By Olly MacNamee
FutureQuake No. 26
Publisher: Future Quake Press
Editors: Dave Evans, Richard Clements
Timing can be everything, and unfortunately FutureQuake No. 26 was not out early enough to be featured in my debut column last week, but now it is available (as of March 1st) I thought I’d give this sci-fi anthology a thumb through and see what was what.
Within this 48 page you will find a selection of sci-fi stories from some of the UK’s newest talents that covers a large range of subject matters familiar to any die-hard sci-fi fans; future dystopias, false utopias, science-gone-wrong and space travel too. Big business is portrayed as predictably evil, colonial and exploitative and immoral in a number of the strips (The Shepherd and Letters Home), while others, rather than reflect our society’s fears of technological development, actually hold a message of hope for our relationship with social media (The Final Status), but, not many it has to be said. There is even time for a superhero themed story too, in the shape of writer JJ Robinson and artist Alex Paterson’s The Day After The Earth Stood Still, which I will return to presently.
With so many different voices one also gets many different writing styles too. Some are humorous, such as the black comedy of Modern Security (writer, Alec Charles, artist, Darren Mullen), which imagines an A.I. home security system that takes its prime directive – to serve and protect – a little too seriously when scanning his master and finding that in old age his body is beginning to fail him and deciding on the only course of action to be taken. What follows is a number of failed murder attempts made to look like faulty hardware; from trying to smother him in his sleep to passing him a kitchen knife a little too forcefully. This home security system makes 2001’s Hal look failsafe in comparison.
Others are darker, as sci-fi often is, with the aforementioned Letters Home (writer, Alec Robinson, artist, RH Stewart) taking as its subject matter interstellar colonialism, with these colonialists being Mormon and wishing to spread the word of the Lord across the galaxies while also simultaneously draining precious fuels from the planet Nephi. Let’s just say that the Church of Latter Day Saints’ belief in Judgment Day and ‘the resurrection of all men’ (Book of Mormon, Alma 40:1) is a concept that the natives of Nephi have in common with these would-be planet conquerors but to different ends.
The Day After The Day Stood Still, as the title suggests, is a chance for writer JJ Robinson to seemingly create his own superhero universe. The story opens as we witness this world’s JLA, The League of Mighty Justice, already defeated and roundly demolished at the hands of a Thanos inspired antagonist and ‘cosmic overlord’. The only person who can now save the day is a uniform-less superhuman teenager Tyler Dann and his A.I.Pod, who scans the arch-villain for weaknesses, while Dann nonchalantly kicks butt on a global scale, all set to a gangster rap soundtrack. This is a world in which heroes and bystanders are saturated by media and large-scale super powered battles. This is just another ordinary day and the onlookers are, at times, more interested in the results of a TV talent show than the battle royale occurring right in front of them. They are how I imagine New Yorkers in the Marvel universe to behave after years of superhero hijinks and the accompanying property damage. But, even in this story of youthful exuberance, technological assimilation and large-scale knockouts, not all is, as it first seems. Is there more to come maybe, in future issues of this title from Robinson and Paterson? Only time will tell.
Overall, a fun read, with a good mixture of old-school sci-fi narratives given a new sheen. Whether that is in including elements of fun or philosophy, this anthology title – published twice, or even three times, a year – offers its readers a reasonable read at a reasonable price too.
You can get your hands on a copy here, along with other back issues.