Ice and Other Stories is an anthology put out by the UK house PS Publishing, celebrating the career of one of Canada’s greatest science fiction innovators, Candas Jane Dorsey. The release of the collection comes at an opportune time: Dorsey was recently honoured with the Golden Pen Award for lifetime achievement by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. She is also currently co-editing an anthology called Food of My People, which was inspired by a story of hers with that name. In fact, that story is one of the standouts of this group—a sort of meditation on the power and magic of homemade meals and the ways in which love can transform and heal.
The collected stories here span just over 30 years, starting with one from 1988 and ending with a previously unpublished story, “End of the Line, or, Desperate Russian Girls Looking for Love.” They are arranged chronologically, with story notes at the back in which the author provides some context as to how or when or why they were written. The first piece, “(Learning About) Machine Sex,” is Dorsey’s most widely anthologized story, having been included in such stellar collections as the Norton Book of SF and the Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women. While such distinction might demand its inclusion, the story is almost certain to seem dated to younger readers who have grown up with cybersex and internet pornography and witnessed the #metoo movement. This could make for a rather unfortunate start to what is otherwise an outstanding body of work and a brilliantly entertaining read.
This is classic science-fiction at its best: smart, witty, heartfelt stories that ask relevant questions about the human experience, that never overexplain their worlds or pander to their readers. “Turtles All the Way Down,” for example, written as a chapter excerpt from a fictional inquiry report investigating the phenomenon of “reality faults,” is breathtakingly executed and resonates strongly with the current climate crisis. “Death of a Dream” tells the harrowing story of a mother-turned-detective searching for her digital daughter, who has been kidnapped into the online equivalent of a sex trafficking ring. This story is strong, urgent and moving, and could easily be imagined as the next binge-worthy Netflix series or summer blockbuster. “Seven in a Boat, No Dog” is a highly original post-apocalyptic tale that is as much about multiculturalism, gender and sexuality as it is about the end of the world.
Ice and Other Stories constitutes international recognition of an important Albertan talent. These shrewdly intelligent and tender-hearted stories are a must-read not only for sci-fi fans but for anyone who appreciates a good short story.
—Matthew J. Trafford is the author of The Divinity Gene.