Cover Image: A People's Future of the United States

A People's Future of the United States

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book is well-paired with the classic Zinn book A People's History of the United States, and offers a vision of hope, conviction, and resolve for the future of America. The multitude of voices that come together in this collection of essays elevates its power, and offers readers a chorus of inspiring and simultaneously challenging perspectives on what is to come in the United States.
Was this review helpful?
The book includes a great range of authors, and many of the stories are excellent. I enjoyed learning about some authors who were new to me, and would use some of these stories in the classroom.
Was this review helpful?
I could not be more grateful for this resource. A People' Future of the United States is an exceptional attempt at looking at how our current choices will affect the America of tomorrow. Could be a good school resource.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories.  Some of these stories seemed like they really could happen in the very near future. My favorite stories were probably The Bookstore at the End of America (where a bookstore is in the DMZ of America, after California breaks away) and Read After Burning (in an America where reading is prohibited so a group of "librarians" write stories on themselves to keep them alive, and are cremated when they die).  Really thoughtful stories.  I received this book via Netgalley in return for an honest opinion.
Was this review helpful?
This anthology was pretty middle of the road for me. I definitely didn't hate it, but there also wasn't much within its pages that wowed me either. 

It's possible that my timing in reading this was very, very bad. Reading these stories against the current backdrop of the pandemic, with the political situation being extremely fraught, amidst the BLM protests...many of these stories didn't feel quite as speculative as they should have. So it's possible that this contributed to a bit of the burn-out feeling I had by the time I got to the end of this collection. As I said, this collection definitely isn't bad, but most of the stories were a tepid 3 stars for me. There were a few standouts though, notably from Tananarive Due, Omar El Akkad and N.K. Jemisin. With Due and Jemisin, this was my first time reading their writing, and their stories have definitely left me eager to get to their novels I've got on my shelves. 

Despite not absolutely loving this collection, I do think it's worth a read. The stories within are certainly timely, and there are several gems that make the collection worthwhile.
Was this review helpful?
This is an interesting collection of short stories that re-imagine the United States if certain situations happened or continued down a certain pathway. This was a great collection of dystopian and science fiction stories by a terrific group of authors. It is a wonderful mixture of authors and it is thought provoking in its stories. 
Well done collection.
#Netgalley #APeoplesFutureoftheUnitedStates #RandomHousePublishingGroup #OneWorld
Was this review helpful?
This is such a harrowingly hopeful and hopefully harrowing set of short stories. Each one has a unique take on what the future holds in the U.S., especially given certain policies and attitudes enacted and enforced since 2016.

From a bookstore as a strange middle ground, more contemporary imaginings, and what A.I. will bring, there's a lot of rage and a lot of hope to be found here. Stories in which communities come together, main characters worried for their friends, main characters trying to save their little corner of the world, and those trying to imagine better in a world where things haven gotten worse.
Was this review helpful?
These collected science fiction short stories from today's masters use The People's History of the United States as a jumping-off point. Using science fiction we can imagine our past and present continuing onto its present course into a horrifying future. It's the ghost of Christmas Future warning us of what's to come if we don't change our ways. Works by some of the best minds in science fiction are included, N K Jemisin, Charles Yu, and more. We look into our terrifying, comical, and in some cases hopeful future. Peppered with our own reality science fiction can be a lesson in what not to do. Here we have numerous examples of how we need to look into the mirror and see what we have become and what will happen if we don't change our ways.
Was this review helpful?
This is such a weird and interesting collection of short stories.  I loved this Ebook and bought to hard copy for my shelf.  I love that it includes so many of today's best writers and a variety of interests and backgrounds.
Was this review helpful?
I mean ... this ain't no light and fluffy short story collection like "Robots vs. Fairies," and I absolutely *loved* "Robots vs. Fairies." This is hard-hitting, no-holds-barred science fiction, fantasy, and science fantasy. It's the wokest, bleakest, most ferociously optimistic collection to emerge from these years of anger and uncertainty. I recently read Kameron Hurley's "Meet Me in the Future," and this reminds me of that, only instead of one author's hopes and dreams crammed into a couple of hundred pages, this is more than twenty authors each packing all those same hopes and dreams into ... well, quite a few fewer pages. Each, I mean. In any case, no matter what else it's talking to, I freakin' *adore* "A People's Future of the United States" and continue to think it's one of the strongest works of the year, despite all of the fantastic company it's now among.

The collection opens with a powerful roundhouse kick to the emotional gut courtesy of Charlie Jane Anders, "The Bookstore at the End of America." It concludes with a brain-bending, timey-wimey piece by Alice Sola Kim, "Now Wait for This Week." And several of my absolute favorite SFF authors, including the delightful Maria Dahvana Headley, Malka Older, Omar El Akkad, NK Jemison, and Seanan McGuire all feature in the middle. Some of the stories I expected to love and did, including Jemison's "Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death" (see also Jemison's great new collection, "How Long 'til Black Future Month?"). Others have unexpectedly stuck with me, despite my lack of familiarity with the authors: Tananarive Due's "Attachment Disorder," Tobias S. Buckell's "The Blindfold," and Daniel H. Wilson's "A History of Barbed Wire" among them. There's a good mix of authors represented here, so readers are almost guaranteed to find both tried-and-true favorites as well as a number of new discoveries to enrich their bookshelves in the future.

But I? For one? I'll be coming back to this collection because it haunts me.
Was this review helpful?
A collection of short stories themed around the ideals of Howard Zinn's legendary A People’s History of the United States – history told from the viewpoint of the disadvantaged – except that this time it's, you know, the future and also fictional. Honestly I picked this up mostly because LaValle was one of the editors and after his The Ballad of Black Tom I will forever read anything LaValle is involved in. Unfortunately it turns out that he didn't write any of the stories here. Oh, well. His introduction was good?

The stories themselves varied in quality, as anthologies tend to do. Though in this case the stories I disliked outnumbered the ones I did; there's nothing exactly bad in this collection, but there are quite a few stories indistinguishable from the sort of extremely earnest tumblr posts in which the good people are Very Good and Very Oppressed and the villains are Very Bigoted and Very Mean and after some struggles Our Heroes are recognized as Beacons of Pure shining Innocent Goodness and probably the crowd applauds. And, I mean... bigots and oppression are bad! I'm happy to see villains get their comeuppance! It's just that I'd like it even better if everything could be a little less one-dimensional and boring. 

Thankfully not every story was quite so checkbox-woke. Let me tell you about the ones I did enjoy:

The Wall by Lizz Huerta. Brujas are real and are being born in increasing numbers, as humanity's instinctive attempt to heal itself after catastrophic climate change and chemical pollution. They are mostly present in Mexico, which leads to Americans smuggling themselves south (which, yes, very clever, but if it was a plot point in a Roland Emmerich movie 15 years ago, it's not exactly the cutting edge of political satire). The US government obviously does not approve, so it doses its entire military with obedience-drugs in the drinking water to force them to commit war crimes. In this setting, Ivette (a bruja) has a secret relationship with her cousin Surem (the leader of a violent drug cartel which has also taken over running large portions of the local government), and between bouts of sex they fight about the ethics of rehabilitating mind-controlled US soldiers. This is all fascinating and some incredible world-building! Unfortunately it desperately needed to be at least an entire book, or maybe even a series of books, and not crammed into six pages. Hopefully someday Huerta will write the longer version.

Chapter 5: Disruption and Continuity [excerpted] by Malka Older is a fascinating experiment in style, supposedly an academic article on "futurist histories" (apparently histories of potential but not yet realized futures?), focusing on a twitter community's experiment with grassroots democracy. I have absolutely spent enough time online to laugh in recognition at the group's troubles, although the odd mix of tenses required by the very idea of futurist history occasionally made getting through individual sentences a slog.

It Was Saturday Night, I Guess That Makes It All Right by Sam J. Miller. Caul is a gay man in an America where being gay is incredibly illegal. Caul also has an intense crush on his coworker, which he represses via anonymous street sex. Unfortunately, in one of these encounters Caul catches a metaphysical STD in which sex transports him to a terrifying alternative dimension, but one where he might be able to control a great deal of power. Homophobic dystopias aren't a new concept (and show up repeatedly in A People's Future of the United States), but Miller's writing was vivid and specific enough to make this my favorite of the several examples here. 

Riverbed by Omar El Akkad. The US government imprisons all of its Muslim (and Sikh, due to confusion) citizens in camps – in what is a quite clear allusion to the Japanese internment camps – supposedly to protect them from racist attacks. Decades later, Khadija Singh returns to the camp where she was imprisoned as a child (which has since been turned into a peace memorial; Akkad's portrayal of this is wonderfully cynical) to claim the belongings of her brother who died in an escape attempt. Her grief and rage, and the incompetent bureaucracy she has to face, are all incredibly well-written. 

Calendar Girls by Justine Ireland. All forms of birth-control have been made illegal, so Alyssa (a teenager, since you can't try minors as an adult) sells packets of The Pill on a street corner in Manhattan. That is, she does until a leading pro-life senator blackmails her into helping his daughter get an abortion, because hypocrisy reigns eternal. Calendar Girls promptly transforms itself into a very clever heist story, and I loved Ireland's sense of humor in the narration.

The Blindfold by Tobias S Bucknell. It's well-known that race and gender influences jurors – a black man is more likely to receive a longer sentence for a crime than a white man, all other factors being equal. How to fix this? Force jurors to wear headsets that randomize the defendant's appearance, of course! The unnamed narrator is a hacker who, for the right amount of money, will make sure that in your case, you get that sweet, sweet jackpot of "white male" appearance. Unfortunately, his latest bout of hacking attracts the attention of the Russian government, which promptly begins trying to assassinate him. Bucknell's writing is funny and quick-paced and has a great twist of an ending. 

Good News Bad News by Charles Yu. This isn't even really a short story so much as a series of excerpts from sci-fi themed articles from The Onion, but it made me laugh harder than anything else in A People's Future of the United States, so who cares. Excerpts:
An earlier edition of this story quoted Jeff Bezos as CEO of AmazonGoogleFace. Technically, the quote should be attributed to “Jeff Bezos Version 3, LLC, an incorporeal person organized under the laws of Delaware” as the legal heir and cognitive descendant of the human known as Jeff Bezos.
These latest changes to the tax code, expected to disproportionately benefit the largest and wealthiest corporations, were passed by the R-Bot in a 1–1 vote against the D-Bot in the Robo-Congress-O-Matic 5000, with the tie being broken by the tie-breaking algorithm, all of this taking place, as usual, inside a four-foot-by-three-foot black box inside of the U.S. protectorate satellite in geosynchronous orbit above Washington, D.C.
“We’ve long been silent in the face of unspeakable acts. Deforestation. Clear-cutting. Toxins in the soil,” said Eondo’or, an eighty-foot, six-hundred-year-old redwood and senior representative to the U.N. for Kingdom Plantae. “Not to mention getting peed on by drunk people.

Now Wait for This Week by Alice Sola Kim. Bonnie, a self-centered rich white girl with a habit of victim-blaming who lives in present-day NYC, gets trapped in a time-loop, doomed to repeat the same week over and over again, ad infinitum. Bonnie reacts to this in various hilarious and/or tragic ways: attempting to go viral by predicting the future (at least seven days of it), starting a dark magic cult, learning new languages and traveling, denouncing all her friends, becoming much closer to all her friends, aging a terrifyingly unknown amount. Now Wait for This Week, however, is actually narrated by Bonnie's roommate, who has no idea that she and everyone else on Earth are trapped in the same week, and just occasionally thinks to herself, "huh, Bonnie seems different today". It's all a metaphor for the #MeToo movement ("the actor many of us loved would be revealed as a leering terrible date who expected sex as his due and took no for an answer only temporarily before starting up the sex stuff yet again until he took no for an answer only temporarily and so on until the woman gave up."), but is also just a fantastic conceit written fantastically well. It was BY FAR my favorite story in the book, so good job ending on a winner, A People's Future of the United States!

Anthologies of Resistance-themed speculative fiction have been something of a wave this year (just on my own bookshelf, there's also New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color and How Long 'til Black Future Month?). Which is great! But given that we have available such a diversity of options, I would recommend pushing A People's Future of the United States to the bottom of your reading list. It's just too uneven with too frequent annoying stories. Plus, hey, you can read Now Wait for This Week online! So why bother with the rest?
Was this review helpful?
I'm a political scientist and I love science fiction, so in some ways A People's Future of the United States was right up my alley. This is a collection of short stories by progressive science fiction authors about possible visions for America's future. Some of the stories are more literal extrapolations of present trends into the future. Others try to show how our future could be different - for better or worse. A few work more on a thematic or symbolic level than a literal level. 

As I mentioned, these are progressive science fiction authors. The futures imagined in this book all fall along the same political ideology. You won't find libertarians in the vein of Robert Heinlein in this book. These stories don't use subtle analogies to try to introduce new points of view or challenge preexisting biases. Rather, they're bold proclamations about our political future. They're more about inspiring those who already agree rather than persuading those who don't. I certainly don't say that as a criticism, but rather to note that the book will likely appeal most to certain kinds of readers. 

I hope this isn't the last book of its kind. I love the idea of science fiction authors engaging in more (overtly) political storytelling.
Was this review helpful?
I was genuinely looking forward to reading this collection of dystopian  stories but overall I was quite disappointed. I love dystopian science fiction so I was eager to request this book. However,  this book was basically a leftist propaganda book disguised as dystopian literature and focused on every cliched trope the media throws out about the current White House administration.  This collection basically built off basic fears that are perpetrated by social media and media in general. I expected the book to have a leftist tinge but I didn't except the stories to be unoriginal, and basic.   A few of the authors presented decent enjoyable stories but I certainly wouldn't put this collection on my top list of 2019. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Was this review helpful?
I immediately bought a copy of this book after reading several of the chapters. This is a fantastic overview of what today's greatest thinkers have in store for us and for the world!
Was this review helpful?
Thanks NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review. 
Fans of speculative fiction will find many stories here that are engrossing and can be dived into. All collections are hit or miss for me based on my personal style, but I was thrilled to get to read more from Lesley Nneka Arimah and that alone made this collection worth reading!
Was this review helpful?
Excerpt of my review at B&N:
A People’s Future of the United States is a memorable and thought-provoking. Its writers paint vivid, often frightening visions of the futures we might be hurtling toward, and give us hope that the worst of them can be resisted, or at the very least, survived. To quote Maria Dahvana Headley’s “Read After Burning”: “This story is the prayer, or one of them. This story says you can live through anything and that when it is time to go, when the entire world goes dark, then you go together, holding on to one another’s hands, and you whisper the memory of birds and bees and the names of those you loved.”
Was this review helpful?
If you're wondering how the future could get worse because of the current US administration, the 25 speculative works in this new anthology provide some plausible scenarios. [...] Together, these futures show aspects of dystopia and utopia, oppression and resistance, despair and hope, fight and flight, fragility and resilience, enemies external and internal, personal struggled and social movements — in short, all the mess and the magic that has always made up human existence. Mostly, they show us what we, the people of the United States, could become if we continue down certain extreme and damaging trajectories. At the same time, they also make us question who we are as a people today and how we're responsible for such possible futures. (see the link for the full published review.)
Was this review helpful?
A PEOPLE'S FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES edited by Victor Lavalle and John Joseph Adams contains "Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers."  And many of the contributors are indeed award winners and easily recognizable for their longer fiction, such as Charlie Jane Anders (All the Birds in the Sky) to Gabby Rivera (Juliet Takes a Breath) to Daniel H. Wilson (The Clockwork Dynasty).   Several of the stories are over 20 pages and they all respond to a prompt asking the writers to explore new forms of freedom, love, and justice in new futures.   

In his "No Algorithms in the World" Hugh Howey, for example, writes about a world with guaranteed personal income and the tension between generations over the definition of work.  It is a society where "data" collection and manipulation can have a stultifying effect: "It's like the time my wife and I found out we were having a kid because of new food combos she was grabbing out of the pantry and fridge. Our house just up and bought flowers one day to congratulate us."  The subsequent selection, "Esperanto" by Jamie Ford, explores the concept of beauty – whether machine generated or more natural with all of its imperfections.   

These tales of human-machine interface (inter-dependence?) are eerily similar to societal changes that Kate Klonick reflects upon in "'Creepy' Assignment: Pay Attention to What Strangers Reveal in Public" in this week's New York Times. I wonder what other connections our students would make?  A PEOPLE'S FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES received starred reviews from both Booklist and Publishers Weekly. 

Link in live post:
Was this review helpful?
February saw the release of A People’s Future of the United States, an anthology of resistance and hope that’s edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams and features big names such as Charlie Jane Anders, Hugh Howey, N. K. Jemisin, Sam J. Miller, and Catherynne M. Valente. The anthology is filled with great work, and in particular I want to spotlight “Riverbed” by Omar El Akkad and “Harmony” by Seanan McGuire. I could easily rave about A People’s Future of the United States for the rest of this review, but I also want to spotlight some other great new stories by less well-known authors.

In February, Nightmare Magazine published “58 Rules to Ensure Your Husband Loves You Forever” by Rafeeat Aliyu, a creative and disturbing take on zombies that powerfully comments on toxic social norms around marriage. This piece is dark and disturbing, so it won’t be for everyone, but if you like horror, I highly recommend it. I also enjoyed “This Wine-Dark Feeling That Isn’t The Blues” by José Pablo Iriarte, which appears in Escape Pod. It’s a short and surprising story about love, grief, and simulated realities. Lastly, I loved “Ti-Jean’s Last Adventure, as Told to Raccoon” by KT Bryski, which appears in Lightspeed Magazine. It’s a very Canadian story that’s equal parts fun folklore and serious cultural critique.

Cover of A People's Future of the United States
“Riverbed” by Omar El Akkad

This story has a split narrative. In the main storyline, Khadija Singh returns to Billings to visit the internment-camp-made-museum where she and her family were interned during her youth. The museum is about to formally open to the public, and the director is happy to welcome Khadija. Khadija doesn’t give a damn about the museum; she’s just there to collect her brother’s things. She insists on her status and respect, which makes her come across as rude, even though a white man acting that way wouldn’t be looked at twice. The main storyline is interrupted by flashbacks to Khadija’s youth, a time when the US government was interning Muslims and Arabs and constructing a wall along its southern border.

This story is bitter, incisive, and full of smart, sharp punches. The internment camps are hauntingly real, as is the US’s half-assed attempt to move on and learn from its mistakes. The museum feels like a gaudy, prideful thing, and Khadija’s and the museum director’s interactions highlight how deeply ingrained racism is in America. The story is somewhat hopeful, since it imagines the US recovering after a convulsion of racism, but El Akkad doesn’t let his audience off easy, as the story also critiques how thin the patina of progress truly is.
“Harmony” by Seanan McGuire

Many of the stories in A People’s Future of the United States feature a totalitarian, conservative government or a country that’s already fallen apart. That isn’t the case here. In McGuire’s story, equality is demanded by law (at least nominally) and prejudice operates more insidiously.

Miriam and Nan live in Beaverton, Oregon. On paper, it’s a charming, accepting place, but as lesbian and bisexual women, that’s not been their experience.

    It was a nice place to raise a family. That was what all the advertising said. Move to Beaverton and start that happy little nuclear unit you’d been dreaming of since you broke off from the one that bore you. Find a husband, find a wife, find one of each, find someone who was neither but who nonetheless wanted to raise children by your side, file the forms and settle down, content in the knowledge that you’d be giving those little tykes exactly the kind of warm, nurturing family environment they needed to thrive.

    What none of the advertisements mentioned was how difficult it was to get the licenses to start that family or how straight couples seemed to find their applications approved in half the time it took anyone else.

After Miriam and Nan’s latest application for parenthood is rejected by their homeowner’s association, they need to get away, so they go on a road-trip along the Pacific Coast Highway. On their way home, they stumble upon a curious sign: “Harmony, CA – For Sale.” They’ve found a small, isolated town for sale, which gives Miriam a wild idea: what if they bought it? What if they and some friends pooled their resources, bought the town, left Beaverton, and moved here?

This story is quieter and more peaceful than most of the others in the anthology, but in no way is it less powerful. “Harmony” playfully and intelligently interrogates the American Dream of a nice life in the suburbs and dares to imagine a more loving and just alternative. The story is a joy for how it imagines and celebrates queer family structures and kin networks, and the characters are written realistically and affectionately. In fact, I’d happily read a longer work by McGuire about Miriam, Nan, and the town of Harmony.
cover of Nightmare Magazine

Cover by Grandfailure / Fotolia
“58 Rules to Ensure Your Husband Loves You Forever” by Rafeeat Aliyu

After Iman’s husband cheats on her, Iman decides that she’s willing to use magic to ensure her husband Kevin remains faithful and loves her—and only her—forever. The magic works, but not without side effects: Kevin develops an uncontrollable taste for human flesh, and that’s just the beginning.

This is not an easy read. Aliyu does not shy away from depicting violence, gore, and the disgusting side effects of the magic. The nauseating and disturbing elements are used to great effect though, accentuating the terrible bind Iman finds herself in. She’s torn between the shameful stigmas surrounding divorce and the toxic social pressures telling her to have a conventional, respectable marriage. As the title suggests, the story incorporates rules that good wives should follow, like excerpts from a listicle in a trashy magazine. But as Iman follows those rules—as she does everything a “good wife” should—everything goes wrong, and her life only becomes darker. Her relationship with her husband rots into something dirty and putrid, dehumanizing and terrifying.

In some ways this story pairs well with “Harmony” by Seanan McGuire. (This story being much darker.) Both stories examine marriages, social norms, and what it takes to be happy. In “Harmony,” Miriam and Nan are able to find some happiness by eschewing the normative, supposed-desireable life in the suburbs, whereas in this story, Iman basically brings about her downfall by doing everything she’s “supposed to.”
“This Wine-Dark Feeling That Isn’t The Blues” by José Pablo Iriarte

At 1,600 words, this story is only slightly longer than a piece of flash fiction. It’s a heavy story about love and grief featuring two girls who meet in a recovery center and who each struggle with their own mental/emotional health. It’s also a creative and surprising take on the question: are we living in a simulation? If either of those aspects pique your interest, I highly recommend you check this one out.

Side-note: José Pablo Iriarte’s story “The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births,” which appeared in Lightspeed Magazine in January 2018, was recently announced as a finalist for the Nebula Awards. I reviewed that story back in my first short fiction review for Skiffy and Fanty, and I highly recommend you check it out!
Cover of Lightspeed Magazine

Cover by Grandfailure / Fotolia
“Ti-Jean’s Last Adventure, as Told to Raccoon” by KT Bryski

Wow. I really love this story. It does a couple things that I really like, and it does those really well.

First, it’s a folktale/fable that comments powerfully on real world politics. As Bryski mentions in the accompanying author interview, she wrote this story for Canada’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), and the story wrestles with Canada’s history of settler colonialism and racism in ways that are simultaneously sophisticated and fun.

Second, it’s a framed story in which the narrator tells Raccoon the story of Ti-Jean’s Last Adventure, and Raccoon frequently interrupts the story with interjections that are equally humorous and profound. I love stories that get a little bit meta, that are willing to interrupt themselves. This story does that to tremendous effect.

    “Hold on,” Raccoon says, digging into the takeout boxes. “Snack break.”

    “What are you eating?” I ask.

    “Pork bun. Goat roti. Falafel.”

    “Nothing Canadian?”

    Tahini coats his whiskers. “Tastes Canadian to me.”

As soon as I finished this story, I immediately reread it. On the first read, I was mostly invested in Ti-Jean’s story, although I enjoyed Raccoon’s interjections as well. On the second read, I paid more attention to the interactions between the narrator and the Raccoon, and it gave the story so much more depth and meaning. There’s a fun story on the surface here, and there’s a serious, challenging story one layer beneath. Go read them both.
Was this review helpful?
A fantastic companion piece to "A People's History of the United States." This anthology is truly thought provoking in its ability to have you answer the question "If this, then that."
Cannot wait to add it to my bookshelf, a definite necessity, I was left with an overall hopeful feeling after finishing it.
Was this review helpful?