By Greg van Eekhout
When you live on a spaceship, you learn to make your own fun. Exploring the tunnels is some of the very best fun the October’s got. After school hour, me and Droller go scuttling through the darkest conduits you ever will find. The starboard Hab gets minimal heat, so our breath clouds in the light of our head torches as we crawl on our hands and knees.
“You hear that?” Droller whispers from a couple of meters ahead.
I do hear it, a deep, wet wheezing that sounds exactly like Droller trying to spook me.
“You better go ahead and check it out, Droller.”
“Naw, Kitch, it’s behind you. It smells your butt. It’s a butthunter.”
I laugh at Droller’s stupid joke, because the stupider, the funnier, and she’s by far my stupidest friend.
We’re both from Aft Hab, both from the same birth lottery, and out of the eight babies born that season, we’re the only survivors. It used to be the three of us, me and Droller, and Jamm, but Jamm died last year along with her parents when the CO2 scrubbers in their cube failed. The scrubbers were item thirty-three on the fixems’ to-do list.
“How much farther?” I ask Droller.
“Just a couple of panels.”
It’s more like a couple dozen panels, but we finally arrive at the section of conduit above Town Square. Using just our fingers, Droller and me remove the fasteners holding the panel in place and slide it aside, just enough for us to peak out.
Down below, a crowd settles on the rings of benches surrounding the lawn. The brass band toots “Onward or Bust” in a marching beat, their jackets sparkling with silver buttons and silver loops of rope. Droller and I exchange a sad look. Jamm wanted to be a drummer and wear a thick, warm jacket like that. The odds were against an Aft Habber like her, but she was good enough that she might have made it.
Once the tooting is over, one of the Vice Captains ascends the grandstand. The audience stands and salutes in respect. Everyone on the October acts as like salutes are required, but White Madeleine told us saluting was never in the contract the original families signed. The Fore Habbers made up the requirement only eighty years ago.
The kind of people who come to witness a Course Correction are the type who do what they’re supposed to.
By Alasdair Stuart
One of the age-old debates in science fiction is what constitutes age-old. It’s not just SF in fact, but all of literature where the patina of respectability gets thicker the longer something has been around. Look at my backyard, at the various old white men who haunt horror like Banquo’s Ghost at an IHOP, their very presence insisting things should be done at least partially like they’ve always been.
Of course, in some cases that’s not a bad thing and even the toxic ones are being increasingly re-assessed and viewed through different, diverse, fun lenses. It’s nice to see that happen with tropes as well as authors here, and I love how Greg’s taken the idea of the generation ship and looked at it for what it is as opposed to the romance it hides behind. That tells us a generation ship is a group of brave pioneers sacrificing generations of their families to an idea. That tells us this is the future’s cathedrals, built and steered by those with no hope of seeing them land. Faith as fuel. Science as the driving force behind survival.
The truth is…grungier. The truth is power cells failing, is paint fading. The truth is you inherit the space you lived in from your folks. The truth is you’re a passenger in a car where the doors are welded shut, heading somewhere you have no say in, won’t live to see, and no you cannot get McDonald’s drive thru. Chris Bucholz mines some wonderfully dark comedy from this in his novel Severance but Greg takes a subtler, I’d argue braver, route. This is a story not about arriving or even taking control of the flight, but of taking control of yourself and your life. There’s real darkness to it too, lives are going to be lost but the question of sustaining those at the cost of everyone else? Well, that’s not a theoretical argument. That’s disaster capitalism. Or perhaps in this case, deep-space capitalism.
Here knowledge really is power. The question is: What needs the power more and who needs the power now? Expertly written and read, thanks to you both and to everyone who’s brought the anthology to date!
We just started paying associate editors, who are slush readers and the first line of contact for every magazine and author. They are the unsung heroes of the industry and it’s time we sungthem. We’re currently paying all four shows’ associate editors at a reduced rate because we aren’t quite at the target donation yet, but it was time to get this done. So we still need your help especially as in addition, you also pay for everything else! Literally!
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We’ll be back next week with Tloque Nahuaque by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, translated by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, read by Karlo Yeager Rodriguez hosted by Matt Olivas, with audio production by Adam. Then as now we’ll be a production of Escape Artists, Inc. and released under a creative commons attribution no commercial license. And we leave you with this quote from Contender.
Watching Interstellar didn’t make it better
Reading Carl Sagan, looking kinda vacant
You say you’re buying time but you’re always late
I’m starting to think you don’t even want to go to space
See you next time folks!