Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Venus Effect, by Joseph Allen Hill

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(Metafiction) A black author accepts the challenge of writing a black SF hero, but the police just keep shooting him. (9,010 words; Time: 30m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

"The Venus Effect," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 79, published on .

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

Pro: It has some funny moments, such as the "fantastic-looking gun object that in no way resembles a gun or any other real-life weapon" or the base 2,000 miles underground.

If you make it all the way to the end, the actual message of the story is a bit more nuanced than it appears at first. To recap, here are all of Apollo's incarnations:

  • Creep (Party Boy)
  • Mary Sue (Basketball Player)
  • Teenage Nerd
  • Teenage Superhero
  • Woman
  • Stay-at-home
  • Far Future (No black people)
  • Policeman
  • White (You)

In all but the last, he/she is killed by the police. In the last one, he/we is/are the policeman. The Omega question (the one that destroys civilization) is "who matters?" It destroys civilization because once you ask it, you'll always put yourself and your loved ones first.

Con: Or you can read it as 100% message fiction, and the answer is "Black Lives Matter!"

The trouble with message fiction is that however much you might agree with the message, it makes for poor reading, and it does no good because people who disagree with the message will stop reading the moment they detect it.

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. It’s no wonder this story is included in the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017, which I just finished reading. I understand that innovative storytelling from normally underrepresented voices can be uncomfortable for some audiences, but I found this story to be downright thrilling. And the ways in which the author tackles tired old tropes and expands the genre is inspiring. It’s true, not everyone will have the courage and vulnerability to answer the Omega Question. But those who are live richer, fuller lives because of it.