If you’re friends with me on social media (or you’re that damned stalker I almost caught in the tree outside my office that one time when my wife said, “it probably was just a couple of squirrels making that rustling sound,” and I said, “I know what I saw,” and she said never you mind what my wife said), you may have seen me mention this anthology, “The Will To Survive.”
If you’re not friends with me on social media, that’s fine, I guess. *kicks rocks
But this isn’t about us, friends, non-friends, and frenemies. This is about an anthology for hurricane relief.
I know last fall seems like ages ago, but it was, in fact, mere months, and if you recall, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria pounded the Southeastern United States, Virgin Islands, and Caribbean in rapid succession. Damage estimates are in the billions of dollars, and still, five months later, parts of Puerto Rico’s electric grid remain down.
In case you need a translation on that, those are U.S. citizens who don’t have basic utilities five months after a hurricane.
In the aftermath of the storms, we watched as federal relief organizations fumbled the recovery to Puerto Rico. Even as Texas, Florida, and the surrounding states were back up comparably quickly, rebuilding continues.
In September of 2017, my editor, Felicia Sullivan, reached out with an idea to do what we do for those affected by these storms. Her idea was to produce an anthology of stories about survival in the wake of disaster and to donate all proceeds to charity.
At the beginning of February, that anthology released, and to date, the book has done pretty dang well. We’ve raised about $1,200 as of last count.
I leaped at the opportunity to be a part of this because Felicia offered me the chance to act on my wishes to actually do something instead of just sitting around, feeling sad about the state of the world and powerless to change it.
“The Will To Survive” is an exceptional anthology that collects 22 stories from 22 authors who all wished they could do something and did, and now you have a chance to join us.
All you have to do is buy this book. You get a bunch of cool stories and a sense that you did something good. Organizations like One America Appeal and Global Giving’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund get the proceeds. The people affected by these storms get a better chance of having the help they need to get back on their feet.
So it’s undeniably worth it for the $11.95 or $2.99, depending on whether you prefer paper or plastic.
But is it good? Is it worth your time to read it? Are you going to like it?
What’s most interesting to me about this anthology is how it reflects the depth of the indie writing community. I appreciate the fact that so many people with different lives, interests, and writing styles came together to produce something that will benefit those in need. It’s beautiful really, but I’m nothing if not an idealist.
That is to say I think there’s something in here for everyone. I’ll call out a handful of stories that I personally enjoyed. You might find a completely different set that you like.
“The Shimmers” by Kelly Hudson—This story is one of the most creative narratives I’ve read in a while. It begins with a woman chained up in a basement. She’s been held against her will, tortured, and violated. One day, her tormentor stops coming down those stairs, and she has to free herself. When she finally gets out of her prison, she finds the man who’d held her captive has been killed, and she wasn’t the only one he was keeping. Freeing the other women, they discover the world has succumb to some kind of alien invasion by these shimmering beings. Ultimately, “The Shimmers” is an amazingly powerful and disturbing story about female empowerment and what it takes to survive and live with the consequences of that survival.
“Wooly” by Shane Gregory—What a weird tale. I freaking loved it. One day, while a man named Louis is taking a shower, the water stops. As he gets out to see what’s going on, he finds his house outside the bathroom door is just gone, and the world beyond has been invaded by these alien creatures that look like giant, wooly worms. Louis has no idea where his wife is. He has no idea where anyone is. The story is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy in the sense that I’m guessing it was inspired by a surreal nightmare, and it’s thoroughly and completely nightmare fuel.
“Rusty’s Run” by Nick DeWolf—You may have seen me fawning over Nick’s work before. This story is told from the perspective of a dog, and if that immediately makes you apprehensive, fret not. It’s never overdone, and it’s not hard to follow. It strikes just the right balance, and it is utterly endearing. The premise is simple. Rusty is a dog, and she has her girl. One day, while camping, there is a nuclear explosion in the distance, and in the confusion of people running from the campground, Rusty is separated from her family. What follows is her journey to the only place she knows to find her girl: home. Dammit, I’m not crying! You’re crying!
“Into the Valley of Shadow” by Sean T. Smith—The visceral experience and heart of this story is moving. Sean demonstrates with this story that any scenario or plot is immediately more powerful when it’s founded on simple, concrete storytelling we all can relate to. Set deep in the mountains, a family in strife over marital tensions confronts a real possibility that the world has ended while they were isolated on their camping trip. They must fight to survive in the wilderness, and what I liked most about this story is it avoids the trope of the apocalypse as an equalizer of problems. As it turns out, the end of the world doesn’t solve anything. It complicates matters. Even if this family can’t live together, they can survive together if need be. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.
“Showdown at Rig City” by Jamie Mason—This is one of the more intelligent stories I’ve read in a while. Living (might be a strong word, perhaps “existing” is better) on a complex scaffolding system built on top of Key West after climate change has risen the seas to swallow it up, Diego labors in a dystopian world where the losers of society suffer an extremely harsh reality under the thumb of the winners, and all of that is set by virtue of birthplace and inheritance. Diego faces the fact that there is no way for him to work his way out of this life. He must escape it. There is strong commentary on race, socioeconomic classes, and simple human decency in this one. Painfully relevant. I loved it.
“These Things the Kitten Said” by D.J. Goodman—If you thought reading from the perspective of a dog was weird, at least Rusty is lucid. In this story, we find a young girl who is trekking across an apocalyptic wasteland with no food or water, looking for, well, anything. She’s clearly beyond help at this point, as we are introduced to her mere days after she has eaten a kitten and that very same kitten shows up and starts speaking to her in cryptic, existential quips. I loved it for its witty and darkly humorous take on a story that’s ultimately about madness, starvation, and desperation.
“Last Bus Out” by Brad Munson—Taking place in the world of Munson’s “Rain” triptych, this story is told almost entirely through messages left on an answering machine. It is epistolary-esque, but one of the biggest challenges Brad had to face was how he would convey various details through this inherently restrictive format. Readers will instantly turn on an author if there’s an air of contrivance. Even if someone has never written anything, they will undoubtedly be able to perceive when someone wouldn’t say something a certain way and that it’s the author showing his or her hand because some piece of data needed to be communicated. It’s impressive that there is none of that here, and it reads like a complete story that is terrifying, thrilling, and heart-rending.
What about mine? We already talked about how this isn’t about me, but I do have a special place in my heart for this one. My story is called “Brothers by Dust.” In this one, a teenage boy named Ryan and his dog Walter hope to make it through the winter, assuming they can remain hidden from the Dusters who plunder this post-apocalyptic world and the Undermen who dominate it. When Ryan loses one of the last items that tie him to the old world, he and Walter risk their lives to get it back, but they find the connection that’s truly important is the one they share. It isn’t a physical object, but it can be taken away all the same.
If I haven’t sold you on this collection at this point, it’s probably not because you don’t like to read. I mean, you’ve made it through about 1,500 words just to get here. So, if nothing else, it’s about 350 pages of words? You like words.
If there is one constant theme that ties every survival story together, even in this anthology, it’s that no one makes it alone.