9781908168856-188x300Existence is Elsewhen
Elsewhen Press, 303 pages
Review: Joanna McLaughlin

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Elsewhen Press’s Existence is Elsewhen is a diverse collection of science fiction short stories from twenty different writers. The title of the collection, taken from Andre Breton’s 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism, sets out the ambition of this independent publisher, who specialise in speculative fiction, and the collection itself – to showcase ‘different worlds… different times’. In this regard, Elsewhen Press more than achieves their goal with an eclectic anthology which explores the best and worst that different worlds and futures may have to offer.

The topics covered in the collection are wide ranging, exploring everything from the unintended consequences of technological advancements, to the cultivation of new planets, to the evolutionary steps, or backwards steps, mankind may take in the future. The different styles and themes of the anthology’s contributors are similarly varied, spanning crime thrillers, comedies, love stories, space adventures and murder mysteries to name just a few. It is the collection’s commitment to showcasing the diversity of science fiction that makes it a particularly useful entry point for readers less familiar with the genre who are keen to understand what science fiction is or can be.

The impact that science and technology is likely to have on our futures is the focus of a number of short stories in the anthology. J.A Christy’s collection opener, “Inside and Out V.S – From Here to ETERNITY” sets the tone with a tale of a not-so-distant future where the pursuit of optimal health, comes at the price of much of what may be considered to make us human. John Gribbin’s excellent “Something to Beef About” continues this theme with a warning tale about the choices scientists may deem acceptable in the future in order to ensure our future existence. Finally, Dave Weaver’s “The Copy” offers a sad yet uplifting story of a clone created only to save her counterpart’s life, finding meaning through simpler ways to improve people’s lives.

Other stories that stand out in the collection are Steve Harrison’s “Earthsale” and Rhys Hughes’s “Jecking the Oofers”. The former is a playful history of how and why mankind really came to be on Earth and our “creator’s” true plan for us and the planet we inhabit. Hughes’s contribution meanwhile is an entertaining exploration of the evolution of language and the key role it has to play in building and understanding new worlds. Again, these stories demonstrate the diversity of stories available through the science fiction genre.

However, for many readers, the eclectic nature of the collection may also be seen as its weakness. Beyond its obvious celebration of the diversity of the science fiction genre, there is very little that holds the collection together and at times moving from one story to the next is a very jarring experience. This is exacerbated by the fact that the quality of the stories included in the collection is very variable and amongst the shining stars, some stories are forgettable. That said, whatever your taste it is likely that you will find a few stories in Existence is Elsewhen that will stay in your mind long after you have reached the end of the collection.