Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
But astronaut Richard Martin can tell a different story. Of panic in deep space, of crewmen pushed beyond breaking point, of official indifference towards his own shattered life.
Martin is effectively put under wraps - until the pilot of a moon capsule, loaded with nuclear weaponry goes beserk and a nightmare develops, threatening to engulf the world - a nightmare that only Martin could end.
In this diverse and vigorous mix of stories by newcomers and luminaries, writers offer their takes on what life might hold for us in the next few years. The resulting visions of war, oppression, and daily struggle are sometimes humorous, sometimes terrifying (and occasionally both), but always thought-provoking.
Including stories by K. G. Anderson, Richard Bowes, Elizabeth Bourne, Scott Bradfield, J.S. Breukelaar, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Becca Caccavo, Don D’Ammassa, Stephanie Feldman, Eric James Fullilove, Ron Goulart, Eileen Gunn, Leslie Howle, Matthew Hughes, Janis Ian, Michael Kandel, Thomas Kaufsek, Paul La Farge, Yoon Ha Lee, Michael Libling, Heather Lindsley, Lisa Mason, Barry N. Malzberg, David Marusek, Mary Anne Mohanraj, James Morrow, Ruth Nestvold, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Marguerite Reed, Robert Reed, Madeleine E. Robins, Jay Russell, Geoff Ryman, James Sallis, J. M. Sidorova, Brian Francis Slattery, Harry Turtledove, Deepak Unnikrishnan, TS Vale, Leo Vladimirsky, Ray Vukcevich, Ted White, Paul Witcover, N. Lee Wood, and Jane Yolen.
On Account of Darkness and Other Stories brings together for the first time every science fiction story that Bill and Barry wrote together during their long careers, featuring a brand-new introduction. These short, sharp stories, each a paradigm of the craft of science fiction, are prime examples of two authors working at the height of their collaborative powers, resulting in a collection of truly speculative fiction.
Barry N. Malzberg is the author of some forty science fiction novels and collections. Bill Pronzini has been a full-time professional writer since 1969.
Stories included in this collection:
On Account of Darkness
A Clone at Last
“Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?”
On the Nature of Time
Opening a Vein
The Lyran Case
Whither Thou, Ghost
Out of Quarantine
In Our Image
Another Burnt-Out Case
The Last One Left
The Rec Field
The Hungarian Cinch