The Reading List, 4/6/2014 »« I’m Just a Bill

Saturday Storytime: Turnover

Y’all know who Jo Walton is, right? She’s only won just about every genre award that exists. Well, if you don’t know her, consider this story a nice little taste of her work.

“We’ll never get to the New World,” Jay said.

Just then, Il Magnifico stood up, flourished his red cape, and called the gnocchi. Kitchen workers processed out singing, carrying the flat, steaming trays, and we made a mad dash, along with everyone else in the room, to get it while it was hot.

“What do you mean?” Mei Ju asked as we stood in line. “We’ll get to the new world in a hundred and twenty-five years.”

“Indeed, saying anything different is like questioning gravity,” Genly said.

Jay laughed, and held up his hands, pale palms towards us. “Speranza will get there, sure as taxes. But we will not. We’ll be dead. If you have grandchildren, perhaps they’ll get there as old people. Your great-grandchildren will no doubt settle it. But us? No. Were our ancestors who got onto Speranza going to the New World? Were their parents who died on Earth? Were theirs who never even heard of the Starship Project? How about my ancestors dragged across the Atlantic from Africa in the hold of a slaver, were they on their way to the stars?”

The line moved forward and we moved with it. “They were in a way. Their genes were going. Our genes will get there,” Midge said.

“The only thing you care about is genes,” Genly said, grinning.

“Whereas I,” said Jay, reaching the head of the line and putting his plate out for the server to ladle the gnocchi onto it, “care nothing about genes at all.” Jay despised his parents. He hadn’t even wanted to make his Contribution, even though nobody gets to be an adult without. I’d eventually persuaded him that just as he’d give a kidney to save a life, making his Contribution was giving his genes to help some infertile or consanguineous couple after he was dead. “Maybe the genes of my poor devil slave ship ancestors will get to the New World, maybe the genes of all our ancestors back to Olduvai Gorge. But I won’t. And I’m glad I won’t.” He bowed to the server. “Grazie, mille grazie.”

He took his plate back to the table. I waited, thanked the server as she loaded mine, then followed him. “How can you be glad?” I asked him. The gnocchi were heavenly, they always are. I’ve had gnocchi elsewhere and even made them myself, but they’re nothing compared to the way they do them at Teatro del Sale. They taste the way I imagine Ambrosia would taste.

“I’m glad because I like living on Speranza,” he said. “I think life farming on the New World sounds tedious in the extreme. And I think you’d hate it even worse than I would.”

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