TITLE: Resist Fascism
EDITORS: Bart R. Leib and Kay T. Holt
95 pages, Crossed Genres, paperback and e-book formats, ISBN 9780991392148
DESCRIPTION: (from Amazon page): RESIST. ANY WAY YOU CAN. The world is in turmoil. The world is always in turmoil, but in recent years, people have seen violence and hatred become proud instead of ashamed. What meager rights we've fought for are being deliberately eroded. And the vulnerable have any help stripped away. All of this is happening openly and without fear of reprisal. And the worst perpetrators are some of the largest governments of the world. Resisting the spread of fascism is as important now as it was 75 years ago. And there are many effective ways to resist. RESIST FASCISM is a micro-anthology of science fiction and fantasy tales that explore the many and varied ways people can fight back. From helping promote low-income housing, to fighting fascists hand-to-hand, to burning it all down. Best of all, RESIST FASCISM shows that you don't have to be a hero to advance change.
MY RATING: 5 out of 5 stars
MY THOUGHTS: Resist Fascism, the first of hopefully many themed “micro-anthologies” from Crossed Genres, takes on the fight against oppression in all its varied forms, from small personal sacrifices to large public actions. Some of the nine stories collected by editors Bart Leib and Kay Holt easily fit into a single genre while others blend them seamlessly, but all touch on personal responsibility and being the change one wants to see in the world.
In Rivqa Rafael’s “To Rain Upon One City,” an immigrant girl in an urban ghetto cares for a mother addicted to painkillers after an unspecified accident and the seeming refusal of health care from the dominant native religious population. She does what she can to blend in, staying away from known danger zones and thus out of the path of authority figures who don’t treat her kind fairly, until she follows a mysterious martial arts teacher to his dojo and meets people from other oppressed populations. Can she overcome prejudices of her own to join with them? The author subtly speaks to the in-fighting between different (and differently) marginalized people in modern American society. Each group may make advances, but how much more could be accomplished and faster if the minor differences were overlooked in favor of the greater benefit? The SFnal setting makes it a little bit easier to ask these questions than it is in our social-media-driven, gate-keeping world.
By now, anyone who travels by air is familiar with the “3.4 oz” carry-on rule for liquids. R.K. Kalaw brilliantly tweaks the concept in her story of the same name. A marginalized woman from the Pacific Islands on a work visa to the US finds herself constantly subject to extra searches, until her sister teaches her how to quite literally bottle up, in the requisite sizes, the emotions that border security agents use as an excuse to mistrust. But what happens when her grief is too great to contain in such small bottles? The magic in this story has logical rules that are made clear more through the characters’ actions than exposition, with potentially devastating results for the bottler if mis-handled, and it’s pretty clear the magic was developed as a way to cope with, and safely subvert, unfairly targeted Customs practices. Society changing the magic might not be, but sometimes the only way to resist is to perform self-care.
“In The Background” by Barbara Krasnoff also features a less subtle, but also more dangerous, act of rebellion: spreading information through codes and physical signals, right under the nose of an oppressive regime. The main character is a minority background extra on a government-approved propaganda-laden television series, in danger of losing her child due to new “purity” (not the word the government uses, of course) laws. Some of her fellow background extras use their physical bits of business to send a call to action to viewers who know what to look for when the episodes air. The question is, should she take part in the subterfuge or for the sake of her child remain “oblivious” of the rebellion that surrounds her? This is a neat bit of alternate 1920s-ish history that I wouldn’t mind seeing Krasnoff revisit in other stories.
The setting of Marie Vibbert’s “The Seventh Street Matriarchy” is so near-future it’s almost indistinguishable from our present day. A new caseworker arrives for one of the still-remaining public housing developments and immediately senses something is wrong: the development only seems to house women who are divorced or widowed or single parents. Applications for residence by married couples or single fathers or bright young men without spouses or children seem to be denied at every turn. But is that the fault of the caseworker’s entrenched and angry boss, or of someone in the development. There are multiple levels of rebellion at work here, from the main character’s distrust of the structure in which she works to the passive but effective resistance to change on the part of the development’s close-knit community. Again, questions of ally-ship and cooperation rear up alongside questions of trust to create a complex story.
JL George’s “We Speak In Tongues of Flame” is one of the few stories in the collection to show the more violent side of rebellion. A young indigenous girl survives by ignoring her heritage and drawing street art about pleasant subjects for the dominant, invasive population. After witnessing the treatment of a political prisoner who is also indigenous, her art takes a turn along with her interest in currying favor from her conquerors. The results are ultimately catastrophic and all-encompassing for the people of the village she’s been living in. The story’s fantasy setting mirrors the European conquest and decimation of American indigenous peoples, and also speaks to the ways the dominant culture justifies treatment of the conquered. Several of the villagers treat the artist well enough when she’s being inoffensive and kow-towing, surely proud of this proof that they’re not racist at all—until her art becomes more political and she starts speaking in the native tongue they don’t understand.
Robocop and Judge Dredd come to mind as the pop-culture background for the dystopian society of “Meet Me at the State Sponsored Movie Night” by Tiffany E. Wilson. In a city patrolled by “Freedom Enforcers” and in which the population has little freedom of thought or movement, two teenage girls attempt to subvert the government-approved movie night. The tension of the story is over whether they and their accomplice will get caught, the question of whether they will be identified as the culprits by someone who seems to be on their side but may in fact be working for the regime. The nature of the regime, their exact actions and how they came to power, are never explicated, which just increases the darkness of the story.
The nature of the regime, how they came to power and exactly what they plan to do to quash rebellion is very much at the forefront of M. Michelle Bardon’s “Ask Me About My Book Club,” in which a small coven of witches use codes messages in artfully arranged photos and social media posts to call their fellow to arms against the ruling, illegally-elected, dragon government. So many of my favorite stories and plays use humor to counterpoint pain, and Bardon works that dynamic masterfully in this story. There are a number of almost laugh-out-loud lines of narration and dialogue before things take a turn to the serious and deadly.
“Pelecanimimus and the Battle for Mosquito Ridge” by Izzy Wasserstein is another great bit of alternate history, taking real events of the Spanish Civil War and positing how they may have turned out differently if maybe dinosaurs had been involved. It’s another humorous concept, yes, but that humor doesn’t bleed into the story (unless, like me, whenever a human trains a dinosaur you can’t help but picture Chris Pratt and velociraptors), which features more up-close and personal real bloodshed than any other story in the anthology. War is a bloody business and Wasserstein doesn’t shy away from it. It’s the only story in the anthology told in epistolary style, via letters from a closeted gay man to the love he left behind to fight the good fight against the Fascists.
The anthology closes with Santiago Belluco’s “Meg’s Last Bout of Genetic Smuggling,” a thriller-SF hybrid that focuses on a young Martian woman traveling to Earth to visit her pen-pal. On her first trip, the smuggling in of forbidden literature via genetic embedding is exciting and a lark, but Meg becomes more committed to spreading contraband the more the Earth and Martian governments tell her to stop. By necessity, her methods become more extreme and the stakes life-threatening with not one but two restrictive governments putting her in the crosshairs. It’s interesting that the final story in the book is one of clear personal sacrifice for a greater good, but also one in which the hero is fighting against two different governments that each have their own reasons to restrict the flow and sharing of information between planets. What at first seems like a simple “Earth is Dystopian, Mars is Utopian” dynamic becomes more complicated as the story progresses.
And I think that’s a great summary of the anthology as a whole: the gray areas in resistance: between like-minded groups with different methods, between personal needs and group goals, between dynamic and passive actions. But what’s not gray, in these stories or in real life, is that resistance/revolution/change/progress (call it what you will) starts with one person making a decision.