January 1st, 2010

Summary: Daybreak, 2009

Summary: Daybreak, 2009

This website is devoted to optimistic science fiction. It's an outgrowth of a bit of a kerfuffle involving former Interzone assistant editor Jetse de Vries and a few others, who called for more SF with positive outlooks and messages. Jetse ended up leaving Interzone, in part (or all?) because of disagreement with what he felt was a too downbeat viewpoint in too many stories. He signed on to edit an anthology of positive SF, called Shine, which is scheduled for the Spring of 2010. Partly as a promotional effort, he also started this online magazine devoted to "near future, optimistic SF". It doesn't appear, to this point at least, that Daybreak is a long term project -- it seems to be planned to wind down when Shine appears or shortly later.

In 2009 there was one reprint and 5 new stories. The new stories totalled about 40,000 words, among three shortish novelettes and two short stories. The stories were OK but not all that great. I have a certain sympathy for the notion of "positive SF" -- I do think there is a tendency for writers to accept predictions of gloom and doom as the default "serious", and therefore more literarily respectable, position. And I think sometimes near-future gloom and doom stories are, if you will, "unearned". The predictions of doom or depression seem underthought. But by the same token happy endings are notoriously vulnerable to being unearned, or "pasted on". Also, fiction that is either overtly positive or overtly negative -- that is, by design -- is very vulnerable to preachiness. I detected some preaching in some of the fiction at Daybreak. And in one or two stories the happy endings seemed a bit unearned. On the other hand I thought the stories there -- in several cases -- kind of depressing. They depicted rather dark futures, with the "positive" aspect being small victories won by the main characters. Which is fine, mind you, but sort of a downer compared to the idea of "optimistic" views of the future.

Anyway, my favorite story was "The Branding of Shu Mei Feng", by Amanda Clark, set in a future China where any use of dirty old tech is banned. That's kind of understandable, but the penalties are unbelievably harsh -- death, by starvation possibly. The heroine is a Chinese girl who loves tinkering, and gets into trouble when she tinkers once too often with some old gasoline technology, and who needs to try to escape to Mongolia. It was a fun adventurous story.

All five stories were, as advertised, fairly near future SF. 2 of the 5 were by women.