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders, a story that tackles extremes of each side and showcases the power of literature. Others are more definite in their ending.

Some, like Due’s “Attachment Disorder” relay on both a mysterious beginning and that open-ended end. Though the mysterious beginnings contain hints of what could have happened. There are stories like “It Was Saturday Night, I Guess that Makes it All Right” that address what seems to be a change in the government’s view of homosexuality and transgender. (and yes, that story is also homage to Prince).

Perhaps the most powerful is “Referendum” by Lesly Nneka Arimah, a short story that deals with racism as well as different types of fighting back and standing up. “Riverbed” by Omar El Akkad is perhaps the short story that could be in the immediate future, but also harkens back to treatment of Japanese Americans and Native Americans.

“Calendar Girls” by Justina Ireland is a must read for anyone who likes the Handmaid’s Tale, though the short story is far more than simple nod to Atwood’s novel. Like the novel, however, it does deal with a future that has its roots in events and rules of the past.

Hugh Howey and Ashok K Bahr deal directly with Orange Buffon himself. I preferred Bahr’s story because of the use of what you don’t know what you are getting idea.

“Good News, Bad News” is also extremely good, especially with the format that is used to deliver the story.

And there are even dragons, in N. K. Jemisin’s tale.