Writing near-future science fiction, especially giving it a particular date, requires a certain amount of bravado, as well as all the necessary imagination and skill of sf writing in general. In giving their eleven authors a specific date to write to, Krasnostein and Payne have been - to my mind - exceptionally daring, and demanding. In order to address this topic, authors have had to put themselves out there, on the line, and make a stand as to what the world might be like in four (from when I read it) or five years’ (from their writing) time.
Before I read this anthology, I tried to think about some of the changes that have happened in the last four or five years, to get some perspective on what sort of changes I would be happy to accept. The issue of water was something that sprang to mind immediately: it has become a much more pervasive issue in Australia in that time, as has the topic of climate change on a worldwide scale. On a universal scale, the Mars Rovers were launched in 2003 and reached their destination at the start of 2004; Voyager got further away from the Sun than any other known object in the solar system. Australia got a new government. Battlestar Galactica came back to the TV screen. So some things have changed a lot; others, not so much.
Overall, the stories presented in this anthology are highly enjoyable. They all have different styles, with quite different takes on the year in question - although having some common threads, which will be mentioned below. I do think, however, that as an anthology about the year 2012 it is not entirely convincing. Some of the stories do not, to me, ring true for a future just four years away. Ten years - quite possibly. Four... seems like a stretch.
The penultimate story, “David Bowie”, is written in a Ben Peek trademarked style: two interlocutors, their respective dialogue right and left justified on the page and in different font. It’s a very clever style - and one that allows for a story that is solely dialogue, which in a conventional format would be both boring and more difficult to read. That said, it does require some work, to remember who/what each of the participants is. The story told is almost solely concerned with the personal, and is different from the rest of the stories by not being obviously set in 2012. Instead, it’s looking forward five years - it could be looking forward to 2012, or to 2017. It’s one of the few stories in the collection that withstands an almost immediate re-read, to explore its ideas again with greater insight.