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Vast: Stories of Mind, Soul and Consciousness in a Technological Age

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Ten exciting, thought-provoking science fiction stories exploring the relationship between cutting-edge technology and the human psyche. What would it mean for an artificial brain to become conscious? Is awareness always tethered to the body? Could we ever accept a virtual reality as our own? Perhaps our minds already have more impact on the fabric of reality than we realise... Stephen Oram - Chimy and Chris J.R. Staples-Ager - Little Thief Thomas Cline - Limited Infinity Vaughan Stanger - Dreamtime Sergio 'ente per ente' Palumbo - The Weight of Your Mind Jonathan D. Clark - The Video Ellinor Kall - The DreamCube Thread Ava Kelly - Luz Beyond the Glass Peter Burton - Every Aspect of Every Recollection Juliane Graef - Ancestors

162 pages, Paperback

Published February 28, 2020

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About the author

C.R. Dudley

4 books40 followers
C.R Dudley is a visual artist, writer and self-proclaimed mind explorer. She is fascinated by the human condition in all of its guises, and has been heavily influenced by Jungian psychology, existentialism and eastern mysticism.

Often writing from unusual perspectives, she weaves together esoteric philosophies with modern scientific and technological developments to give a many-layered approach to storytelling.

Her first novel is planned for release in 2019, but she also continues to write short fiction daily to give voice to smaller creative echoes. She sees everything she creates as fragments of one continuous artwork.

C.R. Dudley lives in York, UK, and is a lover of forest walks, pizza, tequila and dark music.

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Gavin Jefferson.
Author 8 books23 followers
March 20, 2020
Vast, the first anthology from Orchid's Lantern, is something special. I finished reading it almost a month ago and, in that time, I haven't stopped thinking about some of the tales. This, probably, is why I haven't been able to write a review.
My personal highlights were:
Chimy and Chris, as it garnered similar feelings to Flowers for Algernon.
Little Thief was gorgeous, intense, and terrifying.
Every Aspect of Every Recollection, was heartbreaking, and beautifully written.
The Dreamcube Thread was like falling down a reddit rabbit hole of wtfness. Wholly original.
I'm looking forward to the next anthology, and I'll be keeping my eyes on the authors from this.

Profile Image for Sarah Tollok.
152 reviews16 followers
April 19, 2021
Awesome anthology! These stories pushed the perceived limits of our understanding of humankind's ever evolving intertwinement with technology. They covered topics such as humans interfacing with AI, humans evolving and altering themselves to adapt to the damaged world of our own creation, creating life in new ways, and the exploration of the infinite vastness of existence that one mind can aspire to understand.

The stand out stories, in my opinion, were "Chimy and Chris," "Luz Behind Glass," and "Every Aspect of Every Recollection." The last of those, written by Peter Burton, left me wanting more from the author. I signed up for his newsletter on Burton's website within minutes of finishing his story. Luckily, when I ordered this book directly from its indie publisher, Orchid's Lantern, they sent me a postcard which had a QR code to scan to access bonus material from several of the contributors, so I was able to get my fix of more content right away! I am definitely going to keep an eye on this publisher's twitter for more anthologies in the future.
Profile Image for Logan.
Author 17 books95 followers
July 15, 2020
This collection has a very interesting undercurrent running through it. An anthology with a true theme, as the tagline states: Stories of mind, soul and consciousness in a technological age. A lot of science fiction deals with what it means to be human, or, what it means to be alive and aware. This collection of ten authors all delve into similar territory, but what struck me was the linked nature of these supposedly standalone short stories. However, having read editor/publisher C.R. Dudley's two books of short stories/flash fiction, I guess I'm not totally surprised that CONNECTION is not only a theme in her books but also how this anthology works. There's the tangible and intangible holding hands in that idea. In reading VAST, yes, these authors tackle what it means to be human, but almost every story has a more direct question: What's next for humans? What will become of the mind in a post-human world? The consensus seems to be UNITY. While all these stories struggle with the idea of the individual, many are occupied with the dissolution of the individual so that it may be absorbed into the whole. I find that pretty intriguing. Like, a book of short stories, which all exist, at least in part, as a means of self-expression, seem to describe a longing to be absolved of the responsibilities of the self while becoming a part of something larger. Which is complicated in itself. How is "one" a "part" of any "whole"? Who knows, but that's what this book got me thinking about, and I'm impressed by this anthology's ability to have all these different stories from different people talking to each other, in a sense, while remaining singular, but also part of the whole. I mean, all that said, each story could absolutely be read alone, by itself. Which likely is why the anthology, as a WHOLE, worked in the first place. Anyway, I'll let others respond more directly to the individual stories/authors, but as someone who is a longtime proponent for the BOOK as being an entity unto itself, something whole, complete, an object living in the world, divorced of its creators, and with its own sense of logic/reality and so on, I'm glad to have the opportunity to read something like it. Definitely recommend picking up a copy (it's a quick read despite how long I took to read it) and checking out other works by its talented (and smart and fun) authors and editor.
Profile Image for Aaron.
Author 3 books6 followers
August 13, 2020
Great collection, these are the kinds of stories that are thought provoking and intelligently written. They will have you question reality, mind, and soul. Due to the format of the short story they are not overwhelming, and have a stong focus on charachter - yet they still offer us lessons, and the oppertunity to question ourselves and our world. Each one can be read quickly for fun, and thought about for a long time after.
March 21, 2020
Chimy and Chris by Stephen Oram (61 brains out of 100)
3 good things
1. Unlike anything I've read before.
2. You can feel the relationship between Chimy and Chris develop throughout.
3. That ending.
3 bad things
1. It is easy to get lost in the piece, given its POV perspective.
2. A bit repetitious with its word use, especially near the end (understandable within the context of the story, but still. . . .)
3. That ending. . . .
"Communication is everything,she tells me. Conversation, discussion and debate are what make the human species stand out from the crowd. Sophisticated language is the cornerstone of human evolution."
Literary Analysis
A brilliant allegory for the pro-life/pro-choice debate; Chris being the mother and Chimy being the embryo/unborn child, fighting for life while the other characters push for abortion.

Little Thief by J.R. Staples-Ager (56 central nodes out of 100)
3 good things
1. Consistent second person POV
2. You're thrown into the world immediately, forcing you to stay afloat
3. A quick read
3 bad things
1. You're thrown in to the world immediately (jarring on first read)
2. This story doesn't end. It drops off, without any sense of resolution or what was going on.
3. Angst. So. Much. Angst.
"Even without a memory, you know what they'll do to a mind like yours."
Literary Analysis
Individuality and the struggle to stay true to yourself in a system (education? work force?) where their goal is to mold you to be like everyone else

Limited Infinity by Thomas Cline (87 SASSes out of 100)
3 good things
1. Well paced, takes its time before throwing the story's main thrust at you.
2. Quick read; impressive, being one of the longer pieces.
3. Its perfect blend of tension and humor balances the piece out.
3 bad things
1. It felt short. I would have loved for it to be a bit longer.
2. Colorful dialogue tags.
3. The reveal felt a bit rushed. It could've been fleshed out better
"Infinity, after all, was limited by its structure and order."
"Everything was black. There was no noise, to the point that it was unnerving. If he hadn't currently been bodiless, he'd have been grinding his teeth. Was this what it was like before being born and after dying? It seemed to last forever, and his own mind seemed to fade from him. All that was left was a spark of worry that he'd never see his grandchildren again."
Literary Analysis
The mood cycles of being a writer: feeling alone among a world of creative clutter until your "muse" inspires you to escape into a new project where the possibilities for creativity become boundless.

Dreamtime by Vaughan Stanger (98 deleted memories out of 100)
3 good things
1. This piece has EMOTION!
2. Brilliant set up at the beginning which pays off at the very end.
3. What a gut punch of an ending.
3 bad things
1. The solution felt too easily obtained. I would have liked to see more of a struggle with it.
2. The dream sequences felt a bit muddled, description wise.
3. I wish it were longer (would've read this story in novel form)
"They danced and danced until the waves washed away his dream."
Literary Analysis
Once you've stripped away the sci-fi elements (erasing/deleting one's own memories willingly), this is a man with Alzheimer's whose wife died ages before the disease ate away at his mind and has forgotten who she was to him. And as he's dying, while he can't remember her right away, he's finally able to reconnect with her.

The Weight of Your Mind by Sergio Palumbo (98 visiting hours out of 100)
3 good things
1. This piece will force you to think about the significance of your thoughts.
2. A rich literary piece (with more layers that most readers will discover or car to know they're there) hidden quite well in a sci-fi narrative.
3. The ending holds the potential to make a reader cry.
3 bad things
1. The first half is a bit long-winded and if the reader doesn't enjoy hard sci-fi, it's going to be just words on the page.
2. Some details felt unnecessary upon a second read through.
3. The beginning could come off as a bit "try hard" on the author's behalf, though it does pay off in the end.
"'What are thoughts?' This age old question had been enough to keep scientists, doctors and philosophers busy for years. Researchers had long talked about pattern recognition and cerebral activation in response to a stimulus, such as seeing an object and recognising it as such. But philosophers considered that a network of neurons couldn't explain the many thousands of thoughts and emotions that people dealt with every day. The brain effortlessly consumed power, stored memories and reacted to danger."
Literary Analysis
Significance to names: Adhemar - famous for his kindness and Reuental - hard in hostility; both fitting to their characters.
The second half of the piece perfectly displays the effects and sad eventual ending of a dementia patient; their minds seem to return whilst they sleep/dream. But the moment they wake up, it's a downward spiral. And it only gets worse with time.

The Video by Jonathan D. Clark (92 inconsequential details out of 100)
3 good things
1. Every word, every sentence, serves its purpose; throwing you into the familiar world of the piece.
2. This is second person POV written at its best, which is a hard feat to accomplish.
3. The tension builds and builds, but never resolves; leaving you wanting more (intentional?)
3 bad things
1. Little to no plot progression.
2. Too short. Could have used this as a central piece to a larger production.
3. No central character to focus on, leaving you adrift as the story unfolds.
"You are now witnessing the core of the digitized video. Underneath its empty simplicity, there is also an element of undying suspense. You, as the untrained observer, keep watching the video, knowing something is about to happen. And even if nothing of suspicious intent were to occur throughout the film’s duration, you’d continue to keep watching it frame-by-frame, unable to pull yourself away from its unresolved magnetism. Every flicker of movement holds your unwarranted attention, and you enjoy the sense of the unknown which might spill out at any moment. You keep watching because despite its naive crudeness, it subconsciously reminds you of your own meandering thoughts, constantly running themselves around in circles until they’ve exhausted every avenue of self-imposed significance; another hapless flash of existence without a tangible narrative to cling to for safety. You keep watching because, despite the sonic dissonance, you’ve lived what’s on display, day-in and day-out. It’s familiar. There’s something about its composition, the lack of focus, the unrehearsed motions, the non-consensual stripping of cosmetic layers we’ve all learnt to wear when taking part in society. Every face on screen is a stranger, but there’s something which makes you feel you’ve known them for as long as you can remember."
"The more you watch, the less effect watching a young man die unexpectedly has on your emotions. The initial horror is washed way. Eventually, what was once seen as random, uncalculated chaos becomes like everything else in your life: routine."
Literary Analysis
On the surface, the message behind this story is painfully obvious: as a viewing public, we consume even the most tragic of circumstances for our entertainment. But if we peel a layer back, this could be the author's critique on readers who only leaf through the pages of novels with a clear narrative, looking for a means of escape. Take away the narrative, the centralized characters, the dialogue, and what are we left with? to ruminate in our own thoughts?

The Dreamcube Thread by Ellinor Kall (79 thread responses out of 100)
3 good things
1. Well-executed experimentation with the telling of the narrative via a twitter/reddit-like format, capturing multiple voices well
2. Excellent use of a thematic red-herring
3. Good use of mystery/intrigue.
3 bad things
1. Once the blog posts start, things get weird.
2. A WTF of an ending.
3. A great moment of insight, but with no end in sight.
FU. CNTS (not a quotable piece, honestly)
Literary Analysis
Religious devotion to consumerism and the occult.

Luz Beyond the Glass by Ava Kelly (62 translucent domes out of 100)
3 good things
1. Starts off feeling very grounded in reality . . . at first
2. You've interacted with these characters before in real life
3. Reads quickly.
3 bad things
1. Felt directionless and without purpose.
2. You get lost in the end as to what has happened to Rafael.
3. Fizzled ending.
"Luz is everywhere, consuming the darkness in peeling waves. Luz is life, cool and warm, all-encompassing, fluent. Luz is light, shimmering gossamer."
Literary Analysis
The tale of Icarus, anyone?

Every Aspect of Every Recollection by Peter Burton (99 time lapses out of 100)
3 good things
1. Stream of consciousness at its BEST!
2. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph, has earned its right to exist in the piece; cut one out and it would ruin the story.
3. You really feel for the narrator, feel for his loss; you know his thoughts because you've also thought them, to some degree
3 bad things
1. The *time passes* segments disrupt the flow.
2. If you're looking for a piece rich with plot, this story is not for you.
3. There's no real ending to the piece. It leaves us floating.
"With the future absent for so long now, the stillness of my present unfolds only onto itself. But the past, with its dull echoes of sensation, is a place I can visit. The only place. Yet, try as I might, I can't recall your face. I'm sorry. I wish for little else, but as I grasp for detail, some hidden force averts my concentration, and the muddled fleshy patch remains out of focus."
"Thirty-two: what kind of age is that to waste away and die?"
"I sleep. I dream, too. But in these dreams, I am the stranger. I am the incidental observer, the apathetic bystander, watching the anxieties of others play out like broken movies. Unsettling, uncanny dramas infected with both dread and longing. I am unable to allocate a single name to the myriad of protagonists who have shared my dreams, yet they all seem vaguely familiar. As if I once knew each of them briefly; the familiar face you can't quite place, or the answer on the tip of your tongue. Whatever the association is, I'm cursed with a sense of connection—an unwanted empathy—towards these oneiric players that's strong enough to leave me wondering: has my brain, free of its own sensory input, been hijacked to process other people's realities? Am I now a tool for insomniacs?"
"I am a circle. The gaps have gone. No between, no distance, no geography. But the illusion of something and other persists with the impervious power of a phobia."
"Data are pulled from every aspect of every recollection, condensed and contrasted time and time again—a perpetual, self-referential reorganisation. I only experience; I have no experiences. What will become apparent? Will my refinement have a conclusion, a singularity?"
"We are each a separate reality, unique and relative."
Literary Analysis
What is life without an end? without anything tangible for us to cling to in order to help carry the narrative forward? And when all that's left of us are just a series of aimless thoughts/brainwaves, are we even still alive? or just meandering and waiting for death?

Ancestors by Juliane Graef (46 DNA splices out of 100)
3 good things
1. I've certainly never read this before.
2. It read really quick, didn't overstay its welcome.
3. The imagery(?) at the end.
3 bad things
1. Wonky dialogue and narration throughout.
2. Preachy "go-green" message with little to no innovation on conveying the message in a new and exciting way.
3. Felt like several smaller, loosely connected pieces which were poorly spliced together to add length to the overall story.
"We share our lives, we share our stories, we share our laughter and we share our cries."
Literary Analysis
There is nothing underneath the surface of this piece. It is all surface level.
Profile Image for Eve Corso.
Author 19 books16 followers
June 21, 2021
A thought-provoking anthology and a must read. A few stories really stood out for me.

"Chimy and Chris" by Stephen Oram was the first story and it really blew me away. Just a good opening piece.

"Little Thief" by J.R. Staples Ager was really good.

"The Video" by Jonathan D. Clark. For something so tragic, it was written so beautifully.

These three were favorites, but the anthology as a whole was incredible.
Profile Image for Becky Taunton.
35 reviews1 follower
April 10, 2022
Wow! Picked this book up from a stall (Books Outside the Box) at Swansea Comic and Gaming Con this morning and read this collection in one afternoon. Resurfaced from these fantastic stories not knowing who, when or what I was. Markers of an absorbing book!
Profile Image for Peter.
60 reviews1 follower
December 11, 2021
Maybe inevitably, a bit of a mix. A couple of really excellent stories but also a few that lacked coherent plots, had clunky dialogue or just didn't really make much sense.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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