Monday, December 30, 2019

Quick Sips - Escape Pod #710 & #711

The two stories from Escape Pod's December both deal with space, and isolation, and loneliness, and cooperation. Given, they do so in two very different ways, one unfolding on a station that is (now) devoid of human life, but which has also seen the "birth" of something new. The second is very much filled with humans. Too many, perhaps, for the colony they're on, given the series of accidents that threatens everyone. Both find people reaching out to people, though, despite the risk and despite the people involved largely being people who sought a kind of solitude. And the works are at turns heartwarming and wrenching, with a great holiday touch for at least one of them that makes them very appropriate for the season. To the reviews!


“Requiem Without Sound” by Izzy Wasserstein ( words)

No Spoilers: Evie is an AI created by Chavez, a woman living in the outer solar system all by herself following a string of personal tragedies. Evie was supposed to help Chavez deal with the loneliness of being the sole human on a station very far removed from other people. Instead, Chavez died in an accident before Evie became fully sentient, and so when they “woke up” it was to the same isolation and loneliness that Chavez was trying to escape. Further, because of the history in the piece, AIs like Evie who possess full sentience are viewed with suspicion, fear, and hate, and it’s unlikely, if they’re discovered, that they’ll be allowed to live. It’s a wrenching and devastating piece that looks at distance and grief and hope, and it’s beautiful and dark and deep.
Keywords: AIs, Loss, Queer Characters, Isolation, Music, Loneliness
Review: This piece levels some rather heavy emotional artillery and really doesn’t hold back. The early premise, that this AI is alive and their creator, who wanted them so badly to break the loneliness of living in deep space, is dead, is such a strong, aching thing. One that forms the core of Evie’s person. Because they have to learn about themself, learn about humanity, learn about everything, on their own. Without a living guide, just the ghost of their creator preserved in the logs left behind. A creator who was plagued by despair, by pain, who fled Earth and all its problems thinking that they wanted nothing to do with anyone. But who, in time, changed her mind. Healed enough that she was ready to reach out again, only to find she had put herself too far outside of human reach. And Evie’s journey, their time considering what to do and finding out more about themself and about Chavez, is powerful and painful. It opens up this space that I kind of love where a supposed outsider to humanity experiences something that, imo, gets at the heart of what it is to be human and instead of reacting in anger or violence decides that they want to do something to connect people. To help people. Just not the people Chavez (or even Evie themself) expected. And I love that because of the hope I feel it have about humanity, that despite this rather troubled back story, despite Evie knowing that humans would probably kill them rather than let them be, Evie sees past those elements and to the humanity that Chavez represented. Full of pain and anger, wanting nothing but the void, but still finding herself capable and wanting to love. To reach out. To build and create. And it’s a lovely and beautifully rendered story, full of emotion and grief and that sparkling edge of hope. Definitely make time for this one. An amazing read!

“Carols” on Callisto” by Deborah L. Davitt (5980 words)

No Spoilers: Rebecca is the owner of a hotel/spa on Callipso, orbiting Jupiter, in the run up to Christmas. Not that the Earth calendar has too much relevance on the distant colony, but a lot of the people, Rebecca included, like it. And it gives people something to do, some way to celebrate in an environment that isn’t exactly hospitable to humans. It’s a point that’s underlined when a series of minor problems threaten to become a large scale catastrophe that might do more than dampen holiday spirits. But Rebecca is determined not only not to let on how much the emergencies worry her, but to make sure that everyone at her hotel and in the whole of Calipso has reason to celebrate this Christmas. It’s a fun, tense piece that focuses on managing people, expectations, and morale in a place where humanity is living in space with a razor-thin margin for error.
Keywords: Space Colonization, Energy, Emergency, CW- Pregnancy/Childbirth, Family, Holidays
Review: This is a heartwarming story, all about the “spirit of Christmas” pretty much completely divorced from the religious connotations. And maybe it’s really about using the holiday and the celebration, the way that it promotes peace and love and giving, in order to make life a little more bearable in a situation that is hostile and fragile, everything holding onto the thin lines of support that could fray and snap at any moment, especially when resources are already stretched and maintenance isn’t always top priority. For me, really, this is a story that, despite taking place in a colony in the harsh realities of space, really speaks to what’s happening on Earth, too. Not that we’re a minor malfunction away from space flooding in and killing us all, but there is a sense I feel that most people are just one disaster away from ruin, just one series of unfortunate events from being completely knocked out. It’s something that is becoming more and more common, I think, and it’s something that I feel very much is captured by this story, by the situation, by the feel of it. By the way that it takes so many people coming together to help each other, so many people with a bit more willing to give to those who have less, in order to avoid outright tragedy. And there’s a wonderful diversity to the piece, a way that there are no fracture lines between religions or skin colors. Where everyone is coming together, and can take a moment in all of that to celebrate the fact, to celebrate the kindness and resolve of people to help people, to bond over a shared vulnerability, and to push back against the dark encroaching at all sides. It’s a story that seems to understand what it is to be tired and keep going, and that imagines a reward for all of it. If you’re looking for a sci fi Christmas read, definitely take the time to check this one out. A wonderful story!


No comments:

Post a Comment