Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Care for seniors, not a common topic in science fiction, is sensitively handled. The indirect speech and passive-aggressive behavior within overcrowded living spaces is well considered. (For example, a request to return to the ship: “Will she be coming in soon?” The reply: “She will be pleased to.”) The author tips her hand a bit by providing Japanese names for most characters, except a loud American-sounding gaijin named Scrappin’ Jack Halliday.
Due to an undersea volcanic eruption, Osaji, her grandmother, and Jack are cast adrift far from known waters on a water-covered planet. The story turns toward planetary romance as they discover unknown flora and fauna, and glimpse an abandoned underwater city. The story has a leisurely pace and resolves well on several levels.
Still, practicalities kept coming to mind: How would pressure not be an issue, diving at various depths? Would a biological submarine (the “ark” of the title), based on autopoiesis, be as maintenance free as the story suggests? Would they actually rely on currents and not include a propulsion system? Would a society capable of space travel not have sophisticated imagery of the entire planet’s undersea floor?
It’s an interesting choice as both the lead-off story and the longest story in the anthology, and a mostly satisfying one.
"Arkfall" by Carolyn Ives Gilman, originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 2008
Link: Year’s Best SF 14 summation and table of contents