Diabolical Plots #3, May 2015
Reviewed by Alex Schwendt
This story concerns the familiar science-fiction trope of the generation starship. A generation starship is an interstellar ark starship that travels across the great distances between stars at a speed slower than the speed of light. Such a starship would take centuries or even millennia to reach habitable planets. The original occupants of a generation ship would grow old and die before such a starship reached its intended destination, while generations would be born and die on the starship during the journey. Given the current state of technology, a generation starship in fact holds the greatest scientific likelihood for Mankind to reach habitable planets circulating distant stars.
“In Memoriam” effectively conveys a sense of saudade that occupants of a starship would feel after living on a generation ship. Saudade is a Portuguese word that has no equivalent in English. However, it implies a sense of nostalgia allied with melancholy for a lost loved one. The protagonist of the story describes the emotions she feels while walking past the cemetery in her generation ship. However, it is not a cemetery but a memorial, because the generation ship doesn’t have space for burials, and everything of any use from a corpse is recycled. She feels saudade for the occupants of the generation ship that have come before her. She also feels a future saudade for herself- she realizes that she is a member of a generation that will die before the ship reaches its destination.
This story quietly, yet effectively conveys the sense of saudade by leaving unnecessary details out. This makes the story more thoughtful and engaging. We are told little about the narrator – we are never informed if “she” is a male or a female. We don’t know what year the ship started its journey, or how many generations will pass before it reaches its goal. We aren’t told what motivated the initial occupants of the generation ship to leave Earth, but they clearly made a great sacrifice to do so. I enjoyed this story; it is another admirable tale in the DP series.