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Elemental: The Tsunami Relief Anthology: Stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy [Paperback]

Steven Savile , Alethea Kontis

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This SF and fantasy anthology intended to raise money for the victims of the tsunami of 2004 opens with an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke, who lives on Sri Lanka, and ends with the editors' memories of listening to the disaster unfold on the news and the Web. In between are 23 above-par stories by such prominent writers as David Gerrold ("Report from the Near Future: Crystallization"), Larry Niven ("The Solipsist at Dinner"), Brian Aldiss ("Tiger in the Night") and David Drake ("The Day of Glory"). Both Adam Roberts ("And Tomorrow and") and Esther M. Friesner ("Abductio ad Absurdum") contribute humorous stories about how unexpected events that start off alarming end up innocuous or even amusing. In fact, the dominant theme of this volume is the variety of human reactions to the universe throwing spitballs. Perhaps we could hope for an equally readable effort to raise funds for New Orleans? (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in December 2004 generated an unprecedented variety of fund-raising campaigns, none more remarkable than this anthology of original speculative fiction solicited from a high-powered assortment of authors. Sf legend Arthur C. Clarke, who remains a citizen of tsunami-damaged Sri Lanka, contributes the introduction, and only some of the ensuing selections take the tsunami as a contemplative starting point for disaster-driven themes. Other stories are based on themes ranging from alien abduction to the legend of King Arthur. In David Gerrold's sardonic tale, L.A.'s freeway system finally becomes so congested that all traffic in the L.A. basin freezes up in a chain reaction analogous to crystallization. Meanwhile, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson offer a new tale from the Dune universe. The entire collection constitutes thought-provoking entertainment for a good cause, with all publisher and author profits earmarked for the Save the Children Tsunami Relief Fund. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

ALETHEA KONTIS lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She is a contributor to the Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest.

STEVEN SAVILE has twice been nominated for the British Fantasy Society Award for best short story and best original fiction collection, and was runner up in 2000 for his editorial work on Redbrick Eden, Scaremongers 2, which raised funds for the homeless charity SHELTER in the UK. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, where he also teaches.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Report from the Near Future:
David Gerrold started writing professionally in 1967. His first sale was the "Trouble with Tribbles" episode of Star Trek. Within five years, he had published seven novels, two books about television production, three anthologies, and a short story collection. He was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards six times in four years. Since 1967, he has published more than forty books. Several of his novels are considered classics, including The Man Who Folded Himself, When HARLIE Was One, and the four books in The War Against the Chtorr.
Gerrold has written episodes for more than a dozen different television series, including Star Trek, Star Trek Animated, Twilight Zone, Land of the Lost, Babylon 5, Sliders, Logan's Run, and Tales from the Darkside. He has had columns in six different magazines and two Web sites, including Starlog, Galileo, Profiles, PC-Techniques, Visual Developer, Yahoo, and GalaxyOnline. In 1995, he won the Hugo and Nebula awards for "The Martian Child," an autobiographical tale of his son's adoption.
David Gerrold lives with his son in Northridge, California. Learn more about Gerrold at his Web site: www.gerrold.com.
It's that moment when a liquid solidifies, when the temperature drops or the pressure rises and the substance finally stops flowing, it slows down, it turns to slush--to mud, it hardens, it finally becomes impenetrable ... .
For the first few hours after the Los Angeles freeway system crystallized, most people believed the problem was temporary and that traffic would eventually start flowing again. Even for the first few days, they believed they could eventually chip their way out of the concretized arteries.
The slush of Los Angeles traffic had been slower than sluggish for years, churning through looped spaghetti concrete channels in a lumpy stream of metal and plastic peristalsis, in a persistent state of uncertainhesitation, punctuated only occasionally by forward-jerking movements and uneven painful surges, a textbook demonstration of socio-technical constipation and definitely no place for a stick shift.
The city engineers had been aware of the potential for crystallization for nearly two decades, but no one had ever taken the warnings seriously, and eventually even they began to assume that their own projections of crystallization were situational artifacts occurring whenever the simulators reached the limits of their ability to process the rapid flows of data.
Unfortunately, only the data was flowing rapidly. One desperate afternoon, even that stopped. The air-conditioning broke down in the central monitoring station. The temperature rose uncomfortably. Fans didn't help. The computers began shutting down in self-defense. The screens went blank, or declared, "No signal." Blind and deaf, the traffic engineers could neither monitor nor prescribe.
The rest was inevitable.
Outside, in the place where the facts didn't care about simulation, events took on a terrifying momentum of their own. It was Friday, early afternoon on a three-day holiday weekend. Temperatures in the basin had peaked at 106 degrees shortly after one p.m. Add to that a localized gas shortage acerbated by higher than usual oil prices, a high degree of situational stress about the staggering economy, a disturbing series of terrorist bombings in the mideast, and three days of overheated shock-jock nattering about a particularly scandalous high-profile murder trial, and crystallization was no longer a question of if or when, but where.
Surprisingly, it did not begin on the freeway. Not exactly. Although a freeway was involved. The first hardening in the traffic flow began in the San Fernando Valley where Burbank Blvd. intersected with Sepulveda. Always a sluggish intersection, today it revealed its true capacity for horror. An overweight, overstressed soccer mom with two screaming children in the backseat of her SUV and a cell phone pressed to her ear, her attention everywhere but on the road in front of her, abruptly became aware of a motorcyclist coming up out of the blind spot on herright. Startled, she swerved left, forcing two teenagers in a dropped Honda Civic (don't ask) to brake suddenly. The empty tanker truck that shouldn't have been in the same lane behind them braked, swerved, and jackknifed sideways into a city bus, effectively blocking all three northbound lanes of Sepulveda and the middle two lanes of Burbank.
Almost immediately traffic stopped on both boulevards, backing up on Burbank as far east as Van Nuys Blvd. and as far west as Woodley. Sepulveda froze all the way north to Sherman Way and as far south as Ventura Blvd. When the traffic at the intersection of Ventura and Sepulveda froze, the crystallization of the surface streets began to spread east and west on Ventura Blvd. as well. In the horror about to happen, there would be no alternative routes.
The 405 freeway stretches north across the San Fernando Valley; the heaviest used access ramps are at Burbank Blvd., just slightly east of the fatal intersection and up a slight incline. The northbound and southbound access ramps represent two additional intersections to interrupt Burbank's westward flow--it's a wasps' nest of lanes, contradictory traffic signals, and intermittent left-turn arrows. Even at three in the morning, it takes ninety seconds to negotiate this ganglionic nightmare in any direction. During crush hour, wise drivers bring a book or a magazine. Teenage boys change the radio station and readjust themselves in their jeans. Grown men pick their noses and think about business. Teenage girls turn their rearview mirrors and fix their makeup. Everyone else is on the phone, their attention two or ten or a thousand miles away. Watching the road is optional, something that only sissies and old ladies ever do.
On any ordinary afternoon, traffic feeding into the northbound Burbank offramp would start backing up by two p.m. By five, it would be backed up two miles south, all the way to the 405/101 interchange. This day, however, traffic was even more manic than usual. As soon as the critical intersection of Burbank and Sepulveda hardened, the crystallization of the 405 began spreading southward as fast as new cars arrived and joined the creeping boundaries of the linear parking lot.
Imagine the intersection of the 405 and the 101 as a cross. The entire northwest quadrant is the Sepulveda dam basin. For two miles west, there are only two surface avenues that go north through the basin to the neighborhoods beyond, Haskell and Balboa. For two miles north, there is only one westward access--Burbank. But there are over a million residents northwest of the intersection and their only access from the south or east is through this interchange--or through the intersections of Ventura and Sepulveda, or Burbank and Sepulveda. As quickly as Sepulveda clogged, all of the intersections and all of the surrounding surface avenues began to solidify as well. Within forty minutes, an area ten miles square had crystallized.
The 405 and the 101 freeways only exacerbated the situation, feeding more cars into this black hole of traffic from all four compass points. With no place to go, the traffic ground to a halt both north and south on the 405 and very quickly after east and west on the 101 as well.
With the computers down, Cal-Trans was unable to post warning bulletins on the freeway alert signs. Instead, an Amber Alert was posted to look out for a suspected kidnapper driving a black Ford Explorer, license number, etc. It was this particular (alleged) kidnapper's bad luck to be caught on the 101 westbound at Vineland. Traffic came to a halt with the SUV pocketed between a stretch limo on the left and a battered Plymouth pickup on the right, piled high with tree branches and driven by three Mexican gardeners whose command of English was limited. Behind the pickup truck, however, was a distracted mother, whose eleven-year-old son had read the Amber Alert only a few moments before and who was now intently watching all of the traffic around on the promise of a ten-dollar bill from his mother if he spotted the suspect Explorer--but only if he kept absolutely quiet while he did, so his mother could listen to her deadbeat ex-husband (who apparently operated out of the bizarre belief that a good excuse is always an acceptable substitute for a tangible result) explain why his child-support check would be late again.
In the middle of this conversation, the eleven-year-old suddenly beganshouting and pointing. Despite his mother's annoyed refusal to accept the obvious--that she now owed her son ten dollars that she did not have--she eventually accepted that indeed, the suspect's vehicle was only a few yards ahead in the next lane over. By then, owing to a repeat of the same Amber Alert news bulletin on static-riven KFWB, the inhabitants of two other vehicles had also spotted the Explorer. One driver was already calling 911. The other driver and his two passengers (all of them new enlistees on leave from the marine base at El Toro and on their way to visit the Tarzana-based fiancée of the driver) exited their own SUV, two of them carrying baseball bats kept in the vehicle for occasional trips into West Hollywood for gay-bashing. With traffic temporarily halted--or so they believed (that it was temporary)--they approached the Explorer on foot. The suspected kidnapper panicked, tried to hit the gas, tried to force his way between a lime-green Volkswagen Beetle and a 1988 Honda Civic driven by a harried college student whose car insurance had just been canceled, and the result was a three-way crunch, with three soon-to-be-ex-marines bangin...
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