"Into the Paddock" by Nathan Susnik (4874 words)
No Spoilers: Vogelsang is a struggling 3D-printer with student loans to pay off, a family with increasing medical issues, and a job at a 20th Century themed farm where most of what they do is print new bunnies, which are cheaper to print new than to take to a vet. Everything about their job—and by extension their life—is about maximizing the nebulous stats of their workplace, which serves to make their boss a very rich man but doesn't really do much for Vogelsang, who has to watch as the people closest to them decline. They try to play it safe, to make smart decisions, but with the system the way it is, "smart" and "safe" really aren't possible because they don't have power. Don't have money. And without those things they are forever at the whim of the people who do. It's a charming but depressing story, with a voice clinging to hope but dangling over a pit full of spikes made of snakes (or something equally horrible) and their grip is slipping.
Keywords: 3D Printing, Loans, Organs, Dinosaurs, Employment
Review: This story really does capture that feeling of being stuck in a system that doesn't really allow you to succeed. Because it cuts away the ability to make decisions in anything like a reasonable manner. Vogelsang is not a risk taker—they want something that is going to guarantee them security and they've made their decisions in life based around that. Their school, their job—it was supposed to be enough to set them up with a lifestyle that, while not grand, would get them what they needed and maybe even some of what they wanted. And with a safety net that might have been the case. But without it, they're one step away from disaster all the time. One small disaster away from needing to take out more loans, and more, and more, until they are trapped with no option of really choosing where they work or how or how long or any of that. They are put in a position where their job basically owns them and, what's worse, their job knows it, because it's been brought about by people with power and money consciously trying to craft the world so that employees have no power and no choice. They either work overtime or lose their job and with that their healthcare and basically everything else. But still Vogelsang clings to this idea that if he keeps his head down, if he doesn't take risks, he'll be fine. Until his job requires him to take risks, to assume risk because it's what the boss wants, and the system is so corrupt that again he has no choice but to do it. If he's caught, it's jail and a loss of everything. Even if he's not caught, it's being that much more in the pocket of his work, which now can blackmail him. There's no winning and no safety and it's a nightmare situation beautifully and twistingly rendered. The situation is achingly familiar but given a fresh feel thanks to the speculative elements, made especially sharp by the way the little dinosaurs are treated, both by the boss and, ultimately, by Vogelsang. A wonderful read!