Friday, August 06, 2010


It's Friday, so hey, have a free short story. Three hundred words, including a nod to one of James Blish's pantropy stories. It was originally published in New Scientist last year, in a science-fiction special section edited by Kim Stanley Robinson. Somewhere inside it, maybe, is the seed for a novel.


It’s December. Midsummer. The sun barely dipping below the horizon at midnight, and like everyone else Rongomaiwhe Namakin has white-nights fever, cat-napping, staying up around the clock. There’s so much to do! A dragon-sized machine is laying freshly made topsoil along the Tuvula river, and Rongomaiwhe and her crew are planting a strip forest of Dahurian larch and dwarf willow. And when they aren’t working, they hike up the river or across wet black rock fields. White mountains float against the pure blue sky. A wild rugged land still mostly untouched. A kingdom of snow and rock and wind.

Rongomaiwhe’s great-grandparents were early victims of global warming. When its Pacific islands were swamped by rising sea levels, their nation sold its carbon credits and moved to a refuge in New Zealand, which escaped much of the consequences of violent climate change. A succession of canny leaders preserved tribal unity and invested heavily inecological engineering. Rongomaiwhe’s parents helped to quicken a new ecosystem on Howe Island after shifts in ocean currents increased the average temperature by a full ten degrees. Now Rongomaiwhe is part of a rainbow coalition of the young and willing, taking on the challenge of greening the shores of the thawing Antarctic Peninsula.

She knows how lucky she is. More than half the Earth’s population huddle in slums along the new coastlines, permanently unemployed, forcibly sterilised, subsisting on dole yeast. And she is making a new world, and planning to start a family when she and her fiancé marry this winter. That’s why, once a week, she does penance. Plugs into the remote working network, flows into a robot thousands of kilometres away, in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. Brings the machine online and gets to work, planting a windbreak of tweaked yuccas for what will be an oasis, with the vast, level desert of Kansas stretched all around.


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