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Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction

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Miner. Harvester. Mechanic. Sanitation Worker. These are not the typical careers of your average science fiction protagonist. Until now. MENIAL: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction presents seventeen stories about the people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. From the literal guts of a spaceship, to the energy-starved lands of a future Earth, to the inhospitable surfac Miner. Harvester. Mechanic. Sanitation Worker. These are not the typical careers of your average science fiction protagonist. Until now. MENIAL: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction presents seventeen stories about the people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. From the literal guts of a spaceship, to the energy-starved lands of a future Earth, to the inhospitable surfaces of other planets, MENIAL explores the stories of people who understand and maintain the building blocks of civilization. They work hard, live hard, and love hard. They’re not afraid to build the future they want to live in, even knowing the often high human cost of hard labor.


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Miner. Harvester. Mechanic. Sanitation Worker. These are not the typical careers of your average science fiction protagonist. Until now. MENIAL: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction presents seventeen stories about the people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. From the literal guts of a spaceship, to the energy-starved lands of a future Earth, to the inhospitable surfac Miner. Harvester. Mechanic. Sanitation Worker. These are not the typical careers of your average science fiction protagonist. Until now. MENIAL: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction presents seventeen stories about the people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. From the literal guts of a spaceship, to the energy-starved lands of a future Earth, to the inhospitable surfaces of other planets, MENIAL explores the stories of people who understand and maintain the building blocks of civilization. They work hard, live hard, and love hard. They’re not afraid to build the future they want to live in, even knowing the often high human cost of hard labor.

30 review for Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    Reviewing an anthology is always a bit more difficult than reviewing a novel. So is rating it. Does one poor story deserve to bring down the entire anthology? Should I mention every single story? I gave this anthology a 5-star rating. I do not do this because every single story blew me away; they didn't, although I don't remember any story that I loathed, which is impressive in its own right. Partly I was predisposed to being impressed by the anthology because of the theme: the menial. That is, n Reviewing an anthology is always a bit more difficult than reviewing a novel. So is rating it. Does one poor story deserve to bring down the entire anthology? Should I mention every single story? I gave this anthology a 5-star rating. I do not do this because every single story blew me away; they didn't, although I don't remember any story that I loathed, which is impressive in its own right. Partly I was predisposed to being impressed by the anthology because of the theme: the menial. That is, no heirs-misplaced-at-birth, no admirals or planetary governors or princesses starring here; instead, it's the miners, the sewerage workers, the grunts who feature. Not to say that the stories don't feature action or adventure - they do - but largely it's action that happens in the course of everyday work, and often because of accidents: the sorts of things that you'd really rather didn't happen. The anthology points out the dignity in the menial tasks, as well as acknowledging the sheer back-breaking work that's likely to still be necessary in the future; it points out the importance of the menial while remembering the danger. And even though the menial workers shine in the stories, it's clear that for most of them, this isn't going to lead to a huge change in fortunes. It's part of a day's work, or it's not but it's not enough to propel them out of drudgery - or indeed it's something that leads to them getting fired and the consequent uncertainty of unemployment. This anthology shows that good SF can be escapist in letting the reader escape from their own immediate situation, but can simultaneously speak to the reader who is unlikely to be a spaceship pilot or lead an army, but may well have a dead-end job that they hate. It can provide ways to imagine a different world but also reassure and comfort that even people in crappy jobs can actually have interesting lives, and do interesting things - something much SF ignores. This anthology imagines a range of possible futures. They're mostly fairly far future, and involve space travel of some sort; some have humanity spread far and wide, others are a bit more restricted. Because of its focus on the working class, there is less emphasis on the political or military than one often finds in SF, because really, when you're scraping to get food on the table who has time to worry about the expansion of the empire? Many of these stories are united in their focus on the nitty-gritty details, those details that make up the everyday. Some of them are very familiar, some are familiar but in foreign contexts, whilst others are utterly alien. And the best stories make this work in clever and occasionally utterly bemusing ways. I was initially dubious about the possibility of making an entire anthology based on the concept of skilled labour; not because I thought the concept was boring but because I wasn't sure how there could be enough variety within that to keep having different stories. This is because I am not an author. There is, of course, infinite variety in the stories you can tell from the menial perspective - because there's an infinite variety of stories to tell about humanity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Most science fiction stories are bout tall, square-jawed adventurers exploring the galaxy and singlehandedly vanquishing the alien foe. What about the people who perform the unexciting "blue collar" jobs that make the voyages possible? A being, of indeterminate gender, maintains a ship's waste treatment system. A female asteroid miner has a unique companion. It is an alien-constructed being, made from human sperm. It looks exactly like a human, but, on the inside, there is no mind or personality. Most science fiction stories are bout tall, square-jawed adventurers exploring the galaxy and singlehandedly vanquishing the alien foe. What about the people who perform the unexciting "blue collar" jobs that make the voyages possible? A being, of indeterminate gender, maintains a ship's waste treatment system. A female asteroid miner has a unique companion. It is an alien-constructed being, made from human sperm. It looks exactly like a human, but, on the inside, there is no mind or personality. Imagine an episode of the TV show "The Deadliest Catch" moved to the asteroid belt. On Titan, a human miner is caught in the conveyor belt that carries the pieces of rock out of the mine, and deposits them in a giant pile, in open vacuum. A trio of women spens their days walking on top of a domed city, patching up holes and cracks in the dome. Another story takes place on an Earth that has run out of energy. The only working motor vehicles are those that people build themselves. There is also a news story about the hazards involved in being part of the crew building a space station in orbit. This is a strong, well done group of stories about a not-well-known part of society. There is a good variety of stories, from lesser-known authors, that are well worth reading

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway! I don't normally care for books of short stories but I must say that each and every one of these stories were highly entertaining. I recommend reading Menial. I look forward to more works from these authors.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cj

    This has to be one of my favorite collection of short stories that I've ever read. Kelly Jennings, Shay Darrach, and the various authors who contributed to this book really hit their goal of portraying exploring the not so typical careers of your average science fiction protagonist. Some of my favorite short stories from this include, Diamond in the Rough by A.J. Fitzwater, Sarah 87 by Camille Alexa, The Didibug Pin by Barbara Krasnoff, and The Heart of the Union by Dany G. Zuwen.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ilona

    I picked this because it was about unusual jobs in Science Fiction and I was glad I had done so. There were some really good stories in there. Unfortunately one or two I didn't like, but that was more because of my taste than that there was anything actually wrong with the stories. Overall there is a nice diversity of stories and anyone who enjoys short Science Fiction stories should at least give it a try.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Lee

    I really enjoyed the stories in this anthology. The stories were diverse, in unique locales, and the main characters in each story are not your normal protagonists.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matt Cowens

    Brilliant collection with a diverse range of characters, styles etc. Highly enjoyable!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shara

    I feel the need to explain the rating, just a bit: 1) I adore the concept of the anthology. It's a fantastic concept that I hope inspires more stories in this vein. Hell, if I'd known when the submission period was, I know an SF writer I would've demanded submit to this. Maybe there will be a volume two! 2) But like all anthologies, not every story is a home run for the reader. And there were a few diamonds in the rough for me as a reader, most of the stories simply did not work for me. Sometimes I feel the need to explain the rating, just a bit: 1) I adore the concept of the anthology. It's a fantastic concept that I hope inspires more stories in this vein. Hell, if I'd known when the submission period was, I know an SF writer I would've demanded submit to this. Maybe there will be a volume two! 2) But like all anthologies, not every story is a home run for the reader. And there were a few diamonds in the rough for me as a reader, most of the stories simply did not work for me. Sometimes it was a technical issue, where I felt the craft wasn't up to par, other times the story wasn't a story so much as a concept, a revelation of an idea that was essentially the climax and that was it, which often left me feeling unsatisfied. So by and large, the stories I liked I REALLY liked, and those I didn't weighed down the experience of the anthology as a whole. It was just, by and large, an okay experience, hence the two star rating.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marlena

    Loved this collection of science fiction stories with main characters who work in skilled labor. Science fiction is often told from the perspectives of white, male people in power or heroes. These stories were more real, because when space travel and living becomes more viable more workers will be needed in that new frontier. Thanks for telling the stories of those who are often forgotten or shadowed, but who build the cities and buildings and places we live in.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tyrannosaurus regina

    With so many of these stories I was ready to go all in, the characters were really great and the settings were intriguing, and then they were over and I wished there were more story. Not in length but in depths and complexity; there is so much potential richness here, and I would have loved to see it explored more.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ery

    Some good little stories in this anthology. While some left you scratching your head in confusion ... what, exactly? -- most of them were lovely little insights into the workers of mining operations, stations, the people who kept things going.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ikè

    Some stories were stronger than others, but all-in-all, I was left wanting more. As in, write more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Berenice

    if you want your imagination run wild read this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kent Archie

    Interesting variety of stories but many of them felt like they just stopped, rather than ended. The hero discovers the truth about her position and goes off to fix things and that's were it stops.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  16. 5 out of 5

    Z

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  18. 5 out of 5

    N.E. White

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  21. 4 out of 5

    Constructionv4

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tory

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mack

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul Mannering

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Muenzler

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vishal

  28. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dany Zuwen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jude-marie

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