The world is ending with a whimper rather than a bang in Linda Nagata's short story (available to read at tor.com here https://www.tor.com/2017/07/19/the-martian-obelisk/)
Architect Susannah Li-Langford has a project to distract her attention. Not only from the slow decline of the Earth, but also as a bulwark against her own personal family tragedy. Those loved ones lost to the many and various catastrophes.
"Things had just gotten worse, and worse still, and people gave up. Not everyone, not all at once—there was no single event marking the beginning of the end—but there was a sense of inevitability about the direction history had taken. Sea levels rose along with average ocean temperatures. Hurricanes devoured coastal cities and consumed low-lying countries. Agriculture faced relentless drought, flood, and temperature extremes. A long run of natural disasters made it all worse—earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions. There had been no major meteor strike yet, but Susannah wouldn’t bet against it. Health care faltered as antibiotics became useless against resistant bacteria. Surgery became an art of the past"
So after the last colony on Mars settled, Suzannah was able to secure the support of wealthy financier Nathaniel Sanchez to buy the assets of Destiny, the last failed colony attempted on Mars at bargain basement prices. And to suport her in the design and remote construction from the colony materials of one last human folly, a grand and pointless gesture. The Martian Obelisk would stand proud above the sands of Mars, long after humanity was no more. Ozymandias would be so proud.
But with the seventeen year long project nearing completion, an anomaly. A vehicle, on Mars, travelling toward the construction site, from the site of the last of four Martian colonies, Red Oasis had whimpered out nine months earlier, victim of an unknown disease. Were these survivors? A rogue AI? Saboteurs from Earth, jealous of the money expended on this folly of art and memory?
With a 19 minute time lag between sending a command and its enaction, a decision must be made. But whilst humans have the capacity for despair, they likewise can change their minds. They can choose hope.
This is a well crafted and paced story, artfully describing the conditions leading to despair and the abandonment of hope, and the process by which the protagonists reach a decision on what is most important, hope or memorialization.
"In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written, all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will be ghosts."
—Sherman Alexie, How to Write the Great American Indian Novel
Wow, this little tale packs an emotional punch. Told in the second person, should that be a problem for you. It was not for me, as I found it propellled the narrative with an inexorable but tragic kind of flow. You sense where the story is going, but this foreknowledge does not mitigate the wrench as it hits home.
Jesse 'Trueblood' creates VR Native American 'Experiences' for Tourists. A hint of shamanism, the lingering idea of a peyote infused sweat lodge and a spirit animal name for the mark. And the mark comes out spiritually transformed. And Jesse just wonders whether this is all he's worth. He is good at it, but is trapped in the routine, cannot break out because of a failing marriage, a mortgage and student debts. When he tries to vary the script, the Boss has no patience. It is back to the grind, the tried and true.
So it goes until it all goes awry with one customer, with whom Jesse breaks the fourth wall, and ultimately shares a much more authentic experience in the real world. And where this sharing of confidences leads is more tragic then any Virtual Reality.
As a way to illustrate just what might be meant by 'Cultural Appropriation', these 5800 words make a very effective primer to begin a conversation. Perhaps we as readers get an all too authentic 'Indian Experience™' too, as Jesse finds out all about his all too authentic destiny.
Winner of a nebula Award in 2018, and a worthy Hugo nominee.
You can read the story here. https://www.apex-magazine.com/welcome... (less)
Allpa's Grandma is dying, so of course, she leaves him her magic sword. He cannot help but accept the old woman's dying wish. It is just that he cannot quite imagine just how a magic sword is going to help with potato farming.
It is a simple story, well enough told in Ursula Vernon's wry style. By gosh she does know her horticulture. I learned more about potato farming than I ever thought to discover! And no, there certainly is no need of a magic sword for farming, but nor need said sword be turned into a ploughshare. And in the end. Allpa does benefit from his Grandms's gift.
The story is available to read from Uncanny magazine.https://uncannymagazine.com/article/s
Vina Jie-Min Prasad relates the story of how a museum bound old-time robot finds fulfillment and purpose in life by joining Fandom.
Computron, the 'first and only' sentient robot is ritually wheeled out as the 'Before' exhibit at the Simak Robotics Museum's daily show. A random question about a cult anime TV show leads our hero down the rabbit hole of fandom, of writing fanfiction and meeting sentient beings with similar interests. The story is partially told as chat comments in a form all who read blogs will be very familiar.
It is good fun, and full of heart, and cleverly constructed. A very fine read.
The story can be read her https://uncannymagazine.com/article/fandom-for-robots/
Interestingly, the following comments read like part of the story...
More of a vignette rather than a story with an actual beginning and end.
A customer is led through a freak show by one of the denizens. Wickedly fine turn of phrase, both cruel and cutting, reflecting on the observation, treatment and exploitation of those who are different, or who have become different over the ages. The language and its construction are the best features. One that benefits from being read aloud.
This story did not quite work for me. It lacks either fantasy of science fiction elements, and is probably best described as horror.
Free to read her from Uncanny Magazine. https://uncannymagazine.com/article/clearly-lettered-mostly-steady-hand/