I remember reading an anthology of science fiction stories in a Maryland middle school around 2010. I can't remember the titles of the anthology or any of the stories but there were some really cool premises in there I want to find again. I remember three of the plots fairly well:

  • One had to do with a group of kids in a future who were essentially influencers. They were trying to come up with the next big fad after their last one was dying out. I remember it well because this scifi world established that people could shift into a new body whenever and the previous fad had been to be a gorilla and play a sport they made up (which I think they just called gorillaball). Along the way our main character starts getting a bit disillusioned with the whole trends thing and I think became like an anonymous satirist? The ending is quite fuzzy to me.
  • Another was strikingly similar to the story Arena by Fredric Brown, but instead of man versus alien, it was two humans. And most interestingly, the story described how the fighters' respective civilizations were essentially mapped to parts of their bodies so that places were destroyed when the fighters hit each other. I feel like I remember the phrase "there's a cluster of hospitals around my heart".
  • The last one I think had a title reminiscent of Scheherazade and dealt with two warring houses in a future setting. The girl heir of one family has to go into hiding after her family is killed and trains for revenge with a group of her family advisors (I remember the story also talking about how the advisors were a third gender and something about there being two bumps on their arm instead of other sexual organs?). She is captured by the son of the other family and forced to marry him. By telling each other their stories, she slowly falls in love with him, but the first time she kisses him it kills him because she's been engineered as a bio-revenge or something.

Would love if someone could find this anthology or even just the titles of one of the stories!


2 Answers 2


The first story is Pinocchio by Walter Jon Williams and was asked about a couple of years ago in Short story about teenagers who transfer their minds into the bodies of silverback gorillas to play extreme sports. I suggested in an answer to that question that the anthology could be The Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan.

The second story is Post-Ironic Stress Syndrome by Tricia Sullivan. The quote you remember is:

My targets had not been painted on my body, but my opponent would know what each of my parts and systems corresponded to, in the M-ask. Nerves were communications, lymph was weapons transport, and blood was human lives. More specifically, each target, from giant M-eq generators to weapons silos a hundred light years away, had been mapped. My body and its correspondences had been plotted from the biggest institutions down to the last individual on the Scatter census. My elbows were plotted with schools, for example, and the Broca’s Belt Mining Commission ran down the side of my right thigh in a thin line. The big arsenals were in my liver. Hospitals were clustered around my heart. The government, of course, had been mapped onto my brain tissue. They’d stay alive as long as I wasn’t brain damaged.

The last story is The Dust Assassin by IanMcDonald. It ends:

Always remember, my father had said, here among these cool, shady pillars, you are a weapon.

A weapon deeper, subtler than I had ever imagined, deeper even than Dahin’s medical machines could look. A weapon down in the DNA: designed from conception to cause a fatal allergic reaction in any member of the Azad family. An assassin in my every cell, in every pore and hair, in every fleck of dust shed from my deadly skin.

I killed my beloved with a kiss.

Both stories are also in The Starry Rift and indeed Post-Ironic Stress Syndrome has only been published in this anthology.

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    Yes this is exactly it! I also remembered the part about the politicians being in the brain to keep themselves safe but not enough to try to write it as a quote. Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 17:24

The first story you mention is "Pinocchio" (2008) by Walter Jon Williams. I read it in The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories (2010), but I don't recognize the other 2 stories from your descriptions so this is probably The Starry Rift: Tales of New Tomorrows (2008) edited by Jonathan Strahan. I don't have a copy of it myself, but I'm trying to track down the stories in it to identify them.

Cover of "The Starry Rift: Tale of New Tomorrows" showing a futuristic spaceport with a ship in a stand and another one launching with a huge planet in the sky

The protagonist of "Pinocchio" has just been ambushed by a takedown video from an ex-girlfriend. They were part of a flashcrowd that has a lot of followers, and this threatens the protagonist's status. They previously wore gorilla bodies and played a game called "gorillaball."

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