Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nebula Award Nominee: "Alive, Alive Oh", by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

"Alive, Alive Oh"
Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Lightspeed Magazine, June 2013
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Short Story

If there's one thing that I like in a well written science fiction, it's a sense of hopelessness and the tension that comes from that.  With "Alive, Alive Oh", we get that in spades.

The water here is nothing like the salty sea of home. It’s acidic and eats into the flesh. I shouldn’t even be this close to the shore, in case the spray splashes across and burns me. Everything about G851.5.32 is toxic; I’ve been here so long, even I am.

The thing is, that hopelessness is filled with nostalgia for what is lost and for what is impossible, and it is beautiful.  A woman joined her husband on a scientific mission to another world, a mission intended to last ten years, and then they would return home to Earth, to Wales, and they would be financially set for life.  The second sentence of the story tells readers that they had been gone for seventeen years. 

Throughout the story, the narrator tells of this new world, of when they learned they weren't going home, of the birth of their daughter. The narrator tells the daughter of Earth, of the food and life that the daughter would likely never get to taste or experience. 

It's hopeless, we know that from the second sentence.  But yet, there is beauty in that hopelessness, in that yearning for home. 

As a reader, I want to know more.  More about how the mission is proceeding, how it works as a colony, how Earth views it from afar, how others in the colony are dealing with this unexpected new life, what other missions and colonies may be going out to other worlds.  But that is the greedy part of me.  All of that extra detail is extraneous to the story Spruck Wrigley is telling, which is a much tighter story of the narrator, her daughter, and the danger of this new world.  There is enough detail in that tight story to give glimpses of the wider setting, and it is those details that cause the wondering about what else is out there.  It's the mark of a good story that I am wondering more about what else is going on just off the page. 

Well done.  I'm looking forward to see what Sylvia Spruck Wrigley will have for us in the coming years.

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