Beneath Ceaseless Skies #61, January 27, 2011
“Recapitulation in Steam” by Margaret Ronald
“Mamafield” by Corie Ralston
Reviewed by Bob Leishman
Izzy performs important work. He fixes machines that process the ore that powers his society and improves both their safety and performance. The ore itself was once seen as magical and controlled only by mages who sacrificed their sanity in the effort.
Margaret Ronald in “Recapitulation in Steam” creates a society that lives in fear of its technology. Being exposed to the ore can give a person both power and the madness that the mages had once experienced. The ore, the power, and the madness are mythologized in their culture by way of operas. After an accident on the job Izzy must go into quarantine with other workers and it’s here that Ronald gives us the psychology of her characters.
Ronald is examining how both a society, and an individual can deal with the threat of meltdown. She does this well and for that reason I liked the story.
“Mamafield” by Corie Ralston is an allegory. Her characters are plants or plant-like creatures who are both sentient and to some degree wilful. The story goes into how they communicate, feel, and process information. It also goes into how they begin and end relationships with one another.
Ralston has a day job as a Staff Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and has apparently done some research into botany. Her work reflects a kind of scientific authority while developing speculative fiction. A very interesting piece.