Aftermath, ed. Jan Bee Landman. Issue 2 (2020). Online at aftermathmag.org.
Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
In addition to articles, essays and opinion on the subjects of climate change and environmental degradation, Aftermath publishes the results of an annual short story contest titled “The End of Our World.” The second installment contains the three winners of the 2020 contest (who shared $1400 in prize money), plus seven honorable mentions. The overarching theme of these stories, as one might expect from what is effectively an activism site, is pessimistic environmental fiction—ranging from desperate realism to post-apocalyptic terror. You’ll find no solarpunk or eco-topia stories in this volume. Additionally the stories tend toward the literary rather than genre aesthetic, meaning there is a lot of grim introspection, unreliable or unsympathetic narration, hopelessness is much more likely than derring-do action, and happy endings would be considered downright gauche (which is not to say that many of the endings of this type of story are not powerful and even satisfying). One recalls the argument that “Climate Fiction” is not science fiction, and—much as I like to disagree with almost any statement in the form “X is not SF”—from the point of view of genre aesthetic, this collection indicates there is some truth to it.