Future Washington: An Anthology of Futuristic City Tales
edited by Ernest Lilley
Washington, D.C.: WSFA Press, 2005
by Colleen R. Cahill
Those of us who live in Washington D.C. often feel there is a sameness to the town: the monuments are always there, Congress and the Federal government ever dominate the area and the tourists are with us forever. In a new anthology edited by Ernest Lilley and published by the Washington Science Fiction Association Press, fifteen stories take us to a D.C. that might be, with visions both light and dark, containing destruction, growth, humor and serious thought.
The book begins with the fun and insightful work Mr. Zmith Goes to Washington, by Stephen Sawicki, whose aliens are perhaps more confusing than Congress and certainly more entertaining. Equally humorous is Brenda Clough’s Indiana Wants Me, with a tale of a witch whose sideline of real estate is sinking as the Federal government moves out to Indianapolis (a city which, by the way, is based on L’Enfant’s plan of DC … and it also is in a swamp). For those of you who have driven through Washington, Nancy Jane Moore’s Hallowe’en Party will make you glad that the directions to this event are in the future, although its easy to believe it will not be too far in the future. For a complete view of the city, past and future, read Jane Lindskold’s Tigers in the Capital, which has a wonderful history of DC with the city as the narrator, one that speaks its mind of what was done to it and where it would like to go.
Not all the stories are as upbeat as those already mentioned. Several have a dystopia feeling, as Civil Disobedience by Joe Haldeman, which centers on a the flooding of DC by a combination of global warming and terrorist action. Thomas Harlan’s Hothouse also deals with a DC mostly underwater and the very different landscape in Arlington. In Jack McDevitt’s Ignition, an archeology dig in the ruins of a famous monument by a far future theocracy shows the power of words, even those from ages past. Perhaps the darkest future presented is that of Allen M. Steele, whose Hail to the Chief takes on both Democrats and Republicans in a post-apocalyptic vision.
The possible futures in this book highlight the many talents of the contributors. From the lovers separated by politics in Cory Doctorow’s Human Readable to Kim Stanley Robinson’s changed National Zoo in Primate in Forest to Sean McCullen’s interesting conquest of the aliens by Washington in The Empire of the Willing, these are cityscapes that are as original as they are familiar.
Whether the US government is alive and well, transformed by time or a distant memory, all the stories include a hint of the D.C. of today, making this a book for those of us who have lived or currently live in or near the city. It is the great writing and interesting visions of the future that make this a work for any who enjoys good reading.