Tasting Light: Ten Science Fiction Stories to Rewire Your Perception
Edited by A.R. Capetta and Wade Roush
October 11th, 2022
Ages 14 and up
Editors A.R. Capetta and Wade Roush use the preface of Tasting Light to outline the goals of their collection. To serve as a gateway into science fiction for those who don’t usually get into the genre, to show that YA SF is a place for conversations about identity, and to describe a hopeful future. The collection succeeds on two of its three points. However, it falls short of its third goal, as Roush describes, “there’s a central feeling (in the stories) – that the future is going to be better than the present, as long as we make it that way.” All the stories exist in dystopian worlds, and when characters find solutions, they are individual solutions that allow the characters to exist within systemic problems. These stories follow the tradition of using science fiction writing to describe reality in a way that cannot be done through a direct statement. They are thought experiments about current problems of identity and autonomy instead of predictions of how children will save the future.
In Junauda Petr-Nasah’s “Melanitis,” there is a medication that can give children an incredible intelligence boost. One of the side effects is the chance of their skin creating enough melanin to be perceived as Black when they reach adulthood—causing them to face discrimination similar to those born Black. This story follows Amari, a young Black person, as they are figuring out their own identity. They are breaking away from their parents’ expectations and the cultural expectation of what it means to be Black. This is shown through Amari’s change in their hair from Locs, like her parents, to a significant style for Amari and Amari breaking up with their white friend who has Melanitis. Amari’s friend only sees Blackness as a problem to be talked through now he is affected by it. The medication that causes Melanitis is theoretically possible, but it is not an extrapolation of a modern medical phenomenon, and this is not the point. It is used as a thought experiment to explore what it means to be Black. While this type of metaphor isn’t present in all stories, it enhances the already strong writing that is present in each of the ten stories. The collection feels cohesive. The primary themes are not present in every story, but the stories with them are spread out in a way to weave the book together. All are accessible for new Sci-Fi readers as well. As most are set in near future Earth, the reader only has to allow one significant difference in the world per story.
Tight writing, paired with themes relevant to teens, and a diverse group of authors and characters, makes Tasting Light a perfect place to start for a teen who wants to know what science fiction is all about.