I caught the science fiction/fantasy bug as a child on books largely published before Star Wars and Indiana Jones changed everything. Dystopia was a big thing then, the horrific technological apocalypses of John Christopher, the fantasy of Lloyd Alexander which involved stuffing bodies in cauldrons and Susan Cooper where protagonists risked being swept away by old forces. Fisk's A Rag, A Bone, A Hank of Hair, stands out as well.
So when I read that some of the authors on my to-read list were published in short-story form doing young adult dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, I just had to dive in. As with most anthologies, this collection is a mixed bag of stories and themes. Datlow and Windling make it clear in the introduction that they're mixing dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, the former characterized by social systems gone wrong, the latter inclusive of technological and ecological disasters. (The two can often be found in the same work.)
The collection includes some gems. "The Great Game at the End of the World" by Matthew Kressel mixes the absurd with the horrific. "The Easthound" by Nalo Hopkinson was most chilling for me, an unusual werewolf apocalypse. "Valedictorian" by N. K. Jemisin builds tension around school anxiety. Sarah Rees Brennan successfully merges technological and fantasy dystopia in "Faint Heart."
Then, there are competent but less thrilling stories. "You Won't Feel a Thing" by Garth Nix was too tied in with earlier novel work to stand on its own. Revis's "The Other Elder" is a tease for Across the Universe . Yolen--another writer of my youth who delivered surprisingly dark science fantasy--drew me to the book, but is included via a one-page poem.
The stories are generally dark, but usually without being graphic or explicit. Violence is a big part of many worlds, sexual assault less so. Many stories touch on teen and young adult sexuality, including gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters. Many of them are political to varying degrees.
Overall, After provides a good collection of progressive dystopian and apocalyptic SF&F. The included fiction stands up well with its more "adult" contemporaries. The worst stories are interesting, the best are page-turners. The diversity of stories includes ecological cyberpunk, zombie horror, space opera, pandemic, and metaphysical horror.