S. B. Divya’s 2019 Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse And Other Possible Situations is a single-author collection of short science fiction and fantasy works. It includes the Nebula Award nominee “Runtime.”
“Loss of Signal” • (2018) • short story
A cyborg pilot piloting an experimental rocket fears the interval during which it will be cut off from all support when the Moon blocks it from the Earth. On its (metaphoric shoulders) rests the fate of its kind.
Quite traditional SF, not all that far from Niven’s “The Coldest Place” except that Divya’s protagonist has actual human foibles. Well, and the science isn’t hopelessly outdated.
“Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse” • (2018) • short story
Well-meaning efforts to provide the beleaguered American rubes with a full range of medical options ends with a desperate race from a death squad. The good news: Chula and her spouse had escape plans for the inevitable day the fanatics came for them. The bad news: the wrong, less capable spouse survived the initial stages of the attack.
“Microbiota and the Masses: A Love Story” • (2017) • short story
Moena tries to manage her precarious health while carrying on her research. Her single-minded focus is threatened by Rahul, an all-too-attractive repairman.
This is one of those stories in which hurt feelings are guaranteed by the lack of early full disclosure.
“An Unexpected Boon” • (2017) • short story
An autistic girl’s life is transformed by two sages. One grants her a boon that helps her communicate. Another sage destroys this boon, thinking to do her a favor. She objects; he curses her.
If there is a sage certification process, it would seem to be gravely flawed.
“Nava” • (2017) • short story
Nava, a novel form of created being, struggles to master her abilities, painfully aware that failure could have dire consequences for her and her ambitious creator.
Thematically related to “Loss of Signal” (see above) except that the entity in “Loss” had a decent support team, whereas Nava’s creator is a bit of a self-centred dick.
“Binaries” • (2016) • short story
A hyper-compressed account of a long life transformed by evolving technology.
“The Egg” • (2015) • short story
Bereavement leaves a grieving widower struggling with the responsibilities of impending parenthood.
Weirdly timely, in that this somewhat Bujoldian tale of reproductive technology and incapacitating despair is relevant to the ongoing discussion re the Tiptree Award.
“Dusty Old Things” • (2019) • short story
Ground-breaking inter-dimensional research casts unwanted light on the fracture planes in a seemingly happy marriage.
“The Boy Who Made Flowers” • (2016) • short story
A young man manifests a genuine superpower, only to discover the ability to create flowers has no combat applications. Nor does it raise his social status.
The Legion of Superheroes still would have admitted him before Polar Boy. Jerks.
This isn’t a depressing tale of social isolation and Blessed with Suck. It’s about thinking outside the box.
“Ships in the Night” • (2015) • short story
A woman cursed with flawless precognition destroys a love affair with her power.
This is a depressing tale of social isolation and Blessed with Suck. Flawless precognition is useless. Sometimes worse than useless. For those of you who read ancient SF, this is a thematic cousin of “Journeys End.”
“Gaps of Joy, and a Knot for Love” • (2016) • short story
A poverty-stricken street performer gathers needful things for his aged beloved.
“Strange Attractors” • (2014) • short story
A thumbnail sketch of a long, tumultuous love affair.
“Soft We Wake” • (2019) • short story
Awoken after ages spent in cryosleep, a sleeper struggles to decide between adapting to an alien world or opting for comfortable oblivion.
Not to compare every story of the author’s to something from Poul Anderson, but this brings to mind 1949’s “Time Heals.” It matters greatly to the outcome that the author is not a pessimistic, depressed Dane.
Runtime • (2016) • novella
Tomorrow’s America has American-style universal healthcare, which is to say it is carefully withheld from a select few to perpetuate the traditional US caste system: there are true citizens and second-class citizens. Marmeg is an Unlicensed American, barred from any social services unless she can pay her way into the system. It’s not an impossible dream… provided she is one of the five best marathon runners in the nation…
Weird to read an SF story in which US birthright citizenship is still a thing. How quickly SF becomes obsolete.
While more diverse than classic SF, Divya’s fiction remains firmly within the main SF tradition; it explores themes that will be familiar to experienced readers. This is why I can so often draw parallels with older works. At the same time, the author’s prose is often better than that of the classic authors … which is why I can draw parallels with older works and then add qualifiers like “but better written” and “features actual characters”1. A close-to-comprehensive collection of her short work to date, this book will likely leave readers hoping for more from Divya. Perhaps the more will include full-length novels. I can hope.
1: Also “not written to cater to the delusions of that nutcase running Astounding.”