Monday, March 31, 2014

Fic Rec: Turnover by Jo Walton

Jo Walton has a short story in the new issue of Lightspeed Magazine, Turnover. Set on a spaceship almost halfway to the New World, a group of friends meets at a lunch club in the cosmopolitan metropolis of Speranza and discusses when--and if--they will ever reach their destination, and more importantly, if they even want to arrive.

Nearly a million people live aboard the ship, in a carefully controlled environment that keeps the population steady but diverse: scientists, chefs, poets, engineers and dancers, such as Fedra, who cannot fathom a world in which there is no Ballette, a form of zero-gravity ballet performed to music on the high spans above the glittering city. When they reach the New World, it's assumed they--or rather, their descendants, for the ship's journey will take 250 years--will become farmers, and have to carve a new home out of the planet. With the upcoming Turnover in sight, Fedra realizes she doesn't want the ship to land, that she wishes to live on Speranza forever, and her children, too. In their group, some feel the same, and some are excited by the prospect of their genes living on in their grandchildren, and starting a new life.

Walton does a fantastic job of setting the scene and describing the city, and I must admit that I had thoughts of wanting to stay on Speranza, too. Be a ballet dancer, or walk behind a plow on dusty earth? But it's not that clear, and in a short story, Walton manages to raise a number of issues. If those issues aren't precisely resolved (we do not see another 125 years into the future of Speranza), they're not meant to be.

Were our ancestors who got onto Speranza going to the New World? Were their parents who died on Earth? Were theirs who never even heard of the Starship Project? How about my ancestors dragged across the Atlantic from Africa in the hold of a slaver, were they on their way to the stars?

Beautiful imagery in a very philosophical story. Well worth your time.

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