Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Destroyed by the Waters, by Rachel Swirsky

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(Climate Change) Derek and Zack visit the underwater ruins of New Orleans, where they'd honeymooned fifty years before. (6,200 words; Time: 20m)

Rating: ★★★★★, Award-Worthy

"Destroyed By The Waters," by (edited by Jonathan Strahan), appeared in Drowned Worlds (RSR review), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Superficially, this is about Derek's determination to visit New Orleans, despite what happened to Noah, and despite Zack's objections. The foreshadowed surprise is that Zack has issues with Noah that are at least as bad as Derek's, but which he mostly keeps inside. So there's a parallel plotline about how Zack reaches and overcomes his own crisis.

The story is filled with foreshadowing hinting at danger and death. There's even the suggestion that Derek might intend to die here. Consequently, there's tension all the way up until Zack says "I know" and lets the skeleton fragments float to the surface.

The story offers a wonderful depiction of a long-settled, older gay couple. They long ago worked their issues out, and they make a good team. Superficially, Zack is the strong one ("Derek was tender, nurturing, fragile"), but even from the very beginning, we see that Derek has his own strengths (e.g. he organizes the whole trip to New Orleans, and Zack acquiesces), so it's not a surprise when Derek rescues him at the end. They take care of each other, and when they say they love each other at the end, it's not a surprise; we already know.

On the technical front, this story gets the science right. Fifty years is barely enough time to have major East Coast flooding in the US, and the story does mention that absolute worst-case scenario is what came to pass.

Full disclosure: my husband and I will mark twenty years together this fall, so I likely have a bias in favor of this story. I almost never see a realistic story about a settled, older, male gay couple.

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