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Best Vegan Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016 (Best Vegan SFF) Kindle Edition
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(“My Dog is the Constellation Canis Major” by Jarod K. Anderson)
“Trans-human. That’s what I’m called, somehow. The word never felt right though, then least of all. Trans is too high, too grand for someone so cobbled together. So is human, I suppose. If I get hurt, I’m as like to spill oil as blood. That’s why the witch didn’t see me. She didn’t see a person, she just saw parts.”
(“Strix Antiqua” by Hamilton Perez)
When I spotted this anthology of “vegan” science fiction and fantasy stories on NetGalley, I knew I had to have it. Though I love both genres, the animal exploitation that seems ubiquitous in each makes active compartmentalization while reading a must. (Though you could say the same of all literature, fwiw.) Vegan SF/F? Sign me up!
Alas, BEST VEGAN SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY OF 2016 isn’t quite what I envisioned. Instead of, say, stories featuring vegan protagonists, plots that involve daring animal rescues, or narratives that hinge on animal sentience or human/nonhuman kinship, the stories contained within these pages are “vegan” more for what you don’t see than the things you do. There are no scenes of animal cruelty, exploitation, or speciesism here. Often there aren’t any animals at all!
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing! On the contrary, some of the stories are downright magical. To no one’s surprise, my favorite was the sole story that did center a nonhuman in its narrative. In “My Dog is the Constellation Canis Major,” the narrator inherits a dog from his eccentric yet beloved grandmother; a creature who literally shines with love, and one the grieving guardian must ultimately set free.
I also adored Hamilton Perez’s “Strix Antiqua,” in which speciesism (automatonophobia? robophobia? technophobia?) proves to be the evil witch’s downfall. You might look at “Strix Antiqua” as vegan in the larger sense, e.g., in that it promotes compassion and respect for all animals, including those of the human variety. (Or, to expand the circle even further, all sentient beings, including those that are non-organic.) Likewise, “Closed Circuit” has a bit of a social justice bent, as the settlers of an abandoned mining colony fight for their freedom on a hostile planet/in a hostile world.
“Murder on the Adriana” is also worth a mention, if only because it brought to mind one of my favorite shows, Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY. (That one episode with Mal and Zoey’s war buddy Tracey in particular, which has forever earned a special place in my heart.)
The book ends on almost as strong a note as it begins, with Kelly Sandoval’s “Small Magics” – a twist on the trope of a gifted child leaving home to save the world. A mother’s love means knowing when to hold tight to your magical little munchkin…and when it’s time to send him out into the world to forge his own path.
Overall, this is a satisfying (if short!) collection of SF/F stories that won’t make animal lovers cringe with horror (or even just disapproval). Animals aren’t always introduced into the stories – but when they are, it’s with kindness and respect.
“My Dog is the Constellation Canis Major” by Jarod K. Anderson – 5/5
“Images Across a Shattered Sea” by Stewart Baker – 4/5
“Rowboat” by K. G. Anderson – 4/5
“Daughter of the Sea” by George Nikolopoulos – 3/5
“Tides of Reflection” by Mark Rookyard – 3/5
“Lift Up Your Cores, O Ye Ships” by Tracy Canfield – 3/5
“Strix Antiqua” by Hamilton Perez – 5/5
“May Dreams Shelter Us” by Kate O’Connor – 5/5
“Spoiler: She Leaves Him” by Jack Noble – 3.5/5
“Murder on the Adriana” by James Ross – 4/5
“Closed Circuit” by J. S. Arquin – 3.5/5
“Small Magics” by Kelly Sandoval – 5/5
** Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review through NetGalley. **