Once every generation there is a Chosen One, who will stand between humanity and darkness.
But why is the Chosen One so often a teenager? Why do only children get swept through portals to save the fantastic world on the other side? Whose idea was it to put the fate of the world in the hands of someone without a fully developed prefrontal cortex?
In Never Too Old to Save the World, nineteen authors explore what would happen if the Chosen One were called midlife. What would happen if the Chosen One were:
a soccer moma cat ladya nosy grandmothera social workera retireean aging swordmaster?
The Chosen One could be anyone—because when the universe calls, the real question is whether the hero will take up the mantle and answer their midlife calling. Sometimes the world needs a hero who's already been in the thick of chaos and survived. In those cases, age does matter.
These 19 clever stories reimagine the Chosen One trope, giving the mantle to older, more experienced heroes. Among the strongest pieces are "The M.A.M.I. Incident" by Guadalupe García McCall, in which bioengineered M.A.M.I.s oversee childbearing in a future in which humans are barren; "Jackolope Wives" by Ursula Vernon, a desert fantasy wherein a grandmother must clean up her reckless grandson's mess; and "By the Work of Her Hands" by LaShawn M. Wanak, about a mother who follows her son through a portal into a war-torn land. King and Abbott do a good job pulling together an impressive and diverse group of authors—other contributors of note include Maurice Broaddus, Kathryn Ivey, and Vaseem Khan—who explore their mature characters' conflicted response to being chosen. This thoughtful, subversive approach saps the trope of some of its usual fun, but it's still a refreshing change of pace. There's lots to chew on here.