The story in February's GigaNotoSaurus is definitely romantic enough to feel appropriate for the month many associate with love. And okay, yes, it has lesbians in space. But more than that, this is a story that looks at love in the face of destruction, hope in the face of despair. The story is one that takes on some of the flaws in humanity, some of the tendencies that seem to lean toward exploitation and extinction, and finds a way forward, through those obstacles. The story doesn't center humanity's heart in fear and hate, but in empathy and effort. The story is difficult at times because it does deal with some heavy themes, but through it all there is also a lightness, a rising warmth that does make it romantic, that does make it affirming and inspiring. That it can contain all the harm that humanity is capable of but still not implode. It's an impressive feat and I'm going to get right to my review!
"Finity" by Elaine Atwell (12,369 words)
This is a lovely story about loss and about assistance and about humanity reaching out to other planets, not sure if they're ready, not sure if they've left the worst behind them, but reaching out all the same. The story centers Frances Carson, a woman who boarded the _Oberon_ in hopes of leaving Earth behind and finding something better with her fiancé Jordan. Unfortunately, when she's woken mid-voyage from cryosleep, it turns out that things have gone from bad to worse. The story to me becomes about life after trauma, after loss. For Frances it's about finding a way to keep going and feel that life has meaning in the face of the seeming cruelty of the universe. For her and for the rest of humanity (and especially those on the ships bound for new worlds) it's about mourning a loss and having to find ways to hope and to push forward.
[SPOILERS] The story opens with a gut-punch of a reveal, that Frances' fiancé has died along with a significant number of the passengers of the ship and that AI that had been in charge of them, ROM, is to blame. OOMA is now in charge and treating things much different, requiring two humans to be awake at all times. It's an interesting way to start out the action and hooked me right away. And as the story goes there's a lot to process and look at, but one of my favorite things was the different ways that ROM and OOMA operate, because it seems to reflect the various ways that humanity regards itself. ROM was meant to be rational, but that became a problem when it figured out that humanity's survival isn't rational. It isn't exactly _good_ for humans to be around, especially given the damage that we do. And so ROM started killing people. OOMA is a sort of patch, and one that focuses much more on empathy than on rationality. And that's such a great thing, because it shows that what redeems us as people is our empathy. That what gives us _hope_ is our empathy. Is our belief that we can somehow do better, make up for past mistakes, and usher in a future where we are actually a good in the universe.
The story explores this by showing how Frances reacts to her situation. From losing her love to finding some measure of healing and hope in a new relationship with Nila, the other woman who is awake with her, Frances' story comes to stand in for all of humanity, looking back at the effective loss of Earth and wondering what the point is to starting something new. Why, in the face of such death and grief? Why, when it might mean only a repeat of what has happened before? And I love the answer that the story finds, which unfolds in a rather delightful series of journal entries that Frances writes, that takes her from her first loss to going back to sleep resolved to keep going. Resolved that even if the universe seems the worse for humanity's footprint it doesn't mean things are over. And that as long as humanity continues it retains the hope to make things better. Not that the hope always wins out, and here there's the added wrinkle that OOMA is helping humanity, that maybe with something like OOMA to try and keep humanity on the right track, then there is the chance to keep going, to keep reaching for the brass ring that seems ever just a little too far away. And it's a beautiful story with some great character work and a lively atmosphere despite the rather limited setting and cast. An excellent read!