Discarding survival of the fittest (Part 3)

This review contains spoilers for Defying Doomsday.

What If: the world ended and you had a disability or were chronically ill.

Defying Doomsday takes this “What If” scenario and explores it across fifteen short stories. Each story does this incredibly differently.  This post explores four of the short stories and how they approach the scenario. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Five Thousand Squares – Maree Kimberley


Kaye and Micha are best friends who met at an arthritis support group. They are both much younger than your typical arthritis suffer and bonded over this. Politically they’re both on very different ends of the spectrum with Kaye joking to Micha she has a “socialist in there just screaming to get out”. Despite having differences politically, they both share a great fear that something bad is going to happen and begin prepping for it. Then the day comes when all their prepping comes in handy.


This story was really great as it gives little detail about the event proceeding it other than a passing mention of “regional wars” and Triparates winning the election. It doesn’t bog itself down in the details of the why but rather focuses solely on Kaye and her relationship with Micha as Kaye tries to escape the tidal wave with her two children.


The characters of Kaye and Micha were excellent and I honestly wanted to read more about them. The athritist is used cleverly as it the reason they manage to escape the tidal wave in the first place as Micha is awake at 4am which is “prime pain time”. It isn’t the main focus of the story but rather something that is always hovering there such as when Kaye is trying to escape and she describes the amount of pain she feels as she’s trying to get her kids out of the house. For anyone who’s ever experienced chronic pain or long term pain, this is fairly reflective of what it feels like. You only notice the extreme pain when doing strange things or if it’s higher than usual. You’re aware it’s there but it’s become part of your daily life that you stop actively thinking about it.


This was definitely one of my favourite stories out of the collection.


Portobello Blind – Octavia Cade



Anna, a blind fourteen year old girl survives a plaque that wipes out most of humanity. She is stuck at a marine lab where her father was researching. The opening line “the worst part of the apocalypse was the sheer bloody boredom of it” is a heads up of what is about to come. Anna spends her days pretending she’s on a private tropical island resort to cope with the boredom and monotony of being alone and not being able to travel. You feel her helplessness which is partly because she’s a teenager and partly because she’s blind. She cries a lot as she tries to release sheep and lambs who are starving but fails, tries to find edible seaweed and screams into the satellite radio. The frustration and desperation is very well written that I was starting to wonder if the story would end with Anna killing herself but luckily Anna finds her inner strength after speaking to survivors over the radio. The ending is uplifting and hopeful which is a nice contrast to the rest of the story.


Tea Party – Lauren E Mitchell


Tally was in a mental hospital when the world ended. Although it is not stated why Tally was there, it implies it as something to do with self-harm. A year after the world has ended and Tally is going shopping for the other patients on the ward. There are nine of them all together and Tally has become their defacto leader of the group. Tally is joined by ‘The Count’ who is referred to as they which confused me at first as I thought meant The Count had multiple personalities but then I worked out it meant The Count was non-binary.

Tally and The Count find a woman who was a nurse in the remnants of a hospital. Asking her name she replies “Florence” which The Count responds with “arrogant!” which I had a nice chuckle at. The nurse settles on Mary as her name. As Mary returns to the ward and realising she’s the only ‘sane’ person hesitates to join in their ‘tea time’ when all of the ward comes together and takes their meds with tea. Tally worries that she will take over and the ward will no longer need Tally. I felt like the underlying message that was never explicitly said was Tally was in the ward because they tried to kill themselves and that looking after the ward was easier than looking after themselves.

If I had to pick a favourite story out of the collection this would be it. It’s such a great riff on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with some apocalyptic flavouring. It portrayed mental illness in a realistic but sympathetic light.


Giant – Thoraiya Dyer


Skye lives in a space station on the moon. She is the daughter of a scientist who went to the moon years earlier to study the Moltorians, an alien race who communicate in a strange language involving maths and chemical components. She attempts to communicate with the Moltorians via their language.

At the same time, a rescue mission to the moon is being coordinated by Hugo, the husband of one of the scientists. Shortly after the mission, the second American Revolution happened and the world was plunged into war.

It turns out Skye is the daughter of Hugo and Silja however as she was born on the moon and a contamination due to the Moltorians has accelerated her growth. Hugo is obsessed with bringing her home and Skye is obsessed with making contact with the Moltorians. This comes to blows in the finale of the story.

This one was interesting as I found Skye’s first person confessions to the digital journal which she was pretending was her mother slightly jarring compared to the reflective poetry of Hugo’s third person parts. However, it was a great way to show the contrast between the two characters.

Additionally, the saying “Supernova in a shitpump” was amazing and I laughed hard at that one. I’m hoping to use it in my additional vocabulary. Despite this story having broad ideas and a lot going on, ultimately it was dealt with much better than the previous stories with big ideas (see part 2).

Do you think that traditionally survival and post-apocalyptic stories over favour survival of the fitness rather than luck? Would you survive the apocalypse? Start a conversation below or share on social media.

Discarding survival of the fittest (Part 2)

This review contains spoilers for Defying Doomsday.

What If: the world ended and you had a disability or were chronically ill.

Defying Doomsday takes this “What If” scenario and explores it across fifteen short stories. Each story does this incredibly differently.  This post explores four of the short stories and how they approach the scenario. You can find Part 1 here.


The Executions:

In the Sky with Diamonds – Elinor Caiman Sands


Megan is a war reporter, floating in space reporting on a war with an alien race. She watches on as a group of ships, including her sister’s vessel try to outrun alien invaders. Megan also have cerebral palsy and uses an AI inserted in her head called Jennifer to communicate and control her ship. The invading alien race has been raging war on humanity and stealing their diamonds.

Megan’s father was a war reporter and died from stepping on a landmine before she was born. She believes its people like him who make a difference in the world.

I find this interesting as a former journalist, I had these thoughts when I wanted to be a journalist. That finding out the truth and exposing it was a grand calling. Alas the state of journalism isn’t so great today. John Oliver recently did a piece on why investigative reporters and war correspondents are slowly disappearing. I find it interesting that this was the angle the story went with considering it is supposed to be in the future.

The character of Megan is excellent however the pacing felt a bit wrong on this story. So much time is spent describing how Megan relies on Jennifer to get around in space and communicate and her role as a journalist and her dad and her sister flying away with other survivor and yet the interesting part which Megan and the aliens speak about diamonds feels rushed. Almost like the author had to quickly end it. The concept of human’s being made out of carbon therefore being close to diamonds which the aliens revere as godlike is interesting but I felt the execution was a bit lacking.


Two Somebodies Go Hunting – Rivqa Rafael


Siblings Lexi and Jeff are sent out by their mother to go hunt down a large kangaroo in a post-apocalyptic landscape that is essentially drought stricken rural Australia. I couldn’t figure out if the world had ended or if the family were already living in rural Australia when something bad happened and they just stayed away. This story annoyed me so much but I believe it was supposed to. Lexi and Jeff spend 90% of the story fighting and I could feel my own memories of my sister annoying the hell out of me surfacing in my mind. The sheer idiocy and aggravation between siblings is so well described I spent most of the time in this story being pissed at Lexi and then at Jeff as the point of view changed. Lexi has issues with her leg that is revealed to be due to an accident she had when she was four. Jeff and Lexi were playing in the creek bed as kids and Jeff slipped and fell. Lexi caught him but landed wrong and broke her leg. For various reasons, her leg couldn’t be reset correctly and it now constantly aches years later.


The symbolism of the kangaroo as the thing causing the tension in their relationship was very well done. When the reveal comes about Lexi’s leg and the cause, a short time later the first rain in a decade comes around and Lexi and Jeff visit the creek bed that caused all the issues, now a running creek complete with fish. The story ends on a high note with the creek’s filling of water and fish symbolising their mended relationship.


Given Sufficient Desperation – Bogi Takács


Aliens took over the world and now people voluntarily help the aliens with identifying items via virtual reality helmets. Vera is one of these volunteers, she has dyspraxia and often finds herself hurt especially as the aliens don’t understand that she needs more than eight hours sleep or it makes her motor coordination issues worse.

She spends her days identifying items or hanging out with her friend Kati. One day they see a group of anarchist squatters on a nearby hill and discuss whether they should join them. The aliens technically aren’t making them stay but Vera concedes she isn’t going to be of much use and would rather stay. The passage of time is shown by lists of objects and suddenly the descriptions of the landscape become lists themselves. It is a bit jarring after the opening part of the story however it works to show a significant portion of time has passed between the beginning and the climax of the story. Vera ends up going for a walk one day and happens to coincide with a group of militants bombing the compound. A bit of information dumping later about how the attack happened (not my favourite style of writing but had to be done in this context) and the militants are recruiting Vera and Kati (who also escaped). They end up going back to the aliens as they treat them better than the bloodthirsty militant group but something has changed in Vera. Suddenly she’s listing objects and stating everything can be used as a weapon. The aliens suddenly reveal that they weren’t the aliens who bombed earth, rather they were just scavengers. Vera’s revelation that everything can be used as a weapon causes them to leave the planet.


As you can see by the very long description, a lot happened in this story. I’d say there were too many ideas in this for a short story and it feels a bit overstuffed. Great ideas but too many. I feel like you could have shown a progression from Vera identifying objects to getting angry at the monotony and starting to see everything as weapons rather than the whole plot about the militants. Perhaps it was to show the aliens were more merciful towards her than her fellow human beings but I feel like they either had to pick one of the storylines rather than try and have both.


Selected Afterimages of the Fading – John Chu


A story in second person is a rare thing to see as most writers tend to stay away from it. The use of it works quite well in this context but I don’t think I could read a whole book in this style. However, the style of this story is not the most unique thing about it. The concept is that things become translucent and blurry in this strange world and ultimately disappear. The main character, Caleb is a super perceiver which assists in the research of why things are disappearing however they also have body dysmorphia. Caleb is beginning to go translucent and another man called Latch gets into a conversation about body dysmorphia and super perceivers. Over the course of the story, Caleb and Latch do experiments relating to the fading and start feeling things for each other. This is actually a love story about a person with body dysmorphia rather than a story about the end of the world. The fading part is just in there.


This was a cool story with a great concept but I struggled to get my head around the story and the style. I felt like it would have been better without the fading part and just about two guys falling in love and overcoming body dysmorphia.


Compared to the first four stories, these ones felt a bit lacking. Except for Two Somebodies Go Hunting, all the stories felt like they had too many ideas to be fleshed out properly in a short story and felt rushed and overstuffed as a result.


Do you think that traditionally survival and post-apocalyptic stories over favour survival of the fitness rather than luck? Would you survive the apocalypse? Start a conversation below or share on social media.

Discarding survival of the fittest (Part 1)

This review contains spoilers for Defying Doomsday.

What If: the world ended and you had a disability or were chronically ill.

Defying Doomsday takes this “What If” scenario and explores it across fifteen short stories. Each story does this incredibly differently.  This post explores the first four short stories and how they approach the scenario.


The Executions:

And the Rest of Us Wait – Corinne Duyvis


Iveta is a teenage Latvian popstar sitting a shelter waiting out the apocalypse somewhere in Europe. She also has spina bifida. It is set in the near future where she has an electronic spinal implant to be able to walk. However, when the comet finally hits the earth the electromagnetic pulse knocks out her implant.

It explores the concepts of celebrity and the media portrayal of disability. For example, Iveta has a conversation with two other young women in the shelter who ask why she isn’t on a priority ark as she’s a ‘celebrity’. She brushes it off but in her narration she mentions how the world forgot her country as they prepared for the impact. The two young women also quiz her as to why she hasn’t got her wheelchair which Iveta says she only uses for performances which gets a big reaction as if she’s a faker. Iveta quickly clarifies that she only uses her wheelchair for performances so she could save energy and not have to worry about falling over. This conversation is often typical of people when discussing disability, especially when discussing accessible parking, permits and invisible disabilities.

The plot delves into the rationing of food and supplies. This quote probably sums up the general consensus of what many people would think in such a situation:

“It’s such nonsense. Special diets? Come on. It’s the end of the damn world. If even one percent of us end up surviving I’d call it a win.”

To distract from the situation (and as her own coping mechanism), Iveta begins performing songs with other girls to uplift the mood. While she gets some pretty nasty feedback, she takes it in her stride. She soon becomes a symbol of hope for many and the shelters organisers want her to break the news to people that they will no longer be catering for specific diets. She definitely tells everyone that equality means that we all have an equal chance, not that we all get the same.

It’s certainly not a subtle message but it’s a damn important one.

To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath – Stephanie Gunn


Georgie’s sisters, Annalee and Eliza were born with cystic fibrosis. Annalee received a lung transplant a year ago but Eliza also needs a lung transplant. The story begins months after a flu epidemic when Eliza’s black phone, the one especially for contacting the transplant hospital rings. Georgie is convinced it’s just the phone glitching but after a message is left stating there is a transplant for Eliza. Annalee and Eliza convince Georgie to leave the relative safety of their mother’s farm and go into the city to the hospital.

To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath explores the idea of survival through Georgie’s point of view rather than either of the sisters. Georgie is the one trying to keep everything together despite her own medical issues (she suffered severe burns as a child and is heavily scarred). It is an interesting dynamic that is often seen in older siblings or if one sibling is ill and the other is not.

During their journey into the city, Annalee’s body begins to reject the newly transplanted lungs and now Georgie must face the reality she may lose both of her sisters. That everything has an expiry date, including humans. Roses are used heavily as symbolism, the story starts with Georgie telling the story of a priest telling Annalee and Eliza that God put 65 roses in their chests. The ending finds them in a house with a beautiful rose garden, circling back that there may still be hope after all.


Something in the Rain – Seanan McGuire


Holly and her cat Kaylee are the only survivors of toxic rain caused by melting polar ice caps. Holly has autism and mild schizophrenia and was recently pulled out of her school as she’d been mercilessly bullied. She was one of few people who saw the signs of the impending disaster and refused to go outside. It was the thing that saved her life. She has an established routine of going shopping at the local Target with a wagon, timing the storms and cleaning her house. She also still takes her medication regularly.

One day she runs into Cathy, one of the bullies from her school. Cathy is the first survivor Holly has met but she’s not very impressed with this turn of events. Cathy follows Holly home but immediately calls her weird, spaz, scitzo and insults Kaylee the cat. Cathy and Holly try to get along for a few days but Cathy commits the ultimate sin by letting out Kaylee. Holly insists she find the cat and Cathy gets her comeuppance.

This was one of my favourite stories in Defying Doomsday as it’s the ultimate revenge fantasy and I found Holly to be such a great character whose autism and narration is subtly inserted by the way she describes things and how she speaks to Cathy. Her survival was due to the unique way she saw the world which I really enjoyed.


Did We Break the End of the World? – Tansy Rayner Roberts


Jin and Aisha are partners in crime and in silence. Jin is deaf and Aisha doesn’t speak. Together they move through houses as scavengers. Jin specialises in scavenging batteries, especially since he only has a limited supply for his hearing aid. The partnership between Jin and Aisha and how they communicate via basic sign language and body language is interested to read and gives a unique perspective on showing not telling.

On a routine scavenge, Jin and Aisha find graffiti in the house they are looting stating “Did we break the end of the world?” They both have been seeing this particular line popping up all over the city but neither can work out what it means.

They run into a teenage boy called Billy who specialises in scavenging art supplies. Jin is suspicious of Billy but also incredibly attracted to him.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that the only survivors are teenagers as the suburb they were living in was specifically for foster children and robotic foster parents. Billy is the one painting “did we break the end of the world?” everywhere and he has a theory, that they’re part of some strange experiment and ‘the pulse’ was orchestrated by whomever was running the experiment to close it down. Except they survive and start their own version of society.

The ending doesn’t actually confirm if said conspiracy theory is true as the plot isn’t overly important as the characters in this story. Jin and Billy develop a romance that seems realistic and isn’t focused on either the fact that Billy is deaf or the fact they’re both boys. Kudos to Tansy Rayner Roberts for portraying a real relationship without harping on those two parts. I really enjoyed this story and I’ve got a secret hope that these characters will be revisited at a later date.


What do you think about the first for executions of this What If Scenario? Do you think that traditionally survival and post-apocalyptic stories over favour survival of the fitness rather than luck? Would you survive the apocalypse? Start a conversation below or share on social media.