I’ve heard so much about Elizabeth Bear’s novels, but knew nothing about her short fiction. “You’ve Never Seen Everything” surprised me as a more subdued apocalypse story than I was expecting. In the wake of The Flu, the narrator has her goal: walk from the Rocky Mountains to San Diego to return home to her partner and their daughter Casey. Please, give me more queer women surviving the apocalypse! Another bonus is that the narration is conversational because the narrator talks to her partner as her way of keeping calm: “You’re both waiting for me. And that’s why I know I have to get home.”
If you’re looking for survival epic, this isn’t the piece for you. There’s no gratuitous violence, no drowning the reader in grimdark descriptions of a world gone to hell and corruption. It’s a feminist pacifist story. Bear subverts the trope of male-action-hero-survivor and replaces him with female-human-survivor. The narrator never takes on a male role or accomplishes tasks through violence or intimidation. Instead, she uses her skills as a botanist to heal the sick.
Is this the most action packed story? No. But it doesn’t need to be. Bear’s story is a testament to female friendships, relationships, and the bonds between women as family.