Where Are We Going? (edited by Allen Ashley) was published in early 2012 by Eibonvale Press.
Here's a description of Where Are We Going?:
Allen Ashley (The Elastic Book of Numbers, Subtle Edens, Catastrophia) returns to the anthology format with an ambitious themed collection of stories based on the idea that the world we live in is still something of an unknown planet, with spectacular encounters, adventures and mysteries still very much possible.
The result is a collection of tales of urban decay and angst – jaunts to unexpected and unexplained kingdoms – holidays and excursions to strange and unnerving destinations. A familiar earth that's slightly skewed – or maybe never was. This is a collection of journeys of the imagination from some of the best authors in modern Slipstream, SF, Fantasy and Horror.
A REVIEW OF WHERE ARE WE GOING? (EDITED BY ALLEN ASHLEY)
Where Are We Going? is a fascinating collection of stories about different kind of journeys (the journeys range from psychological journeys to actual journeys). The stories take place in the present time and in the near future.
It's a novel and ambitious idea to create this kind of an anthology. It was interesting to read about what can happen on our planet and what kind of mysteries are possible on our planet. Each story is unique and shows the reader a glimpse of a different kind of world.
Here's a bit of information and my thoughts about the stories (I don't want to reveal too many details about them, so I'll only write something about each story):
Dead Countries by Gary Budgen
- Francis is fascinated by an unknown country called Quassia. Eric (Francis' friend) gets stamps etc from Quassia.
- Eric's letters to Francis are interesting, because he tells lots of things about Quassia.
A Faraway City by Joel Lane
- Kathy, who lives with Steven, has bad and weird dreams. She finds out something about Steve and begins to investigate things.
- This is an interesting story about Kathy's life and how it changes.
- I enjoyed the way the author wrote about Kathy's suspicions and life.
The Way the World Works by Ian Sales
- Cavendish is a plasma physicist and US Navy wants his help. He is taken to the bottom of the Pacific.
- What Cavendish sees in the bottom of the ocean is unbelievable.
- This story reminded me a bit of Jules Verne's stories.
A Guide to Surviving Malabar by Ian Shoebridge
- Cole visits an island called Malabar, which can be a dangerous place for tourists.
- Cole's holiday in Malabar turns out to be a bit different kind of a holiday.
The Human Map by Andrew Hook
- This is an interesting story about the main character's journey from place to place, but the journey isn't a normal journey.
- A well written story.
Journey to the Engine of the Earth by Terry Grimwood
- Visitor select a few persons to find the Engine of Earth. The search takes The Visitors and their human teams to worst possible places.
- An interesting science fiction story.
The Discord of Being by Alison J. Littlewood
- A story about Emma who visits her father in Morocco.
- Emma finds out that her mother's grave was disturbed.
- A beautifully written story.
Xana-La by Stephen Palmer
- Pharaday is a member of Suicide Club. He wants to visit a deadly place called Xana-La (Franclin becomes his assistant).
- An interesting and well written adventure story, which reminded me a bit of good old-fashioned adventure stories.
At the Rail by Andrew Coburn
- A well written story about persons who travel aboard a ship.
- A beautiful and fascinating story, which explores several things (e.g. cultural things and family life) in an interesting way.
The Bridge by A. J. Kirby
- A bit different kind of a story about a guy who has a knife in his hands and wonders about things. He's also connected to a guy called Benni, but this connection is revealed at the end of the story.
- This story was captivating from start to finish.
The Chain by Frank Roger
- An interesting story about events, which are connected to each other.
- The author wrote fluently about the events and characters.
Our Island by Ralph Robert Moore
- A fascinating story about an island and its inhabitants. The events take place in the future.
- The author wrote wonderfully about a postapocalyptical society and its customs.
Underpass by Daniella Geary
- A group of children goes into a tunnel.
- The children have learned to take care of themselves (they had to grow up early).
- An atmospherical story about a tunnel adventure.
Overnight Bus by Marion Pitman
- The main character of this story waits for a bus, which goes to Kimberley.
- It was interesting to read about the journey of the main character.
Wake with the Light by Jet McDonald
- A fantastic story about unemployed Dave who lives in Portsmouth.
- The author wrote interestingly about Dave's life and feelings.
Future Prospects (poem) by Geoff Stevens
- A nice poem.
Entanglement by Douglas Thompson
- An excellent science fiction story about a man who visits a planet called Somnos.
- It was interesting to read how the main character stayed on Earth, but was able to visit distant places with the help of new technology.
All the stories in this anthology are intelligent and fascinating stories, so it's a bit difficult to choose my favourite stories. I liked all of them, because in my opinion there's no filler material in this anthology. If I had to choose my favourite story, it would probably be Douglas Thompson's Entanglement, but in this case it isn't fair to put one story above others.
The surreal nature of these stories intrigued me, because I'm fascinated by well written surreal and weird stories. Surrealism creates a nice atmosphere and when the author knows how to move the story along, reading a surreal story is fantastic. Surrealism can be called a form of speculative fiction, although not all surreal stories are speculative fiction.
I was also positively surprised by how fluently some of the authors wrote about urban decay and angst. Writing about urban decay and angst isn't easy, because I've noticed that some authors tend to exaggerate certain things, but in this anthology the authors seemed to know what they're writing about. All the details were accurate enough to create an unsettling atmosphere and surreal elements added depth to the happenings.
When the editor began to work on this anthology, he gave guidelines to the writers. He mentioned several classics, including Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucker and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Some authors have written stories in the vein of these classics, but others have chosen a different path. I think it's good that this anthology contains stories which differ from each other in several ways, because this kind of diversity makes this anthology interesting - if all the stories were similar, the result would be totally different.
The stories range from mainstream to speculative fiction. The speculative fiction elements aren't very noticeable in certain stories, but in other stories they're easy to find. For example, Douglas Thompson's Entanglement is clearly science fiction, but Marion Pitman's Overnight Bus is a different kind of a story.
These intelligent stories will easily capture the heart and mind of an intelligent reader. However, if the reader isn't used to reading speculative fiction, these stories may feel strange, because there are plenty of surreal elements in them. It's possible that surrealism may bother some readers, but readers who are used to unexplained phenomenons and happenings will love these stories.
The happenings take place in different locations from tunnels and islands to urban streets and unknown lands. For example, Dead Countries is a story about an uknown country called Quassia, Our Island is a postapocalyptical story, The Way the World Works shows the reader what happens at the bottom of the Pacific and Entanglement is a story about a man whose body is on Earth, but his mind is elsewhere.
The happenings are often unpredictable, but strangely compelling. The authors describe different locations surprisingly well and even give the reader a chance to use his/her own imagination to envision how certain locations look, because everything isn't always revealed to the reader.
What I like most about these stories is that they are carefully and intensely written stories. The authors have written beautiful, harsh, touching and imaginative stories about different things. I also liked the complex structure of the stories (for example Andrew Coburn's At the Rail is a finely crafted story).
The editor mentions in the introduction that themed anthologies play "an increasingly important role in preserving, continuing and extending the function of the short story as an essential part of our literary culture". I agree with him, because themed anthologies can be used to publish new and exciting stories, which would probably otherwise never be published. Writing about a predefined subject may also be easy for an author, because all he/she has to do is use imagination to create a compelling story.
By the way, it was nice that the editor had added brief biographies of the authors to the end of the book.
I can recommend Where Are We Going? to readers who are interested in a bit different kind of speculative fiction. This anthology can also be recommended to readers who want to read intelligent and thought-provoking stories. Some of the stories are emotionally compelling stories and they will definitely appeal to readers who enjoy reading literary prose.
Where Are We Going? is without a doubt one of the best anthologies of 2012. There should be more anthologies like this, because it's a pleasure to read intelligent and beautifully written speculative fiction, which gives readers a chance to think about different kind of things.