What better time to reflect on the many faces of dystopia than during this season of forced cheer and celebratory masks? That's why we're reading io9 podcast host John Joseph Adams' latest anthology, Brave New Worlds. Here's an excerpt.
John's put up a website where you can learn more about the book, as well as reading a handful of stories from it.
And here's the first section of Tobias Buckell's story "Resistance," just to get you started:
Four days after the coup Stanuel was ordered to fake an airlock pass. The next day he waited inside a cramped equipment locker large enough to hold two people while an armed rover the size and shape of a helmet wafted around the room, twisting and counter-rotating pieces of itself as it scanned the room briefly. Stanuel held his breath and willed himself not to move or make a sound. He just floated in place, thankful for the lack of gravity that might have betrayed him had he needed to depend on locked, nervous muscles.
The rover gave up and returned to the corridor, the airlock door closing behind it. Stanuel slipped back out. The rover had missed him because he'd been fully suited up for vacuum. No heat signature.
Behind the rover's lenses had been the eyes of Pan. And since the coup, anyone knew better than to get noticed by Pan. Even the airlock pass cut it too close. He would disappear when Pan's distributed networks noticed what he'd done.
By then, Pan would not be a problem.
Stanuel checked his suit over again, then cycled the airlock out. The outer door split in two and pulled apart.
But where was the man Stanuel was supposed to bring in?
He realized there was an inky blackness in the space just outside the ring of the lock. A blotch that grew larger, and then tumbled in. The suit flickered, and turned a dull gray to match the general interior color of the airlock.
The person stood up, and Stanuel repressurized the airlock.
They waited as Stanuel snapped seals and took his own helmet off. He hung the suit up in the locker he'd just been hiding in. "We have to hurry, we only have about ten minutes before the next rover patrol."
Behind him, Stanuel heard crinkling and crunching. When he turned around the spacesuit had disappeared. He now faced a tall man with dark skin and long dreadlocks past his shoulders, and eyes as gray as the bench behind him. The spacesuit had turned into a long, black trench-coat. "Rovers?" the man asked.
Stanuel held his hand up and glyphed a 3-D picture in the air above his palm. The man looked at the rover spin and twist and shoot. "Originally they were station maintenance bots. Semi-autonomous remote operated vehicles. Now they're armed."
"I see." The man pulled a large backpack off his shoulders and unzipped it.
"So… what now?" Stanuel asked.
The gray eyes flicked up from the pack. "You don't know?"
"I'm part of a cell. But we run distributed tasks, only checking it with people who assign them. It keeps us insulated. I was only told to open this airlock and let you in. You would know what comes next. Is the attack tonight? Should I get armed? Are you helping the attack?"
The man opened the pack all the way to reveal a small arsenal of guns, grenades, explosives, and-oddly-knives. Very large knives. He looked up at Stanuel. "I am the attack. I've been asked to shut Pan down."
"But you're not a programmer…"
"I can do all things through explosives, who destroy for me." The man began moving the contents of the pack inside the pockets and straps of the trenchcoat, clipped more to his belt and thigh, as well as to holsters under each arm, and then added pieces to his ankles.
He was now a walking arsenal.
But only half the pack had been emptied. The mysterious mercenary tossed it at Stanuel. "Besides, you're going to help."
Stanuel coughed. "Me?"
"According to the resistance message, you're a maintenance manager, recently promoted. You still know all the sewer lines, access ducts, and holes required to get me to the tower. How long do you guess we have before it notices your unauthorized use of an airlock?"
"An hour," Stanuel said. The last time he'd accidentally gone somewhere Pan didn't like, rovers had been in his office within an hour.
"And can we get to the tower within an hour, Stanuel, without being noticed?"
The large, well-armed man pointed at the airlock door into the corridor. "Well, let's not dally."
"Can I ask you something?" Stanuel asked.
"Your name. You know mine. I don't know yours."
"Pepper," said the mercenary. "Now can we leave?"
You can read the rest of this incredible story here, and check out more free fiction available as teasers for the anthology Brave New Worlds.
This is a quick description of the anthology:
When the government wields its power against its own people, every citizen becomes an enemy of the state. Will you fight the system, or be ground to dust beneath the boot of tyranny?
In his smash-hit anthologies Wastelands and The Living Dead, acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams showed you what happens when society is utterly wiped away. Now he brings you a glimpse into an equally terrifying future - what happens when civilization invades and dictates every aspect of your life? From 1984 to The Handmaid's Tale, from Children of Men to Bioshock, the dystopian imagination has been a vital and gripping cautionary force. Brave New Worlds collects 33 of the best tales of totalitarian menace by some of today's most visionary writers.