Carter Scholz. Gypsy. (Fantasy and Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2015)

fsf2015112Warning : spoilers ahead.

The longest story in the issue, and it is (with the one final issue) a cracking story. There’s an echo of Arthur C. Clarke in the way Scholz blends technology, societal issues, and challenges on an individual level. He paints a bleak near-future for humanity, pulling no punches in the opening as he describes how quickly things have gone bad.

Climate change, politics, capitalism, technology, religion, individual stupidity all contribute to a rapidly worsening situation, and the outlook for humanity is desperate. Against this, one charismatic scientific genius sets up a plan to leave Earth and head for a nearby star. The small crew go into hibernation on the voyage, carrying a small payload to help seed a new start on a distant planet.

The story is told through the viewpoint of individual crew members who are brought back to consciousness to deal with problems en route. With each we find out about their life, the challenges they faced to get to this point, and the challenge that they face that has caused the ship to bring them out of hibernation. And in doing so we find out more about what has happened on Earth, the human frailty, the greed – and just how bad things are. It’s in depth and detailed, and rich.

And as the journey gets closer to it’s destination, problem upon problem arises. There’s detailed technological discussion to complement the human stories. And it leads up to what should be a tale of heroic failure – of a now depopulated vessel missing it’s mark and heading out into the infinite vastness, an elegaic, poetic ending to humanity’s tale, indicating that it’s cold out there and so inhospitable that even Drake’s Equation does not solve Fermi’s Paradox. The equations are just too cold.

Instead Scholz has his finale feature message received from Earth, a beacon of good news, telling the surviving crewmember that things have been turned around, and there is still a future for Earth.

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