Terraform, October 29 & November 5, 2015
Reviewed by Dave Truesdale
Each weekly story posted at Terraform is to be 2,000 words or under. Therefore, the author must present and treat an idea as interestingly and in as concise a manner as possible, making every word count. This is difficult to do and few writers can do it competently, much less well. If the central premise is time-worn or clichéd to begin with the author’s task becomes all the more difficult, so the more unique or fresh an idea and its concomitant treatment increases the chances for a merely passable story to become a good one at such a restrictive length. It is an art form.
“Hypercane” by Eric Holthaus
In the near future, EnviroCorps has the nationwide contract on carbon scrubbers, the most efficient ever devised. Coal plants continue to provide fossil fuel for energy but are now virtually free of carbon emissions. Then comes a super hurricane (dubbed a “hypercane” by some of today’s meteorological community) to the New England coast that threatens the operational integrity of the complex scrubbers, for their AI-monitored, complex design might not be able to withstand a hypercane’s destructive power. A lot is at risk, for EnviroCorp is paid handsomely—in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually—to keep the atmosphere as clean of carbon emissions as never before in history. It has made the United States a leader in climate change. The trouble is, that a member of a watchdog group has discovered that EnviroCorps scrubbers are a scam, the company’s promises hollow, and just as she has uploaded the damning data to the internet, information that will destroy EnvirCorp, the company tries to silence her. Murder is a small price to pay when the almighty dollar is a priority—especially when an environmental scam will be uncovered.
The lesson here is that when a profit is to be made on anything—including businesses claiming to be able to help save the environment—and on a large scale with untold wealth to made from their well-meaning efforts, that a too-trusting public should not naively believe all they are told regardless of how good it makes them feel. And the same goes for public pressure on a Congress all too willing to bend to that pressure in order to look good in its constituents’ eyes—without doing their due diligence by solid research into a supposed “savior” company in which they will be granting so much power. Feeling good about something isn’t the same as doing the right thing.
Further commentary: This story is of the exposé variety, which in itself is nothing new. A worthwhile premise to be sure, with a cautionary message relevant to today’s debate on the issue of climate change, which is to be highly skeptical of any corporation or highly visible individual promoting climate change initiatives where a large profit motive is involved. Think Al Gore and those of his persuasion and influence with the media and elected representatives. Follow the money and question motives where such large scale and potentially life-changing plans are presented to the public in terms they are so easily predisposed to believe. “Hypercane” shows one possible outcome of not heeding this simple advice.
“Noah Takes a Picture of Himself Every Day for 10,000 Years” by Ryan Vance
This story is an extension, a “what if,” of a real life event. Noah Kalina took a picture of himself every day for 12 ½ years beginning in 2000. A speeded-up montage of his self-photos (called “selfies” today), can be found on YouTube. Ryan Vance merely extends the concept beyond Kalina’s 6 years and draws it out to 10,000 years in a brief series of timeline snippets following Kalina’s life. Whether the story succeeds or not will depend on how clever or interesting each future snippet comes across for each reader. My personal reaction happened to be just short of a yawn. Been there, read that.