This week’s Escape Pod comes from the incredible Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Her debut collection, This Strange Way of Dying, was published in 2013 and nominated for a Sunburst Award. Her debut novel Signal to Noise, has been praised by The Guardian and Locus as one of the best speculative debuts of the year.
“Them Ships” is 2,600 words approx and appeared in the anthology We See a Different Frontier. Which was of course put together by the kickass folks at Future Fire who we’ve talked about before and the magical Amazon links below will lead you right to them.
Your reader this week is Dani Cutler. Podcaster, writer and badass.
So get ready. Because it’s story time.
And right in under the wire, this makes my top five stories I’ve read this year. I love it for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is the economy with which Silvia lays the world, and the very different viewpoint of her lead, out. This feels lived in and complete, a story that reads the same way a Neill Blomkamp movie is designed; from the ground up.
There’s an SF trope I’m really fond of, the idea of realizing you’re just to the left of the hero in a traditional story, that Silvia uses very successfully here. However, it’s a feature of a large, infinitely more interesting discussion; whether anyone here is in the right.
Let’s take Leonardo first; he’s brave, refuses to be bowed under the weight of the alien oppressors, sincere in his desire to help the narrator understand the truth of her situation and risks everything for freedom.
But he’s also reckless, intensely condescending and insists on making a woman who is really quite happy where she is a personal project not just because she needs the help but because he’s decided she does.
And then he leaves her behind.
Then there’s the narrator. On the one hand she could be viewed as tragic; a young woman completely under the spell of the invaders and, possibly, actively indoctrinated by them.
On the other she’s a grounded, pragmatic woman with plenty of agency who sees her life, realizes it’s much better now and isn’t remotely interested in having someone else’s narrative overwriting her own, thanks. She’s got a life she wants, she has goals and she doesn’t care about the nebulous, ill formed beliefs that Leonardo has.
But, it’s heavily implied, she lets him die.
An impressive story would explore the problems inherent in Leonardo forcing the narrator to do what he thinks she should do instead of what she wants. An exceptional story, like this one, explores not only that but the moral ambiguity that becomes the only thing we have in extremis. It’s not what’s right, it’s what’s right enough to get to the next choice and, just maybe, to fly away. Amazingly done. Thank you Silvia, and thank you Dani.