25 May 2009
"From Babel's Fallen Glory We Fled"
Free Speculative Fiction short stories online.
Read it here: "From Babel's Fallen Glory We Fled"
By Michael Swanwick
In Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
Genre: Science Fiction
Word Count: 7,500 approx.
There are all sorts of things to enjoy in this story of a lone surviving Human after the devastation of the alien city he was living in. First is the artifact who is telling the story. Rosamund died during the literal fall of the city, becoming an artifact and finding an existence for herself in the environmental suit of her lover. In this state, she is not the woman she was, and in her narration are sad little oddities, little tremours of a humanity that cannot completely get through. She is a machine now.
Another is the world of the aliens, who are referred to as millipedes but sounded in many ways like ants or termites to me. They have special legs used for communication. This is one of those stories that acknowledge the difficulty of interspecies communication and work it into the text. A word may be used, and the translation adds the overtones intended.
The theme of this story is economics, and you can take Swanwick's discourse on that as you please. It is presented as a dialogue between a society whose economy is based on information and one whose economy is based on trust, but both are susceptible to competition. For me, the question really being raised is whether this is how it has to be.
By the way, if you think the name of one of the characters, Uncle Vanya, sounds somehow familiar, you can try a link here at Wikipdia or here at SparkNotes for synopsis of Chekov's play in which, apparently (I haven't read it) there are no heroes and no one makes much attempt to understand one another.