A Quaker version of the “if this goes on” science fiction story, told in three parts. Earth is poisoning itself and a Quaker community in what was western America builds a self-contained space colony and sets sail for Epsilon Eridani. Part two hundred forty-seven years later, they arrive at a planet that is cold and unfriendly but habitable, and they have to decide to land or to continue on and look for something better, and if they do decide to stay, how to live there. Part three is a couple of generations later on on the new planet.
I like the premise better than the writing, but Gloss has given this some thought and there are some interesting bits.
When Dolores on earth is thinking of maybe not leaving after all, she says “I, for one, had thought every isolationist party from Aryan Nation to Doomwatchers would soon flock up to the sky, but what has been proven by these toroids is only the absolutely unmindful benightedness of the greater part of the human race. The very difficulties and economics of a closed circle of recyle and reuse have kept the stations, against all expectation, in the hands of the patient and whole-minded…”
Committees (Design, Ceramics, Waters, Business) run everything at Meetings, and moving down to the planet is the topic of discussion of one Weekly Business Meeting. Should they stay on board the Miller–“If we go down there…many of us will die it’ll be hard life…I don’t see why we need to come out in the sunlight…This place is an Eden, it’s the body of God…We ought to just stay right here…”
Or should they move to the planet? There is a high incidence of insanity, suicide, and birth defects on the Miller, and the maintenance is unceasing. Much of this argument is moved by the faith that put their ancestors on the Dusty Miller to begin with–“Where there’s a hardship, generally there’s a grace to be found in it..On that world…it’s all hardship, and I wonder: What is the saving grace?”…Maybe it’s a bare-bones existence that we’d be enriched…Maybe the hardships would be a good thing.” Someone else says “…what is the meaning of people who have uprooted themselves from ancient soil and are trying to go on living in a container of air and water, separate from the rest of the Creation?”
It’s a fascinating conversation, and one you could imagine happening between a group of people whose great-greats, motivated by their faith and a desire to leave a dying planet, gave birth on the way to a generation of people who have no personal knowledge of a habitat they didn’t themselves build and maintain. What happens if they can’t grow mangos on the planet? They like mangos.
And coming January 9, 2020, the 22nd Kate Shugak novel.
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Author and founder of Storyknife.org.