“The Worldless” by Indrapramit Das
Reviewed by Eric Kimminau
John Joseph Adams, editor of Lightspeed, wants his readers to know that in Lightspeed you will “see where science fiction and fantasy comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.” I intend to take this message to heart and determine if each story truly takes chances and pushes the envelope or fails to stretch beyond what has already been done before.
The opening story for this month’s Lightspeed, “The Worldless” by Indrapramit Das is the story of Nutay and her child “kin” Satlyt, who are dunyshar, “worldless,” genetically transplanted human donated sperm & egg to be grown on a refueling stop remote world to work and serve the visiting travelers in the spaceships coming to and from. They are genetic surrogate grown life forms without a true home world. Nutay seems resigned to their life in the shantytown but, like her “other maba,” Farweh, Satlyt does not wish to die on this dead outer world and soon barters for space suits and tethers and a camo field so they can tether to the outside and ride towards their fairy tale destination, Earth. The broken pigeon English makes for a clumsy read but captures the heart and imagination as they returned to the true source home world under the light of Sol. “That is a good story, Satlyt gasped. Remember it, for the refuji lawyer.”
“The Stone Lover” by Marta Randall is a hedonistic tale of a queen who chose to make a sexual statue to satisfy her lust as the first royal act upon ascension after the death of her beloved King Agathon. After spending her days satisfying herself to the detriment of her land and its people, she willed the stone statue to life only to have its massive weight kill her under its arduous affections. I am sure someone will find pleasure in the eroticism in this dark fantasy but I considered it nothing but commentary on women who come into power wanting to do nothing but satisfy themselves. Boring.
“Death Every Seventy-Two Minutes” by Adam-Troy Castro is the Twilight Zone style tale of Negelein, a young man who, it is soon discovered by a team of physicists, is experiencing “neither hallucinations nor neurological short-circuits, but events, happening to living and breathing versions of yourself, in other universes adjacent to our own”. He is living (not re-living) the moment his self is experiencing sudden, improbable, immediate death every 72 minutes, only to be suddenly returned to his own immediate reality. It takes the Earth 72 years to pass through 1° of the Zodiac, or 25,920 years to complete one full cycle. The Aztec calendar is the most accurate calendar system in existence today, measuring time, space, astrological movement, agricultural cycles, and the individual human potential, not to mention a 24-hour clock broken down into 20 x 72-minute fractions. The number 72 is truly unique and an infinite source of mystery. Seventy-two is the sum of four consecutive primes (13 + 17 + 19 + 23), as well as the sum of six consecutive primes (5 + 7 + 11 + 13 + 17 + 19). Its factor is 23× 32. The word “harshad” comes from the Sanskrit words harṣa (joy) + da (give), meaning joy-giver. 72 is a harshad number in base 10, that is, it is divisible by the sum of its digits.
The number of languages spoken at the Tower of Babylon.
The number of names of God, according to Kabbalah.
The number of disciples of Confucius who mastered his teachings.
I truly enjoyed the pause and reflection that imagining a 72 minute world might bring.
“Soccer Fields and Frozen Lakes” by Greg Kurzawa is a wildly rambling tale of a man, Chris, who receives a letter from the government informing him that he is no longer human. He is now considered (by the government) to be a non-human hybrid, number 73281. They have also assigned numbers to his children, 73282 and 73283. He must now live away, separate from his wife and his sons and is only allowed to visit once per year. It is a crazed, rambling, scared, frustrated tale of a man who must come to grips with no longer being what he once was but desires more than anything to be again—until he finally decides that none but his children can decide who or what he is and what he should be. Thought provoking. The author states he has two kinds of stories: “Tragic ones, and ones that don’t give up their secrets without a fight.” I am haunted by the tragedy of this story.
“Where science fiction and fantasy comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.” Yes, I believe this is what I have experienced. I hope you find these stories as thought provoking as I have. I have enjoyed this issue of Lightspeed.
Eric Kimminau is a BBS geek turned IT professional seeking those of like mind and character with whom I may share in wit and wisdom.