Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Like most people who won the emigration lottery and didn’t sell their prize to one of the big corporations or to a redistribution agency, or give it away to a relative who either deserved it or wanted it more than they did, or have it stolen by a jealous neighbour, a spouse or a child or a random stranger (UN statistics showed that more than four per cent of emigration lottery winners were murdered or disappeared), or simply put it away for a day that never came and meanwhile got on with their lives in the ruins of Earth (and it was still possible to live a life more or less ordinary after the economic collapses, wars, radical climate events, and all the other mess and madness: even after the Jackaroo pitched up and gave us access to a wormhole network linking some fifteen M class red dwarf stars in exchange for rights to the outer planets of the Solar System, for the most part, for most people, life went on as it always did, the ordinary little human joys and tragedies, people falling in love or out of love, marrying, having children, burying their parents, worrying about being passed over for promotion or losing their job or the lump in their breast or the blood in the toilet bowl) -- like everyone, in other words, who won the emigration lottery and believed that it was their chance to get out from under whatever muddle or plight they were in and start over (more UN statistics: thirty-six per cent of married lottery winners divorced within two months), Jason Singleton and Everett Hughes wanted to change their lives for the better. They wanted more than the same old same old, although that’s what most people get. People think that by relocating themselves to another planet, the ultimate in exoticisism, they can radically change their lives, but they always forget that they bring their lives with them. Accountants ship out dreaming of adventure and find work as accountants; police become police, or bodyguards to high-end corporados or wealthy gangsters; farmers settle down on some patch of land on coastal plain west of Port of Plenty or on one of the thousands of rocks in the various reefs that orbit various stars in the network, and so on, and so forth. But Everett Hughes and Jason Singleton were both in their early twenties, and as far as they were concerned anything was possible. They wanted to get rich. They wanted to be famous. Why not? They’d already been touched by stupendous good fortune when they’d won tickets to new and better lives amongst the stars. After that, anything seemed possible.


Blogger Adam Roberts Project said...

The best 280-word opening sentence I've read in a long while.

January 21, 2009 4:27 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Thanks Adam. It's the opening sentence of a section of a story, rather than the story. But still.

[Break the rules, kids, if you can. You don't have to stick to conventional structures. But don't do it if it doesn't make sense in context.]

January 21, 2009 6:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


January 22, 2009 8:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrific opening. Looks superficially like it's set in the same background as your "Winning Peace" from Gardner Dozois' The New Space Opera. If so, I'll be looking forward to it: "Winning Peace" was not only a great story but also set in one of the most fascinating fictional universes that I've seen in some time, possibly even better than that of the Quiet War stories.
Be even better if it leads to a novel...

January 24, 2009 5:30 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi Philip. Well spotted. It follows on from 'City of the Dead', published last year in Postscripts #15. 'Winning Peace comes many years later on the timeline (hah! as if I had a timeline...).

January 26, 2009 5:22 pm  

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