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Friday, January 13, 2017

Another writer introduction in the New Yorker and a surprising turn toward scifi

New Yorker continues its streak of introducing little-known (at least to me) writers though this week, unlike last three weeks, it's an American writer, Thomas Pierce, w/ a scifi, sorta, story, Chairman Spaceman. The premise: Sometime in the distant future, a bullish and narcissistic hedge-fund leader gives all of his billions to a church and in return gets to be one of 500 or so people on a space voyage; the voyage is to a distant planet where they will establish a new and egalitarian society. We've seen similar premises in any # of scifi movies, and of course who hasn't thought about the need sometime in the far future to establish new colonies beyond the solar system - the sun won't burn for eternity, after all. The question is: Does Pierce move this story beyond pop science fiction? Answer: yes and no. Much of the middle section of the story concerns the relationship of the man, Dom, w/ his ex-wife and, later, with the church member assigned to be his protector and guardian until the launch of his flight; so we see some of the internal struggle of this man, willing to give up all his earthly belongings and possessions, to embark on this strange journey. I suppose there's some kind of religious allegory working here as well: the journey to establish a new society is somewhat like placing faith in a life after death, in some kind of afterlife or resurrection. On a literal level, it's really hard to accept the story, however; it would have to take place far into the future, but Pierce give no sense of how the earth may have changed or will change in any other respect. And the story ends with a whimper: the space ship returns to earth and Dom disembarks; earth time has progressed by 30 years or so, while he is at the same age (or maybe younger? maybe an infant? ending is clumsily ambiguous on this point). I'm guessing that I shouldn't be calling this a "story" but rather "short fiction," as perhaps it's part of a novel and readers will learn more about Dom's life as a stranger in a strange land. In short, this piece is a good intro to Pierce and, though it doesn't stand up alone all that well it promises more to come from this author.

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