Monday, September 7, 2015

Quick Sips - Crossed Genres #33 (Year 2065)

The three stories for the Year 2065 theme of Crossed Genres do take very different approaches to the idea. They all are at least partly set in the year, but there are different visions. One vision shows what might be, how far humanity might progress in that time, both technologically and morally. It's followed in short order by a story that also shows how far humanity might move technologically and morally, but not in the same direction. And the last shows a glimpse into a possible future, a dream that seems as fragile as a life. Very good stuff, and some interesting ideas on what the world might be like in fifty years.


"Ants on a Trestle" by Elliotte Rusty Harold (6081 words)

This is a very nice "Science wins" sort of story, with entomologist Dr. Daphne Ernst drawn into an insectoid mystery involving ants living on trestles that run so high life, even ant life, shouldn't be possible. It's a fun story that clearly sets up the stakes and takes it time exploring the facts and showing the sights. Because the theme for the month involves "the future" there is some amount of sightseeing to be expecting, this story speculating about what travel might be in the future. It's a future that's bright for much of the world, it seems, though obviously how the trestles work and how free the companies are with all this excess energy isn't exactly addressed. There is a general sense, though, that the company that Daphne works with is willing enough to do the right thing as long as they'll still come out ahead. Strange that that was the part of the story I found most outrageous, that a for-profit company would be so invested in clean energy and not worried about profits, but the story itself is well done, a sort of scientific mystery where Daphne applies her intellect to a problem and comes up with an inventive and creative solution to it. The technical language (which I guess I can't be sure is technical because I'm about as doctoral level science-y as a potato) brought to life the academic nature of the conflict, and made the characters feel more real. An interesting story and a nice way to start the issue.

"The Springwood Shelter for Genetically Modified Animals" by Verity Lane (6012 words)

This story shares little of the previous tale's optimism about the future. Or at least of companies doing business there. Genetically modified animals (and people) to make designer pets? That seems a bit easier to handle, for all that it probably makes me a terribly pessimistic person. Still, in many ways it's easier to imagine something like this, where people are forced into labor farms where they have to give up everything, and children are forced into homes where they're raised to be what amounts to slaves. The story follows Mel, who was raised in just such a situation and so is wary around people, has been trained to not see herself as really human. It's a rather stark life she lives, with hope only to avoid the labor farms, but working at an animal shelter starts to open her eyes to what might be possible, what she might be able to do if she wasn't stuck without options. The parallels between her situation and that of the animals is clear, but not in my opinion over done. It all works, the longing and trauma faced, the being designed and pressured to be of use, to be something unworthy of real consideration. [SPOILERS] And I like that Mel starts to come into her own, even if that does mean a bit of blackmail. Because, I suppose, it does benefit everyone, and it shows that she's really looking out for her, not just looking out for corporate interests. Which seems a big step. In any event, I also loved the premise of this one, the animal shelter for weird pets. Lots to see and think about. Quite good!

"Chasing Comets" by Brian Trent (2440 words)

And then things got sad. I mean wow, this is a very powerful story about hopes and about loss and about possibility. It centers on a father and his son, Sammy. The story makes the deliberate choice not to name the main character, or his wife, leaving them as sort of stand ins for any parents. The story is about Sammy, though, and his desire, at age seven, to be an astronaut. Things shift between the recent past, the present, and a future of the future where Sammy is an astronaut, living his dream, and his parents are old and dealing with a son that is growing away from them. Of course, things aren't quite so simple as they seem. It's a very well constructed story, one that might not be impossible to guess but it's almost like, as a reader, I kept hoping I was wrong, hoping it wouldn't...and then it did and it's heartbreaking and very well done. [AND SORRY BUT NOW I MUST SPOIL IT] Because wow, that ending. Reading just the past and future sections, one wouldn't really have trouble seeing some hope, though even then things are a little dark, the father not wanting his son to go away into the stars, perhaps to never return. The truth is that the section set in the future is all imagination, what might of happened but cannot because there was a car accident and Sammy died. It's...yeah, not happy but it's a great look at the father's guilt that has constructed this elaborate future where he still cannot manage to hold on to his son, where he can't manage to make much right. It's sad and it's tragic and it's a good, good story. Go give it a read.

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