If you’re interested in reading Qualia Nous, it might be best if you take in editor Michael Bailey’s introduction with an open mind. Titled “0-1”, the first paragraph of Bailey’s introduction made my brain explode. Over 5 pages, he explores the infinite space that exists between 0 and 1, binary codes, and even includes some mathematical equations. Bailey explains that we as humans are basically our own form of binary code – “We live digitally, take pictures and videos and document ourselves doing anything and everything with gadgets that speak binary, and we post these ‘things’ to an etherweb of apps and websites and online social gatherings that have become digital representations of our being. Fragments or puzzle pieces of our memories are saved on portable ‘memory’ (irony at its finest) cards and sticks, on laptops, cameras, cellphones, hard drives, solid state drives, and other various internal and external computer devices, Mylar discs, redundant arrays; we upload ourselves and replicate to data farms capable of surviving nuclear blasts (making our digital exhibitions the new cockroach).”
And therein lies the theme of Qualia Nous. The anthology seamlessly blurs the lines between science fiction and horror, and takes the reader through 31 unique journeys of life, death and the horrors of technological dependency.
The collection is divided into two sections: Qualia (defined in the book as “instances of subject, conscious experience; the internal and subjective component of sense perceptions arising from stimulation of the senses by phenomena”) and Nous (“intellections; awareness; the faculty of the human mind; having the ability to understand what is true or real”). From experiments gone wrong to machines masquerading as human, the future is bleak in a good chunk of these dystopian tales. As with most stories involving technology, there are some exceptionally imaginative narratives, but even the most inventive tales have a simplicity in their core that compliments the more straightforward tales in the anthology; there’s a smooth cohesion that transcends genres and lets the words between stories flow with ease.
Stephen King’s oldie but a goodie, The Jaunt, starts our own jaunt through Qualia Nous. Stories, novelettes and poems from the likes of Gene O’Neill, Jason V. Brock, Marge Simon, Gary A. Braunbeck, Thomas F. Monteleone, Rena Mason and Lucy A. Snyder are also featured, but these are merely a handful of the talented authors whose voices adorn all 448 pages. As is sometimes the case with anthologies, you pick up a title from your interest in a few of the authors and soon find yourself under the spell of someone new. Qualia Nous opens the door to some new faces in their respective genres and based on the quality of works presented here, we can only hope to see more of these names in the near future (here’s looking at you, Emily B. Cataneo).
Qualia Nous is a high-caliber collection of entertaining, intelligent and captivating speculative fiction featuring a wide array of talented voices from the worlds of horror and sci-fi. So if you’re looking to work that brain of yours (assuming it’s still intact after the introduction), pick up a copy of Qualia Nous and enjoy.