Published May 3rd 2018 by Retreat West
Full title: Nothing Is As It Was: a collection of short stories about climate change
Edited by: Amanda Saint & Gillian Walker
Genre: Short stories, flash fiction
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Dougie teeters on the edge of the huge water butt at the heart of the green house, skinny five-year-old limbs etiolated to taut strings against the sunlight.”
From ‘Mirror Image’ by Anna Orridge
A collection of short stories and flash fictions on the theme of climate change from established and emerging authors who all care about our planet. Profits are being donated to Earth Day Network.
A schoolboy inspired by a conservation hero to do his bit; a mother trying to save her family and her farm from drought; a world that doesn’t get dark anymore; and a city that lives in a tower slowly being taken over by the sea.
These stories and many more make up a poignant collection that is sometimes bleak, sometimes lighthearted, but always hopeful that we can make a change.
The last time I really thought about climate change was probably when I used to do Geography at school. But in recent months it’s been programmes like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II that has opened my eyes anew to the state of the planet, from a conservation perspective.
There are all sorts of things cropping up in the news about the environment. Just the other day I saw something about an iceberg slowly eroding into the sea, and that there;s a team of people gearing up to do some groundbreaking research into it from all angles. My favourite animal, the giraffe, is nearing extinction and it’s just little bits like this that make me think, whoa, this is where we live, this is all we have and we need to treat it well.
Having said that, I’ll finally introduce this book. Nothing Is As It Was aims to bring the subject of climate change to the attention of its readers in a way that the news doesn’t. We see news stories and often they leave us a few minutes after we’ve read or watched them. But this collection explores climate change through short stories and flash fiction, and I have to say, they are doing a good job. It’s not necessarily a book I’d have picked up myself, but having read the stories, this kind of collection is needed right now.
The thing is, although this is climate fiction written from people passionate about change in attitudes towards our natural world, it reads like a dystopian fiction book. Here, the stories reflect back to us the world we know, except it’s a world where it might be too late to go back. Reading it was almost like looking into the future, and although some of the plots are quite surreal in their dystopian aspects and include an element of the fantasy, it’s quite easy to imagine that in 20-odd years’ time, we could be living in a drastically different world.
This blog tour is taking place in Spring: nature is everywhere, you can’t miss her. I look out my bedroom window and I see blossom, I’ve got flowers ready to plant, and I’m seeing some beautiful bees out and about. This book has made all of that even more important to me.
Despite the common theme, there’s a lot of variety in the narratives. Some of them are dark, others quite fun, others really deep and meaningful. The opening story Mirror Image sets the bar for the impact this book will have. It offers us two eventualities, both set in the year 2087. The first is ‘assuming massive global action’, and the second ‘assuming our current climate trajectory’. Suffice to say that the latter is the more dystopian offering, whereas the former offers hope and a society taking care of nature and nurturing it back to health, just to keep the planet habitable.
“Give Nature a chance, and she will return. Head held high.”
Other stories feature things like: a mountain proclaiming ‘ME’ to the people of Earth, reminding us that nature matters, a scientific portal which, seemingly going nowhere, becomes a depository for our waste, a society in which people with cars are the highest in society, and ‘no-cars’ are shunned, and even a story narrated by a cat which is really run to read (it’s an excellent depiction of what a cat might think like) but has the darker reality of wondering where the humans are.
One of the more heartwarming stories is The Other Side of Me in which nature is the cause, and there’s a passion for it. It reveals the importance of legacy, of even just one person who has that passion for nature. It is very short, and takes the form of an interview, but the ending surprised me.
And Bottleneck 2048 put my life and my generation into perspective, and speculates on what kind of thoughts might be going through our heads in the future, depending on the state of the planet:
“That’s the price of being born in the nineties. We knew the world as it was.”
“But we’ll also get to see the world as it will be, coming out the other side.”
At that point I thought, if there is an other side, and as if predicting my thoughts, that’s what the character said too.
There’s a whole lot more in this book than what I’ve covered here, and as all profits are being donated to a good cause to try and do good for the Earth so we don’t end up like so many of the characters we meet, it’s well worth getting your hands on a copy and doing your bit. These stories, and the message within them all, will stay with me long into my own future.
About the contributors
- Cath Barton – winner of the New Welsh Writing Awards AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella 2017 https://cathbarton.com/about/
- Rose McGinty – author of Electric Souk https://www.retreatwest.co.uk/indie-debuts-electric-souk/
- Susmita Bhattacharya – author of The Normal State of Mind
- Weibo Grobler – twice shortlisted for his Flash Fiction and Poetry for the Fish Publishing Prize he has also had various stories published in Molotov Lit, National Flash Fiction Day, Reflex Fiction, Horror Scribes and more.
About the publisher
Retreat West Books is an independent press publishing paperback books and ebooks.
Founder, Amanda Saint, is a novelist and short story writer. She’s also a features journalist writing about environmental sustainability and climate change. So all Retreat West Books publications take advantage of digital technology advances and are print-on-demand, in order to make best use of the world’s finite resources.
Retreat West Books is an arm of Amanda’s creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs fiction writing retreats, courses and competitions and provides editorial services.
Initially started to publish the anthologies of winning stories in the Retreat West competitions, Retreat West Books is now open for submissions for short story collections, novels and memoirs. Submission info can be found here.
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