Metatropolis by John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder
The Dawn of Uncivilization
John Scalzi, editor
John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder joined their talents to create a near future as the world falls apart. These five favorite and award winning authors got together to design this world and its environment, then each wrote a story based on the construct they designed. Each author’s tale is different yet all connect. Metatropolis has another unusual background – it was first written as an audiobook, then was published in print.
Metatropolis starts with Jay Lake’s “In the Forests of the Night”. Cascadia is a region in the northwest American continent. The community is built in the trees by independent people who can be likened to the communal hippies of the 1960s. They accept strangers slowly and guard their perimeter closely. In this story, a man gains entry and tries to take over the people of Cascadia through peace rather than with bombs.
“Stochasti-City” by Tobias Buckell looks at future Detroit. Goods and services are obtained in piecemeal – a person does a small portion of a task for a fee, such as picking up and delivering a package a few blocks away. No one except the contractor knows the whole and no participant can tell the authorities the function of his or her small part. Here we also meet the Eddies, the private police forces cities hire through the Edgewater Corporation.
Elizabeth Bear moves to the outskirts of Detroit in “The Red in the Sky Is Our Blood”. A woman hiding out from her abusive husband is pulled into a different sort of enclave. The members are part of a personal co-op that can only grow so large before it is split in two. Each enclave is self sustaining and self protecting.
While the first stories are in regions that are no longer cities, John Scalzi instead wrote a story that takes place inside one of the walled off cities. In “Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis” the citizens of St. Louis have a near zero footprint environmentally. They are partnered with other walled cities around the world. But outside of the wall the residents of the suburbs are rebelling.
Karl Schroeder finishes this collection with “To Hie from Far Celenia”. Schroeder moves from the real world into virtual worlds that are as populated and effective as the material world. There is an investigation for stolen plutonium that leads the investigator from Sweden into subcultures that are off the grid and in the online worlds.
Each of these stories could be right around the Earth’s future corner. They deal with dwindling resources and population growth. They deal with terrorism and mass destruction as people try survive and make a life for themselves. There are excellent readers bringing the author’s word to audio life. There is more to explore here, and more stories have come along with more to follow, I’m sure.
Metatropolis is fascinating and imaginative and wonderment and unsettling and eerie and humorous and poignant. This future may be near. It’s a definite possibility. And it provides great stories.