Saturday, October 28, 2017

Afloat Above a Floor of Stars, by Tom Purdom

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(SF Adventure) Revali and Kemen are on a 36-year mission to be the first people to view the Milky Way from well above the galactic plane. Their mission is scientific, but also symbolic, and it’s the latter that’s problematic. (7,190 words; Time: 23m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"Afloat Above a Floor of Stars," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 11-12|17, published on by .

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

Pro: The setup is cool: Almost every couple needs a dominant and a submissive partner, but with new technology, you can choose which you’ll be and even rotate, if you want. But humanity seems to be splitting into a female-dominant branch and a male-dominant branch with little in between, so critical funding comes with the condition that they use the trip to make a statement about unity. They divide their time between solitude, one or the other being submissive, and their normal selves. They make their big statement at the apex of their climb.

Revali really, really needs that to go off on schedule, and his fight with Kemen provides the only real conflict and tension in the story. At the end, though, they both realize that, against the backdrop of the whole galaxy, human concerns are petty.

Con: The stakes in the story are pretty low. This is an expedition that even the characters themselves admit could have been done by a drone. Failure means maybe getting sued on their return, but that's all. Kemen’s refusal to do the ceremony seems extremely petty. The struggle between the two of them to force the issue is childish and even dangerous. It undid a lot of the goodwill I’d felt towards them, leading me to not care much about the ending. It didn't help that I didn't buy the notion that a real (vs. simulated) view of the galaxy would magically change their minds.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 11-12|17)
Tom Purdom Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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