Teens form an all-girl band in the face of an impending comet.
A woman faces giant spiders to collect silk and protect her family.
New friends take their radio show on the road in search of plague survivors.
A man seeks love in a fading world.
How would you survive the apocalypse?
Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive -- it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost.
In stories of fear, hope and survival, this anthology gives new perspectives on the end of the world, from authors Corinne Duyvis, Janet Edwards, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Gunn, Elinor Caiman Sands, Rivqa Rafael, Bogi Takács, John Chu, Maree Kimberley, Octavia Cade, Lauren E Mitchell, Thoraiya Dyer, Samantha Rich, and K Evangelista.
Table of Contents
And the Rest of Us Wait by Corinne Duyvis To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath by Stephanie Gunn Something in the Rain by Seanan McGuire Did We Break the End of the World? by Tansy Rayner Roberts In the Sky with Diamonds by Elinor Caiman Sands Two Somebodies Go Hunting by Rivqa Rafael Given Sufficient Desperation by Bogi Takács Selected Afterimages of the Fading by John Chu Five Thousand Squares by Maree Kimberley Portobello Blind by Octavia Cade Tea Party by Lauren E Mitchell Giant by Thoraiya Dyer Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel by Samantha Rich No Shit by K Evangelista I Will Remember You by Janet Edwards
This book, folks. This book. Just the premise is fantastic: every story features a character with a disability / chronic illness facing the apocalypse. The execution, though? Almost flawless. There were maybe two stories I didn't really love, and that was probably a matter of taste. The issues, the characters, the details of the apocalypse--so varied, so well done, and so thought-provoking. There was diversity in ability, in race, gender, culture, and each story just sucks you in with all its intricacy and beauty. I don't really have anything else to say. Read this. You won't regret it.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It was an absolute delight to read. The writing, range of disabilities featured, and creativity of each author's post-apocalyptic scenario made every story feel unique and fresh.
This anthology was funded by a pozible campaign that was launched Swancon Easter weekend 2015, and delivered a few weeks and a year later in May 2016.
"And the Rest of Us Wait" by Corinne Duyvis
This short story goes hand in hand with Corinne's latest book that came out in March, On the Edge of Gone. Iveta is famous for a talent show she once appeared on, however she's just like everyone else when a comet is set on destroying the earth, and Iveta and her family join countless others in a refugee centre to wait it out.
There are generation ships and shelters which offer more permanent solutions, but not everyone has been granted access. As if life isn't hard enough, Iveta has a slew of medical requirements that certainly make things more dire for her than others as the comet hits, and the temporary shelter faces further issues such as power and ration issues.
We see a range of different reactions. The angry and the uncontrollable, the snippy and resigned, and those who are still hopeful, and think now is a good time to stage a musical act. I mean, it's not like anyone is going anywhere, trapped far underground and slowly running out of air.
This is such a strong opening to the anthology, showcasing a wide variety of topics that are explored both for and against (should people receive 'special' treatment, is it 'special' treatment if the end result ends in truly unfair results, and so forth. 'Otherbound' by Duyvis was also amazing so it's no surprise that this short story is also - if you haven't read her work so far this is a good place to start, and then go and hurry to get her two other novels. You won't be disappointed.
"To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath" by Stephanie Gunn
Jeez, what an opening. A condescending man tells children that God put roses in their lungs as they're too young to understand what cystic fibrosis is. As though they wouldn't be able to explain if someone had taken the time to tell them in a way they could that doesn't result in horrific nightmares, what the hell, man.
The flu has struck Australia, if not the world. Three sisters take care of each other on their family farm, their mother and Bryce now buried. The last broadcast on the emergency channel warned everyone to stay inside and don't leave their houses, but it's been some time since then and they're starting to worry about what to do when their horded medication runs out.
This piece is very emotive - many sentences making me grimace to myself in a mix of horror and sympathy, lines such as 'More than once I've been tempted to slice through the scars, just so I could stretch properly.' Aarrrgh, Aussies, why do you write horror so well even when the piece isn't strictly horror?
"Something in the Rain" by Seanan McGuire
Holly has schizophrenia and autism, has lost her parents and only has her cat for company, and then, as the story progresses, the school bully. Water has turned toxic and dangerous, and rains come each day for a little longer and a little more intense, and you don't want to be caught out in it if you want to survive.
This was an awkward piece - the bully is horrible and I get anxious when any form of media involves pets - I can take all the violence and deaths as you can throw at me (well, I may not enjoy it, but I can keep reading), but as soon as there's the chance something can go wrong to an animal I'm on edge, and I will stop reading/watching if anything happens to them.
This piece I could breath a sigh of relief on. I wanted to punch Cathy and - well, not hug Holly as I doubt she'd appreciate that, but help her in some way in the very least. And now I need to go have a nap to calm down.
"Did We Break the End of the War?" by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Okay well it's not time for a break after all if a favourite author is up next. Jin and Aisha are scavengers in this world that's been torn apart by the Pulse, which knocked out the electricity and left only teenagers. They rarely see others but they are out there, and they avoid them where they can. They go through houses and take what's useful, then trade it with other groups later. Markets are arranged and advertised via graffiti, and this is simply how life is now.
They pick up Billy, a pretty boy who fits well into their well formed duo, and now they specialise in batteries/tech, medication and.... art supplies. That is, until at the next market Jin discovers the other two have been keeping something for him, and that there's a lot more to the Pulse than he's ever given thought to before.
Like all of Tansy's short stories, this one is much bigger than leaving it to this one short. This needs to be a novel.
"In the Sky with Diamonds" by Elinor Caiman Sands
Megan has cerebral palsy, and was implanted with an AI when she was young, who helps her along where possible. Called Jennifer, they are alone on a capsule trying to distract and delay an attacking alien force long enough for a shuttle to get away - a shuttle where her sister Lucy and others are quickly running out of hope.
One of the very few authors I don't think I've experienced before? A few lines made quite an impact - 'I’ll just float here with my eyes shut and see what happens. Maybe I’ll just doze. I’m so sleepy.'
"Two Somebodies Go Hunting" by Rivqa Rafael
Lex and Jeff go out hunting because their dad took off ages ago, and their mum is busy with another child who's ill. Meat is scarce and there's the possibility of bringing back some kangaroo. The hot outback is dangerous enough as it is, and it doesn't help that Lex has a bung leg which means there's some sand dunes simply out of her ability - so what happens if her little brother falls, or runs off? Her little brother who may possibly have autism - there's no diagnoses after the apocalypse.
We're now in a world where children know the names of various bacteria because it's that and things like bird flu which have wiped out the country, to the point there they joke they're an endangered species now. Their trek is surely too tough for their ages, but together and with their knowledge of the land and simply what they need to do to survive, is enough. I loved the interactions between the siblings, and the point we're left at.
"Given Sufficient Desperation" by Bogi Takács
Dyspraxia is what keeps Vera in workrooms, looking at hours and hours of streams of various images as aliens record her response, rather than running away from it all and joining the militants who are trying to fight back against the alien invaders. To communicate with them, the aliens speak to them in voices taken from Hungarian movie stars - Oszkár Gáti—the Hungarian dubbing actor of both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, Artúr Kálid for Will Smith... etc.
This one was the good kind of weird, keeping you reading to figure out what's happening, what's happened, what's going to happen. I certainly understand the need for real sleep, and the tears at the end.
"Selected Afterimages of the Fading" by John Chu
I love how this one starts. 'A row of dumbbells sorted by weight, ranging from pointless to respectable.'
In a world where everything and everyone is fading if you don’t look at it and give it the attention it deserves, a guy with an image disorder struggles with a romance...
I had to look muscle dysmorphia up to get a clearer understanding of this one. 'Reverse anorexia' is what comes up when you google it; 'Affecting mostly males, muscle dysmorphia is an obsessive preoccupation via a delusional or exaggerated belief that one's own body is too small, too skinny, insufficiently muscular, or insufficiently lean, although in most cases, the individual's build is normal or even exceptionally large and muscular already. (wiki)
This one has a steady and sweet exit (not an ending), and as always, I really enjoy Chu's work, even when I'm not sure I'm smart enough to truly understand the layers.
"Five Thousand Squares" by Maree Kimberley
It's been fifteen years since the war, and there's been changes to the world (both political and terra-weather related) where Kaye and Micha lie, and both have chronic pain issues that involve arthritis and generally make life difficult. With these things in mind when raising young families, they make a plan to stick together just in case something does happen, in order to get through it in a team. Micha's home is high enough to avoid trouble if there's a floor, so it's there they stockpile food and supplies.
Good thing they do, as one night Micha contacts Kaye, saying her hip and knee both agree that things are about to go to hell. Most people with arthritis or a broken bone at some stage can tell when big rains are coming, and this is what we see happen here.
What is so excellent about this piece is how it takes something we often hear about, but few understand. It's one thing to say someone has chronic pain and can't do x, y, z, but to truly understand what that must mean is quite different. We see the struggle and what has to happen that we don't get to see in the general blockbuster movies, and though I've only had brief brushes with this type of restriction thanks to ross river, it really, really speaks to me.
"Portobello Blind" by Octavia Cade
Anna is a bored and pondering whether she is the sole survivor of the apocalypse. She spends hours fishing in order to eat, (surely so many books/movies get it wrong with how easy some apocalyptic people have it, as collecting drinking water and food for the majority of each day wouldn't make for good watching - I love how right this gets it), only to hit us with the fact she's blind, and you're left worrying how she manages to do anything safely... and the fact is, she doesn't. She cuts her hands baiting the line, she falls into the waves when she overbalances, trying to catch her escaping fish, and she has to boil a kettle to check the power is still on, and hence, the satellite radio is still working even if no one is answering.
Her strength is amazing, as well as her determination and intelligence to cope and think of what she needs to make this work. Though I agree with her that pineapple would be way better. And that sheep are pretty excellent companions.
"Tea Party" by Lauren E. Mitchell
Tally, Bingo, the Count, and Chess, along with a few others, are riding out the end of the world, which came in earthquakes and huge expanses of land disappearing below water. They go shopping every once in a while - mostly to get a slew of medications they can't exactly grow themselves. In this case Tally and the Count go out - a weird choice for the Count, but Tally's not complaining. Along the way they meet another surviver, just in time for another glimpse of what the world still has in store for them.
I liked that while this one had a bit of action and excitement in it, that a lot of it was showing how they cared and helped out each other. You really get the feel that they're going to make anything and everything work somehow, simply because they have to as that's how life is now.
"Giant" by Thoraiya Dyer
Skye, also known as Rhomboid in the Moltorian language, only has chickens for company. Born with pituitary gigantism and poor hearing, it's almost certain she'll die if she leaves the microgravity - her circulatory system will shut down if she leaves the ship she's always been on. There was once a crew on the ship but they wanted to kill her when she was younger because of her affliction - if it wasn't for her mother and the ship's doctor, she would have been thrown out an airlock. Hugo, her father, finds her, and wants to help. She just wants to be left alone.
It's a complicated tale of a girl trapped by guilt and having always waited for her father, yet at the same time wants him to leave her and go back to Earth. She can make it happen - with her size comes strength. What I like about this one especially is how the colours unite the beginning with the end.
"Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel" by Samantha Rich
On days when Emm goes hunting, she stays in bed late to get her thoughts in order - a bit of superstition that hasn't failed her yet. Makes perfect sense to me - more dozing/resting always sounds like a treat. I also agree with Emm's later thought regarding 'help' (people who want to steal her knowledge/secrets) by thinking 'fuck that, and fuck them.'
Spiders have taken over the Earth? Heck with that. I'm allergic but beyond that they don't bother me. They freak out a friend though, and because I'm a terrible person I once sent him an email (we work for the same office) with no title/preview, so when he opened it, it was a full screen, very high res closeup photo of a spider. His co-worker reported back to me that he squealed a little and jumped back from his desk, so that was a success.
Emm hunts out spider silk, which is then used for clothes. A rich commodity for trading in this new world. Thank god they don't have a hive mind though. This piece is one of my favourites (I think the start endeared me to her completely), so highly recommended. Unless you're like Kane. In that case, read with the lights on because the spiders are detailed quite well.
"No Shit" by K. L. Evangelista
Plague has come, and Jane has buried her parents. She looks for other survivors sometimes, but otherwise enjoys the night... until flares light up the sky, and she finds another survivor.
They meet in daylight hours, both careful but eager to meet someone else who has survived - Sam seems nice (AND he can bake!), even if he does read very serious things - 'Coping with Change', 'Compost Toilets' - very useful considering the time they're in, but surely all that stress calls for a good bit of relaxation reading. I also love how he's still all 'I want to stick together but I don't want to make you feel like we have to, we don't HAVE to' because that's exactly how I'd be even in a freakin' apocalypse. Overly polite and thinking others wouldn't want to have me around even though HELLO, hardly anyone else alive.
They set out in a winnebago to search for other survivors, and so living in close quarters means that soon enough Jane has to tell Sam she has Crohn's and that while it wasn't life threatening when there was medicine and doctors around... these days... who knows?
I love the humour in this one. The voice behind it is really quite nice, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more from this author. This is another contender for favourite in the anthology.
"I Will Remember You" by Janet Edwards
This piece starts with the words 'Day Five', which is such a surprisingly interesting way to start. We soon learn that Megan, sixteen, is going to die within the next few days - everyone is - by the time sunset arrives on day thirteen. Aliens have arrived and have marked everyone with a few blue dots which will align with how soon they're due to die. Seeing as Megan was born without a hand - where everyone else has their marks, she's not to know. She's received abusive messages demanding to know where her marks are - were they on her arm instead? She didn't know what to reply with.
This piece is so perfect to end with. The end of the world and the hope directly afterwards is a clean finish, and it's so dang interesting and complex, yet fits perfectly within the shape of a short story. Yet another contender for 'favourite', and I know that this one in particular will be staying in my mind for some time. I'd love to see a follow-up of how they're going in a few months, and then a few years. Make it happen, Edwards!
In the introduction at the start of the anthology, Hoge, (author of Ugly), says 'People with disability already live in a post-apocalyptic world,' which is certainly something to think on. This anthology is excellent as examining that.
This anthology is of high quality and needs attention - it's a complicated thing showing both the drawbacks of having a disability, and also how a disability doesn't mean you're an easy kill if zombies attack. We need more visibility in fiction, especially as sometimes, books are all some of us had when ill or in hospital or simply not healthy enough or able to be running around with other kids at recess or in holidays. Surely a higher percentage of disabled children and adults turn to books for adventure over other forms of recreational amusement, so why the hell isn't there more of this representation around?
I supported this book through its Kickstarter campaign and I am so excited that it is finally here.
"People with disability already live in a post-apocalyptic world," says Robert Hoge in his Introduction to this volume. The central character of every story in this anthology has some sort of disability or chronic illness - but the point of the story is not that. The point is people getting on with surviving the apocalypse. Some do it with more grace than others; some do it with a lot more swearing and crankiness (I'm not saying that's bad; looking at you, Jane, by KL Evangelista). Some do it almost alone, others with a few people, still others with lots of people around (which can be good and bad). The apocalypses (apocalypi?) they face are also incredibly varied, from comets hitting the planet to various climate-related problems to aliens to disease to we-have-no-idea; the settings include Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the moon, space, and indeterminate.
The first four stories give an excellent indication of what the anthology as a whole is like. Corinne Duyvis opens the anthology brilliantly with a story that includes a comet, refugees, spina bifida, food intolerances, teen stardom and adult condescension. "And The Rest of Us Wait" sets a really high bar. Next, Stephanie Gunn throws in "To Take into the Air My Quiet Breath" which combines cystic fibrosis, sisterhood, influenza, and taking desperate chances. Seanan McGuire serves up a story that somehow manages to combine being really quite cold and practical with moments of warmth; the protagonist has mild schizophrenia and autism, and not only does she have to deal with surviving a seriously bizarre problem with the rain but also one of the girls who used to tease her. No. Fair. And then Tansy Rayner Roberts does banter and romance with "Did We Break the End of the World"? Roberts somehow makes looting not seem quite so bad and THEN she does something REALLY unexpected at the end to actually explain her apocalypse which I should have seen it coming and totally did not.
So that's the opening. A focus on teenagers, and I guess this could count as YA? But some of the protagonists in other stories are adults, so I don't know what that does to the classification. At any rate I'd be happy to give it to mid-teens with an understanding that yes, there is some swearing, but as if that's a problem. They should maybe skip "Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel" if arachnophobia is a problem, though.
Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench have created an excellent anthology here. The fact that each protagonist has a disability or chronic illness isn't quite beside the point, but it kind of is: that is, most of the time while reading the stories I wasn't thinking "oh, poor blind/deaf/handless/whatever person!" I was thinking "I want to be with that person when doomsday comes down because they've got this survival thing down like nothing else." Of course I'm not suggesting that these stories could or should have been written with able-bodied protags, or that the disabilities have been added in to be PC (which, remember, isn't actually a bad thing). Instead what this anthology shows is that being diverse and inclusive isn't bad for fiction. In fact it's great for fiction. It's an important reminder to (currently, mostly) able-bodied types like me that HELLO you are not the only people; and for people living with disability and illness this is of enormous importance, because it reminds them that (unlike what we see in many other books and films) they're not automatically destined to die in the opening scenes of an apocalypse. They have stories and they're important, like everybody else who's not a straight white (able-bodied) man.
I adored this book! People with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses are having their own stories and adventures after the apocalypse. In some, the disability is a drawback, realistically so and without any wallowing or maudlinness (is that a word? Maudlinity?); in some, a complicated thing that exists and is pretty orthogonal to the action; in some, it comes with some advantages - but without falling headlong into the tropes of Disability Superpower or Inspirational Cripple.
The apocalypses and challenges vary, some realistic and some a touch more fantastical; some thoroughly explained and some barely, tantalisingly sketched. Some are hopeful, some a little dismal (in the good way). The stories are all YA-appropriate, but with a lot of adult appeal also. It's hard for me to pick any favourites, though as I expected I did really enjoy Seanan and Tansy's stories. But they're all good, and I recommend the book strongly. What I was most surprised at was ripping through it in pretty much one day, whereas I generally prefer to muse on short stories and let them rest for a while. I guess one of the best things you can say about an anthology was "It was over too soon!"
Aside from the part where yes, I am in this, and yes, I did spend a disproportionate amount of time being delighted over the author listing in the back including me and one of my especial favourite people (hint: her surname comes right before mine), I am giving this five stars because I genuinely, truly, think every story in this anthology is worth it.
These stories are just amazing pieces of various worlds after the end of the world, and how people with a whole range of disabilities adapt to the changes that have happened. I loved every author's take on the theme. I can't say whose I liked best because I liked them all so very much. I can't wait until the official launch on the 30th of May for Defying Doomsday to be available to the world, and I hope the world loves it as much as I love my author copy, which I have been cuddling on and off since it arrived.
This would be 3.5 stars on my blog. As with any multi-author collection there was a mixed bag of ratings. There were a few meh, a few good, and a couple of excellent stories. This anthology has a twist that all of the main characters are otherly-abled, and that was excellent in itself!
I participated in a read-a-long for this title and will be doing a wrap-up blog post about it. I will add the link here when it is posted.
I really love the premise of this anthology. But as with any collection of short stories there are going to be some that you don't vibe with, which is why I don't often pick up books like this. There was some stories that I really loved, and others that weren't my cup of tea. But overall I think it's a solid 3.5 rating. It was refreshing to read about protagonists with disabilities/chronic illenesses in a genre that often forget they even exist.
I often have trouble with short story collections. I'll read a story, then put the book down and wander off for a while. It takes me forever to get through an entire anthology, no matter how good the stories are.
I was surprised to find that wasn't the case with Defying Doomsday. Robert Hoge's introduction hooked me right from the start by providing an insightful context for the anthology and setting the tone. Corinne Duyvis then took over with an earth-shaking story that manages to be both angry and hopeful, confronting the casually discriminating attitudes that occur in most apocalyptic fiction and everyday life by examining the difference between equality and equity. It makes for an epic start to the anthology.
Not all of the apocalypses featured in this anthology arrive with a bang. While some of them come out of nowhere (Did We Break the End of the World? by Tansy Rayner Roberts and I Will Remember You by Janet Edwards), others have been a long time coming and seep in around the edges (Something in the Rain by Seanan McGuire). Some have been brought on by aliens (In the Sky with Diamonds by Elinor Caiman Sands) and some humanity has inflicted on itself (Five Thousand Squares by Maree Kimberley).
What the stories have in common is the characters' need to survive. However, survival has no ending except one--and this is not that kind of anthology. How the stories manage this challenge was interesting. In some cases, we see the characters complete just one small step of their journey, survive one day that reflects the many other days ahead. Sometimes the characters manage to complete a bigger step--find a more permanent place of safety or a way to survive in numbers. Some even thrive, seeking out a way of overcoming their apocalypse for good. I'm not really a fan of open endings, so I was pleased to find the stories generally delivered a sense of resolution without needing every loose end to be tied up.
The diversity of disabilities mirrors the diversity of apocalypses. There are characters who are blind or deaf. Some are missing limbs or have Crohn's disease or are on the autism spectrum. Whatever the case, the characters are always more than their disability and are shown as fully realised people. In some stories, these disabilities pose additional obstacles to survival--such as ongoing treatment for cystic fibrosis or navigating an unfamiliar environment while blind. However, my favourite stories were the ones where the character's disability was the reason for their survival, such as Emm's missing legs allowing her to confuse the spiders in Samantha Rich's Spider Silk, Strong as Steel.
I'd like to give a special mention to John Chu's Selected Afterimages of the Fading. Written in second person, it tells the story of a genius who suffers from body dysmorphia, continually perceiving himself to be smaller and weaker than he actually is. This results in a compulsion to workout near constantly. I appreciated the way the character was both a genius scientist and a body-builder. I think the choice of second person illustrated his misperception well. And I adored that the story also manages to be a rather sweet gay romance.
There are a few stories that I felt were a little weaker than the rest, but overall I found it a strong anthology and I enjoyed it even more than I enjoyed Kaleidoscope.
I've been ready for this book since the Pozible campaign went live. I am always excited to see what is coming out from Twelfth Planet Press, so this book was immediately on my radar, especially given how great their Best of YA anthologies have been. It was amazing to read so many wonderfully crafted stories that center around individuals who are disabled and thus so often ignored or written off in apocalypse-centered fiction. As someone who has chronic illnesses and is disabled it was really, really incredible to see myself in the characters and their stories. Thank you to the editors Tsana Dolichva and Holly Klench, the authors, Twelfth Planet Press, and all the Pozible backers for making this incredible anthology real so I can read it over and over and clutch it to my chest!
This review originally appeared on Skiffy & Fanty.com
“People with disability already live in a post-apocalyptic world.” – Robert Hoge
This crowd-funded anthology of post-apocalyptic fiction showcases the theme of disabled or chronically-ill protagonists. Edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, the collection features many Aussie female writers (though not exclusively) and names likely both familiar and new to speculative fiction readers. With all of its diversity in characters, apocalyptic setting, and featured disability/illness, Defying Doomday is remarkably consistent in tone and quality. Out of fifteen stories there is only one that failed for me, and that is completely due to personal taste. (I am done with giving stories in the second person a chance beyond two pages).
The stories seem appropriate for adults and young adults alike and flow together in an easily readable fashion. This easy flow is true both in the lineup made by the editors and the classic narrative structure and approachable prose of individual stories. The aforementioned use of second person tense is the most ‘experimental’ aspect in the collection. The purpose and strength of these stories lie in their entertaining plots and characters, and their focus on disability/illness.
That thematic focus is handled a bit differently from story to story. Not surprisingly the disabilities and chronic illness are neither treated as token or cliché. However, the authors universally do a great job at not dominating their stories with the condition they’ve chosen to include. The disability/illness is always a factor to the plot or characters: sometimes the driving or governing force behind events, sometimes subtly in the background. But never does the theme become moralizing.
The publishing blurb for Defying Doomsday states that the anthology “prov[es] it’s not always the ‘fittest’ who survive — it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost.” This statement certainly holds true for many of the stories, such as many of which whose crisis centers around trying to obtain important medications in a world where civilization and technology are gone or in decline. Yet, others instead maintain the natural selection metaphor: within the new post-apocalyptic environment certain biological traits now are hugely advantageous, where they were not before. A ‘disability’ has turned into an asset. Characteristics that previously mattered are now meaningless, or even detrimental.
Whichever of these choices made by the author — conveying a condition that can be overcome despite greater adversity, or one that now gives benefit — what struck me is that all of the stories are exceptionally optimistic in terms of human relationships. This is not unreasonable at all, but it is uncharacteristic of a genre that so often delights in making the point that the greatest danger in any apocalyptic setting will be the cruelty of humans against one another, not the agent of civilization’s collapse itself. These are stories of survivors banding together, of supporting one another by combining strengths to reduce weaknesses. Not all end happily of course, but they do often show moments of compassion and love. Perhaps this comes from the unique perspective of someone who lives with disability or chronic illness. As the quote at the start of this implies, they already live with enough problems, why fabricate more for power and control? They are just still trying to survive daily life. Has much changed? For me this was the most fascinating aspect to these stories, one that made me stop and think about the deeper issues underlying these tales that also entertained.
There are a handful of stories that I particularly loved in the collection. The opening “And the Rest of Us Wait” by Corinne Duyvis perfectly sets the tone for the rest to come. Set within the world of her novel On the Edge of Gone, this story features a teen girl and her refugee family in a shelter as a comet is set to destroy Earth. Amid fearful uncertainty for the future and the burden of medical conditions that could prevent being chosen for rescue, an all-girl teen band forms to exist in the therapy of music and camaraderie.
“Something in the Rain” by Seanan McGuire may be my favorite in the collection. She is the one author whose name was immediately familiar to me, but I don’t always connect with her work. This was just brilliant, poignant; both conveying a sense of justice and heartbreak. An autistic (and schizophrenic) girl has learned to survive on her own through careful organization and self control in a world where precipitation kills. One day she comes across another girl from her school, a popular individual who bullied and mocked her, but who now needs her help. This story could have easily turned sermonizing, trite, and unbalanced. McGuire handles it masterfully, movingly.
“In the Sky with Diamonds” by Elinor Caiman Sands and “Giant” by Thoraiya Dyer are stories notable in that their setting is off-Earth. Both do a great job employing a stronger science fiction element than what is typical for the post-apocalyptic. “Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel” by Samantha Rich is a plot that could border on horror for those with arachnophobia, but which cleverly shows how disability can allow some to serve vital roles that ‘normal’ folk cannot easily fulfill. “Given Sufficient Desperation” by Bogi Takács features a protagonist with dyspraxia, making her useful, and enslaved, to aliens who have conquered Earth. Touching, yet with dry humor, this story had the perfect amount of oddity for me, plus great speculation on communication with aliens.
Fittingly, the collection ends with “I Will Remember You” by Janet Edwards, a story that does seem a bit manufactured in its setup (aliens marking humans with expiration dates on the hand, and a character who is missing a hand). Nonetheless, Edwards writes beautiful emotive prose and instills the story with some nice complexity, a microcosm of the collection as a whole that conveys both despair and hope.
I have a story in this book so yes, I'm biased. Obviously I won't comment on my own contribution but I wanted to add how much I enjoyed everyone else's. I feel a little humbled really. All the stories are just so good and stand up equally well, those by relative newcomers as much as those by established writers.
And the Rest of Us Wait by Corinne Duyvis - the opening story. A truly gripping piece. It had me gasping out loud at one point. This is the type of story you can't put down.
Five Thousand Squares by Maree Kimberley - a rollicking ride through a rather watery apocalypse with some very plucky women.
I Will Remember You by Janet Edwards - the closing story in the book. This one was pretty un-put-downable as well.
Finally, Tea Party by Lauren E Mitchell - This was my personal favourite story in the book. Okay, so it was less of a rollercoaster ride than some of the others, but I just found it such a charming story. It reminded me of the first half of the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, before it turned dark and ugly. I loved the gentle humour in it. That's one thing you rarely if ever find in fiction featuring disabled characters, the fact that disability can be funny. As long as you're smiling with the disabled person rather than at them (a crucial distinction) humour is just fine.
But really, having just finished the book, the whole experience has left me smiling.
Defying Doomsday is a riveting collection of short stories of individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses surviving the apocalypse, the premise for the collection being that it’s not always the ‘fittest’ that survive – it’s about being determined, persistent and inventive. The apocalypses vary, as do the abilities of the individuals: a fourteen year blind girl survives for months in a lab by the ocean after a plague wipes out everyone she knows; a Deaf boy and his deadly companion raid abandoned houses for precious batteries and medication, until a new member divides their team; three sisters, two with cystic fibrosis, live in hope on their family farm after a plague has burnt through the country; a woman without footsteps can sneak into a deadly nest and gather precious materials to keep her family alive; a man tries to keep his perceptions and proportions in check as he falls in love in a fading world; and a woman floating in space is the only person who can communicate with the aliens attacking earth. The first few pages of each story are a barrage of information and it often takes a re-read or two to understand exactly what’s happening and to whom, but it’s always worth persevering. This collection of phenomenal stories should be on absolutely everyone’s reading list: I can’t recommend it highly enough!
As a visually impaired person I've often thought of myself as one of the first to die in an apocalyptic setting. But when you stop to think about it, apocalypses can be as complicated and diverse as real life and there's a place in them for the skills and abilities of people with some impairment or other.
There is a real life story about a blind person that lead a group of people out of the world trade center with his guide dog through the dark stairway during 9/11.
I found the short story collection to be a great format for this subject. I was treated to a number of possible scenarios, some I thought more likely than others, instead of a single novel with one scenario that may not have sounded plausible to me.
This is one of the best and sadly one of the most underrated short story collections/anthologies I've ever read !! I decided to get and read the ebook because I heard Jen Campbell talk about it in one of her disability representation recommendation videos! And wow it did not dissapoint.
This is an anthology all about and featuring disabled and chronically ill characters in an apocalyptic setting ! A lot of times when there's an apocalyptic story there are no disabled characters and if there are they're just shown to die first. Because "survival of the fittest" 🙄 this anthology takes a spin on that and puts disabled and chronically ill people as the main characters and surviving and finding ways to get through it all.
Favourite stories were the ones from : Corinne Duyvis, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Gunn, Maree Kimberley.
Here more in depth reviews on each story because I want to convince everyone to pick this up!!
1st story Corinne Duyvis: 5⭐ loved the discussions. The eugenics reminded me way too much of what's been happening the past few years and what's still happening during COVID 🙃🙃 set in the Netherlands aka my country !
2nd story Stephanie Gunn: 4,5 ⭐ twin sisters with Cystic fibrosis and older sister with burn marks and scars. Set after a superflu 😬 been isolated in a farm, parents dead, slowly running out of medicine etc for CFS. Have to get on the road to go to hospital with horse and wagon.
Third story Seanan McGuire: 5⭐ main character has mild schizophrenia and autism. Deadly rain because of dangerous things coming out of the melting ice caps and going up in the clouds and raining down killing all mammals. Main character survived because of her neurodiverse ways of living and being super careful. Keeping her cat inside. Going outside with tape everywhere and taping her windows etc. She thinks the world is doing just fine and saw her autism as an advantage in the apocalypse since all neurotypical people died. Trigger warning for ableist slurs.
4th story Tansy Rayner Roberts: 5⭐ main character that has hearing aids and is hard of hearing and gay. Other character that's partially mute. They raid houses after the apocalypse to trade with other teenagers that survived. Didn't see the plot twist coming !
5th story Elinor Caiman Sands: 4,5⭐ sci-fi story about a girl with cerebral palsy in a space ship. She's a war journalist and in a sort of battle with an alien ship
6th story Rivqa Rafael: 3,5 ⭐ two siblings going out into the desert to hunt ( a kangaroo) because viruses have killed almost all humans and animals. Main girl has chronic pain on her leg that never properly healed from a fracture. Brother has autism.
7th story Bogi Takacs: 4,5⭐ Main character has dyspraxia and uses forearm crutches. Set after an alien invasion. Working for aliens to label objects they don't know. Set in Hungary.
8th story John Chu: 3⭐ I was very confused by this one. Main character has body dysmorphia. Gay. M/m relationship. But the actual story went over my head, no idea what was actually going on
9th story Maree Kimberley: 4,5⭐ Main character and best friend Micha have arthritis. Deal with chronic pain and chronic fatigue. The description of how Micha could feel in her joints that bad weather/water was coming. And the way getting up out of bed with chronic fatigue was described and trying to get rid off your stiffness, wow all so relatable. Both mothers with kids.
10th story Octavia Cade: 4⭐ main character is a young girl who's blind. All alone in a marine lab after her father went out to get some medicine. Think she's the last one to survive the plague/apocalypse. And she's bored.
11th story Lauren E Mitchell: 3,5⭐ bunch of survivors who are in some sort of abandoned psychiatric hospital. One of the characters has multiple personalities for example. Climate change brought floods and fires etc and the world basically ended
12th story Thoraiya Dyer: Set in space. Father and daughter?? Very confused
13th story Samantha Rich: 4⭐ main character Emm is an amputee who goes on a hunt. The world is taking over by these monsters they call Spiders. The others cast her out because they found her "useless and who's going to die soon anyway" not realising that Emm is basically the only one able to go out safely because the Spiders hear footsteps but don't recognise the rolling of the board she makes/functions as a wheelchair
14th story K. L. Evangelista: 3⭐ plague killed most of humanity. Main character thinks she's the only survivor (has Crohn's disease) meets another survivor and go on a mission to find more. Then finds out most survivors have an autoimmune disease of some sort. Rest of the story jumped from one to another. Wanted to do too much I think for a short story
15th story Janet Edwards: 3⭐ main character. Born without left hand. Aliens taken over the world
I feel that this book is one of the most important short story collections out there today. While being a disabled person myself I can say that the representation of disabled people in literature and other forms of media is starting to slowly get better I still feel that it has a long way to go before the representation is fully noticed in society. Although this collection of short stories does allow me to feel some sort of connection to the main characters that I have not experienced with many texts before.
Like with all short story collections they're are going to be some stories that I prefer more than others. Some notable stories that I loved;
Did we Break the End of the World? by Tansy Rayner Roberts:
This short story caught my intrigue because this didn't just have disability representation characters but also LGBTQ+ representation too with two gay main male characters. I also found this story to be slightly more complex than the other ones in which it dealt with topics such as trust. The main character learns that his friend has been lying about her disability on not being able to speak and the story shows how this affects him towards her and towards the new guy 'Billy' that has just joined their group. It is interesting how dynamic the group is and this story shows how vulnerable disabled people can be when it comes to trust but how they can overcome this vulnerability with people who understand what view point they're coming from.
Selected Afterimages of the Fading by John Chu:
This story also has LGBTQ+ representation as well. It also uses an interesting writing style with the second point of view. I have not seen this POV used in many stories and it made the story seem more personal even though the character wasn't supposed to be me. One of the main topics is that of body image. This story did make me uncomfortable with just how much the topic is talked about. However, I believe this is what the author was intending for the reader to feel like. The author was probably trying to convey how much media has an affect on today's society with body image and how disabled people can be especially affected by this. This story was one of the sci-fi stories that I was able to understand what was happening too. Some of the sci-fi stories that were in this collection did confuse me sometimes but this one seemed more straight forward with the plot which I appreciated.
Tea Party by Lauren E Mitchell:
This story introduced us to characters who shared their name with the Alice in Wonderland characters and also uses some of the plot of that story. By doing this I think it can further the discussion on whether or not the original characters of Alice in Wonderland had disabilities themselves. However, returning to this story I mainly found that it was an enjoyable and fast paced read. It was action packed and had endurable characters throughout.
I Will Remember You by Janet Edwards:
This was a more emotional story and it was quite gut wrenching. I found that when the people had to go into the trench it was reminiscent of World War One with the soldiers in the trenches. You could feel the extreme emotions that the main character was feeling. The story also discussed deformity and how society views it. This story shows how resilient people with deformities can be when it comes to different situations.
Overall, this short story collection was insightful with the disabilities that are discussed in this collection. This book offers characters that come from futuristic worlds but are so grounded, resilient and determined that you will find that you are relating to them easily. Or at least I did. The stories that I have mentioned have made me want to search more on what the authors have done as well as these stories. I am so glad that this collection exists.
Solid collection of stories featuring protagonists with disabilities and chronic illnesses, the stories by Seanan McGuire and Janet Edwards were my standouts, but the overall standard was really high. There were a couple that weren't my particular cup of tea, but I'm sure they have no shortage of fans.
I've never seen myself reflected in apocalypse out before. Reading this, especially the story about an autistic, schizophrenic girl with OCD (just like me!) was an amazing experience, and made me really want there to be more anthologies like this about disabled protagonists in genre books, in the future!
"Defying Doomsday" turns survival of the fittest on its head while questioning just what 'fitness' and 'worthy' can mean. Lovers of apocalypse fiction, short stories and those who want to see more diversity of protagonist should pick up a copy.
this book is really important and while i liked some stories more and some less, but i’m giving 5 stars because of the personal meaning this has for me - and i’m so pleased that i have finally found a story where a character also needs to go to the toilet a lot.
There were some decent stories in here but nothing that really stood out to me and I skipped a few of them towards the end just because I was running out of steam. I rounded this up because it really is an interesting and unique idea for an anthology, but I'm not really that into post apocalyptic stuff or 'inspiring' stories so I was not expecting to be particularly taken with this anyway. Still, I got it in a Kickstarter bundle years ago so I wanted to go through it just to see what was in there.
Overall opinion: I'm usually not a fan of short story collections. This one started out quite strong, however, so I let my apprehension fade and started to settle in to enjoy them. But then I reached some of the middle stories and was extra disappointed by how much I disliked them.
I realize that short story collections don't have to satisfy my every desire, but I wish I could find a collection that at least asked for a minimum of writing ability or complexity or interesting facets. Maybe I am too picky (I am too picky).
But what I thought this anthology did well is the wide variety of disabled characters, ranging from more physical to more mental / biological differences. The authors don't try to shoehorn disability into one neat box. There's no "bad" depictions in here, where the disabled character is automatically the villain (and only the villain). There's no characters where their disability is window dressing and actually-they're-totally-normal-aside-from-this-one-weird-quirk. And while often characters are put into situations that are beyond them, where they appear helpless or unable to continue, in fact they are never helpless and often push themselves to achieve more.
And that is not to say that these are all "inspirational tales of subhumans overcoming their deficienes." Far from it. I like how very human these characters feel. For the most part these protagonists have wide and rich lives and just happen to also have a disability and need to survive in some kind of post apocalypse world, just like their non-disabled counterparts. The stories I liked less actually had a more one-dimensional approach to all characters, including the disabled ones. I wanted more from the stories (less simple plots, more depth in characters) and more from an author that seek to write stories featuring people of all ability ranges.
Overall, I did enjoy this collection. It made me think about my own life differently, my own approach to ability and disability. I always thought that in an apocalypse / post-apocalypse I would be one of the first people to die. It does give me a good feeling to read so many tales with such a wide range of characters. I think I'll read the sequel to this anthology, even if I'm not a big fan of short story collections.
Reviews for individual stories:
1. And the Rest of Us Wait - 4/5
I liked the original book by Corinne Duyvis quite a lot, so this short story was a wonderful addition to the book. It's the same events (asteroid hitting earth and destroying most of the habitable land) but this time seen from a disabled refugee from Latvia who is also a pop singer.
2. To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath - 3/5
This story was a bit odd. It left me feeling empty and unsure. These 3 sisters are trying to survive (2 with CF) in a post apocalyptic world. One of them lies and all of a sudden they're all stranded and somehow the main character thinks it's a good thing? To me this story was bleak and the tone did not match the events at all.
3. Something in the Rain by Seanan McGuire - 5/5
This is my favorite story so far. An autistic teen is left at the end of the world with her cat. She finds ways to survive, including regularly raiding the local Target using her analytical skills and a trusty almanac to survive. I normally find myself dissatisfied by McGuires stories, but this one was perfect.
4. Did We Break the End of the World? - 4.5/5
I loved this story as well. It's told from the perspective of a deaf teen who has teamed up with a violence-prone mute teen. They make a great team, however, as they're trapped in a post-apocalyptic city and spend their days foraging for high-value items. There seems to be a larger conspiracy at play that is only hinted at. I wish there was more to this story.
5. In the Sky with Diamonds - 2.5/5
This was a bit odd. A spaceship battle between diamond-obsessed aliens and a young woman with cerebral palsy fighting over a cut diamond is not what I thought I would be reading. But the story is also written simply with a basic conclusion for such a complex problem.
6. Two Somebodies Go Hunting 0.5/5
I did not like this. Too much focus on hunting and getting stranded and no real explanation for the world building. I also did not find the characters at all interesting or believable.
7. Given Sufficient Desperation - 3/5
Another story that ends with a simple "and then the aliens just turned around and left". I desire more complexity in my stories, including short stories. It can be done (see: earlier stories of this anthology). This one was even interesting! Aliens come and destroy the earth as humans know it, then aliens enslave humans (on a strictly voluntary basis but it's the only way you have access to food, shelter, etc) and have them label nouns with their minds. It's tedious soul-draining work and thus rebellion groups spring up. I really desired more from such an interesting premise.
8. Selected Afterimages of the Fading - 4.5/5
This was a very unique story. I really liked the premise: if you stop paying attention to something it'll fade out of existence. Stop paying attention to the screws in your table? It'll collapse. Stop noticing the room around you? You're no longer in a room, just a blurry space. To add another dimension, the main character has body dysmorphia where he can't see his body the way it is. There are a lot of weird physics happening. It doesn't make a lot of sense. But in the span of this short story it is enough.
9. Five Thousand Squares - 3.5/5
I have parents who keep thinking the world is ending and they need to stockpile for it. In this story they're not entirely wrong; two women with early-onset-arthritis try to prepare for a world that is no longer safe. The climate catastrophe has already sunk most of the coastlines, so this is less a tenuous one-day-something-might-happen, but rather higher odds. The mother here is prepared with her solar-powered floating giant ball and a stockpile of goods at her friends house. It's a bit of a simple story, mostly about surviving the imminent impact of a tidal wave. I wish there was more about after the fact too.
10. Portobello Blind - 5/5
I don't know why but these stories of girls left all alone at the end of the world and not really but kind of missing their parent but still doing what they can to survive are my favorite. This one features a blind girl stuck on a peninsula on a research station. She manages to catch fish and eat seaweed to survive. Though aside from a plague we're never really told what's going on, which disappointed me.
11. Tea Party - 4.5/5
I like this bunch of weirdos left over after the world ended. They've somehow managed to survive in their rural psych hospital and mostly go out into the world to find more medicines. There is a moment when we're confronted with an "earthquake" but also it's somehow a monster that's in the ground and eats anything that moves? I wish there had been more information about it, but I can see why our protagonists wouldn't know it.
12. Giant - 4/5
This one was really interesting. We get two perspectives: an old man who has lost his whole family, going to the space station his wife left for 20 years ago, and the daughter her finds there, the only person still alive. She has gigantism, exacerbated by the low gravity she grew up in. Reading her perspective was my favorite. Imaging myself 4 meters tall and that being normal. Trying to make the father you never met treat you like an adult and having your own plans to put through all makes sense. Even though the story was simple its themes were not.
13. Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel - 4/5
Wow was this creepy. I hate giant intelligent spiders. It's bad enough when they're the small ones. But this story was great! (I mean, aside from the spiders). Highly recommend it if you're not arachnophobic.
14. No Shit - 4/5
This story really leans into the comedy of death and plagues and the end. But when at the end, why not start a radio show to get all the survivors together. I like how this one explored some of the danger of isolated, individual humans, but ultimately showed more of their positive side.
15. I Will Remember You - 4/5
This was a melancholy end. Aliens coming down and killing most humans off and for what? What is the selection criteria for surviving or for dying? This one skirts around the idea of eugenics without actually wrestling with it. But somehow it was so well written and focused on how even if you're born without all of your limbs you're still valuable.