Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction & Fantasy

Image of Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction & Fantasy
Release Date: 
January 5, 2010
Prime Books
Reviewed by: 

Sometimes anthologies can be a little hit or miss with some really great stories and some that just fall flat. This is not one of those times.

With almost 30 years of experience editing anthologies, Ellen Datlow proves again that she has an amazing eye for stories. Digital Domains is a collection of weird and wonderful and amazing stories that were originally published online and have never been in print before, and she’s chosen 15 stories from three top online sources—OMNI Online, Event Horizon, and SCIFICTION—that read as well today as they did in the early days of online publishing when they made their debuts.

Each story is prefaced by a little personal thought about the story and info about the author, and then presented as is, without anything changed or updated. The fact that these stories don’t read as at all dated says much for the talent of the writers who created them and the clarity of their vision when it comes to science fiction, especially, but including horror and fantasy—because the three often overlap.

Online fiction publishing is often where writers go to play with form and content that might not work in traditional print venues. Each story is unique and moving in its own way, from Kelly Link’s “Girl Detective” that travels a strange and nonlinear route to tell a story that might be about a girl looking for her mother or might be about something else entirely; to M. K. Hobson’s devastatingly beautiful and horrible “Daughter of the Monkey God,” where people in the third world are hired to work through first-world traumas so they don’t have to do it themselves; to Richard Bowes’ haunting and intensely personal “There’s a Hole In the City,” set in New York in the days immediately after 9/11.

The feeling of the anthology is consistent. Beauty and horror overlap and leave a sort of lingering unease that comes from having your idea of how things work and what you could expect from life if it changed. There’s no one story that stands out as misplaced, nothing that seems to go against the feel of the rest of the book. As well, the narratives build through all these tales to leave the inside of the head rearranged, so the reader doesn’t immediately want to start a new book, but wants to linger for a day or two on the feeling, the stories, and the changes experienced.

And this should be the goal of any anthology: to captivate the reader. The point here is the stories, and since it isn’t a novel, each gem of storytelling can come forward on its own, tell its own tale in its own way, and leave you with something you didn’t have before.

If you are an anthology buff, this is one to keep and cherish. If you like quick reads, this is quality to counter the speed, fifteen stories in about three hundred pages, and none of them feeling truncated for their brevity. If you like the places where the genres blur together a little, this collection shows how to do it right. It has something for everyone, and is well worth the read.