Kate Wilhelm. Bloodletting. (The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF)

Originally in : Omni, June 1994.

Mike Ashley’s anthology contains a mix of old and new stories, and rather than reading every story, I’ve decided to cherry pick. A story by Kate Wilhelm isn’t one you want to pass by!

This is in fact a pre-apocalypse story – we find out exactly how a fatal virus gets out of the lab. Nothing too technical, the story is narrated by a wife and mother who is directly affected by the virus. She sits in her car by the coast, Wilhelm describing effectively the wind, rain and surf nearby as the woman reflects on recent events, her husband, children, and her husband’s work colleagues. The story is beautifully handled, with a couple of crime writer’s touches in it – a lovely female touch in referring to mundane events (shaving legs in the bath) becomes a form of Chekov’s gun. Understated throughout, and classy.

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