I love stories of people taking a stand and fighting back. Growing up in the era of the climate crisis has often made me feel helpless about my capacity to make a difference in the world, so stories of rebellions are reminders that change is possible—and that it doesn’t always have to be on a massive, global scale. Here are some recent SFF short stories featuring rebellions that have inspired me lately, and which I know I’ll be coming back to in moments of hopelessness…
“A Land of Blood and Snow” by Cooper Anderson
The Royal Family of New Wallachia likes playing games with its subjects. They’re wolves who’ve trapped their people, and make a game of those who want to escape. There have been enough foolish attempts that no one tries to run away anymore. So, when the blacksmith challenges the Prince in front of everyone, the citizens realise that there still might be some hope—if the blacksmith makes it out alive, that is.
“The Last Days of Summer in the City of Olives” by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko
Luzetia traded a royal life for the freedom to learn and practice medicine. But when your twin is a power-hungry tyrant, there’s only so long you can go without confronting the role that you’re expected to play. Except, Luzetia isn’t having any of it. She knew what she was doing when she took up medicine and left the ruling to her sister, Agata. Yet she can’t ignore the suffering Agata’s rule has created. Must she surrender, or is there a way to make things better without having to give up her work?
“Secret Powers” by Anya Markov
In this enchanting story that takes you back and forth through time, Anya Markov tells the tale of a magical deer that can produce valuable gems and of the girl who believes that it exists. Zarni has hope that the deer can save her family, who are struggling because the mines are getting exhausted. The deer is fascinated by this little human too, but it can’t simply grant her wishes. The forest has needs. Who will take care of them, especially when outside forces—made up of men and machines—seem stronger than any magic the deer wields?
“The Manufactory” by Dru Pagliassotti
The latest research on achieving immortality has made life difficult for the poor folk who survived by digging up graves to sell cadavers. All the good bodies are snatched up by the factorymen to create the essence that helps the rich extend their lives while the poor continue to die from sickness and starvation. Pushed to their limits, they break into the manufactory where the bodies are taken. What exactly is being done to them, and is there any hope for the living? How far can one go for one’s loved ones—and for immortality? A grim story, with much food for thought.
I’m a person who prefers analog over digital any day, yet if you give me a considerate, kind machine, I’ll cry over it. Think Baymax from Big Hero 6, or NASA’s Oppy, or the drone from this beautiful story by T.K. Rex, which encounters a human in an area where they’re not supposed to be anymore. The ecosystem needs to be restored, and humans have been taken elsewhere. Except for this old woman, who has somehow managed to escape the Rangers. She should leave if she doesn’t want to be forced out, and also because the drone needs to take care of its ecosystem—one which does not include humans.
I love the takeaway here: rebellions don’t always have to be out in the open, with banners and marches. Sometimes, they’re quiet, the changes taking place silently. You fight for your values by actually living them, and that in itself is a victory.
“The Nostalgia Panes” by Aaron Perry
Nostalgia glass is all the rage among the aristocracy of Alba Eloi. After all, who wouldn’t want a window pane that will let them look back in time to specific events? To the rich, what those events stood for is of little importance. But to people like Seneca, history student and apprentice archivist, it is difficult to ignore the politics at play in the city. She is frustrated—but her friends have a plan. What if you could use the nostalgia glass to show the elite what they don’t want to see? What if looking back into the past could create a way for a better future? This is a very clever story, with equally beautiful and memorable imagery.
“The Blighted Godling of Company Town H” by Beth Cato
Change always leaves behind ruins. Dreya, the godling of a Town now abandoned by the Factory, has a lot on her plate. Forget a thriving community; she has to keep up just to make sure her people can survive another day, another month. She folds paper figurines, blessing them so that they can protect her people against sickness and her land against infertility. But her powers are proving inadequate and she blames herself for the condition of the town. What will it take for her to understand that she does not have to do this alone? That the strength for survival can come not just from godlings but also from the people they protect?
Ratika Deshpande, Order of Truthwatchers, is the editor of The Metronome, a bi-monthly magazine for people who want to study psychology and make a career in the field.