Short Story Squee & Snark
An SF&F short story club. Fantastic reading makes for fantastic discussions.
“Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar [Short story]
Read the story:
I really enjoyed this. Which was exceptionally gratifying, since I’ve mostly bounced off of Tidhar’s work in the past.
The flurries of messages across the void are mesmerizing and haunting. And very very familiar for all that – there is something beautifully allegorical in the idea of each person, making his own journey, trapped in his own isolation, reaching out for contact which is futile but can be infinitely comforting.
(Alternatively, it also reminds me of the good ol’ days of IRC chat rooms. Perhaps a less lovely allegory 😛 )
I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who has bounced off Tidhar’s stories. Some were just underwhelming, but he published one in this year’s Strange Horizons called "The Godbeard" that had me saying, "What was that now…?" Did it make any sense to you?
Well, I’ve only read a smattering, but I feel like it was a good cross-section way-back-when. He is/was a countryman of mine, which was exciting, but the stories themselves didn’t really work for me.
Now that I think of it, though, it’s probably been at least five years since I’ve read something new of his. I actually have "Godbeard" on my phone in audio, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet, nor am I very likely to soon.
I’d think that jalopy trips to Mars would have more appeal to the economically desperate and otherwise fugitive than to terminally ill people… That said, this story made me see the potential appeal of it, of spending your "nothing to lose" time on a leap into the unknown. Not how "pioneers" are usually depicted. But there has always been a strong strain of romanticism to setting off for an unknown land, and the advantage of the jalopy technology is that you don’t need practical skills to use it, so it’s perfect for "why not" travelers.
I liked the way the journey encouraged camaraderie, yeah. Shared dreaming.
They keep referring to the Mars Terminal as "Terminal Beach". That must be an allusion to the J. G. Ballard story with its famous quote "This island is a state of mind", but I really can’t see a connection between this story and the one that Wikipedia summarizes thus: "A man who does not come to terms with the premature death of his wife and son steals away onto an island of Eniwetok, once used for testing nuclear weapons. Between the decaying buildings on the island, the reader follows his mental and physical decline."
Another noticeable thing about this story was the sense of global community. From they obviously international travelers (who nonetheless all seem to have a language in common) to the mix of foods and other ethnic markers mentioned, to Mei’s universal music collection… It’s looking down on the world from above, I guess. That was one of my less favorite parts of the story, actually. It all seems to add up to ethnicity stripped of meaning and reduced to shallowness, like the stereotypical thoughts Mei has about each type of music. But not belonging to one part of the world makes the idea of the flight more appealing.
Interesting; I didn’t pick up on that.
It does seem a weird little point if it got attention and the attention was "eh, it’s all ok now."
I may reread and see if I can spot what you’re talking about.
(One thought might be that there might be some intriguing interplay between the willingness to leave the world behind, and the sense that the world is well-known, familiar, homogeneous. But that’s a pretty big "might".)