2 out of 5
Anthologies, in whatever format, are open to even more subjectiveness than usual reviews, because instead of justifying your opinion on one story, you now have X number to deliberate upon, with each of those X’s probably having different creative teams with different styles and whatnot. In most of these cases, then, while I can’t fully sidestep how much I like or didn’t like a certain percentage of the content, I try to evaluate if the anthology was cohesive; if it achieved any stated goals.
Disco 2000 is a collection of “cult fiction set in the final hours of 1999.” While a lot of the authors are – perhaps misleadingly – somewhat known for their sci-fi offerings, that genre isn’t intended to be dominant; the book is listed as ‘fiction,’ and, from editor Sara Champion’s intro, the focus is intended to “(explore) the attitudes and obsessions of the pre-millennial generation.”
I have to admit some bias up front that perhaps stood in my way of getting in to Disco 2000 – my dislike for the “counter culture” of that era. It’s the one I lived through – just meaning I was coming of age at that time – and my secondhand experience of it was kids going to raves and a lot of club music and E. This might be true for any given era’s drugs-of-choice-fueled counter culture, but those in the scene promoted, from my perception, contrary mentalities which were all accepting, but also rather judgey if you weren’t jamming to trance music and rolling. Yes, the flip-side is that I was (obviously) judgey in return. Regardless, the longer lasting impact is, for me, a significant non-nostalgia for that era, and unfortunately, that era – that mindset – is a big part of the stories and characters featured in Disco 2000’s tales, in which going all in for one night of partying – December 31st, 1999 – is the key to life.
However, that’s not true for all of the stories (and maybe not even most of them, though they overwhelm my experience with the book), but that’s where my main criteria for anthology-ratings comes into play: I’m not sure if the book appropriately serves the theme Champion intended. While the above listed description is admittedly pretty generic, I suppose I was hoping that these writers would give us some dives into what they thought the new millennium would bring – that is, what would / could they extrapolate for post-1999 based on their experiences? That’s how I was reading Champion’s thesis: take some sharp observers, and channel their observations into short fiction thinkpieces, set on New Year’s Eve.
We do get some of that. And some of it is science fiction, and some of it is just regular fiction. Courttia Newland’s long-form piece is a good example of the latter, and also evidence – to me – that I’m not just rejecting anything that deals with drugs or parties. “Piece of My Mind” focuses on the varying experiences of various young adults during the evening’s celebrations, and it’s incredibly engaging. True, it doesn’t need to be attached to any particular date – it could be transposed to any event – but there is a focus on change in the story that is thematically linked to the New Year. Elsewhere, we get something like Grant Morrison’s cyberpunk splatter of an ad-infested future, which isn’t an unusual take for sci-fi, but it’s electrified by the writer’s world-encompassing, half-sneering approach. These are highlights. Some other stories take a more humorous tact – Robert Anton Wilson’s multi-dimensioned tale Dali’s Clocks take the piss out of the millennium in general, since time is just a construct, y’all – and Paul Di Filippo’s Mama Told Me Not to Come posits the hell of a non-stop party, but I don’t know that these are exactly exploring anything, they’re just taking the year 2000 as a writing prompt. The rest of the book is a fairly uninspiring mish-mash of lamer versions of what Morrison did – like, the future is scary, but written without the same pizzazz – or stories that feel without much purpose at all, which could be due to the fact that some are excerpts from other books. (I mean, as much as I love Neal Stephenson, I’m not sure how his Cryptonomicon blurb fits in.) The worst offenders are those that just seem to sort of relate the evening’s events. This is where I’m probably triggered a bit by the above bias, but this is also writing that I think can work well in a novel, where the lack of focus helps bring some larger point or themes to bear, but as short stories… it’s just, like, rambling about what you did that night.
The reflective, neon cover design is very 2000s (for better or worse; it’s notable either way), and though I found the font selection a little offputting – it’s small, and not necessarily a “welcoming” font – I think it’s well chosen for the overall design. There’s also a table of contents, the name of the author and their story across the top of all pages, and bios on each author – these are all definite positives of book design.
Unfortunately, despite bringing together a lot of quality talent, I didn’t feel like the book achieved a cohesive vibe or theme, and also didn’t encourage the best foot forward from those involved.