The Taking of IOSA 2083
I'll Never Find Another You
Inconstant Nature
Imaginary Enemies
Pink Ice in the Jovian Rings
All the Things We Gave You
Consequences of a Clockwork Theology
Love In A Time of Bio-Mal
The Unfortunate Necessity of Regular Upgrades
Exchanges in No Man's Land
The Uploaded
A Forgiveness of Wolves

End of the World

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Pink Ice in the Jovian Rings

WHERE Read it at Kasma SF

Believe it or don't, this story was partially a homage to a well-known piece of Victorian weird fiction. I'd say which one, but that would be a spoiler, and so guessing which one is left as an exercise for the reader. It was originally written for an "In space no-one can hear you scream" themed anthology or magazine issue, or something, but wasn't completed in time, and had it's first publication in Keith Stevenson's Anywhere but Earth anthology. Keith had me rework the ending, to maintain pace right up to the final reveal, and he was totally right, so if I'm pleased with the final result then some of that is down to him. Later it was published as a reprint at Kasma SF, which is about the only place I send stuff to these days, albeit reprints, in large part because I'm a big fan of Jose Baetas' artwork and always want to see what he'll illustrate my stories with. Also Alex Korovessis, the editor, is a nice guy, and I always feel I'm welcome at Kasma SF (which is not true in many other places in SF).

The title is a reference to a description I'd once heard from soldiers in... I think it was the Vietnam war, I'm not sure if it was in a factual documentary or a work of fiction. The claim was made that when people stepped on landmines they were blown up so completely that they were reduced to 'pink mist' (sounds a bit unlikely, there must have been larger chunks flying about). War in the Jovian system, it seemed to me, would add pink, organically tainted ice to the rings. 'Pink' also seemed appropriate given that the particular type of combatant that we meet in the story, the "Coffin Dodgers", are young women and teenaged girls selected as being the control system that offers the best brain-to-mass ratio (A.I. having been satisfyingly hand-waved aside with the claim that the machines, being smarter than humans, won't fight).

Obviously, the thing that I liked most about this story was the 'voice' of the protag. I've always liked stories that feature a distinctive style of speech, because you instantly feel you're hearing from someone coming from another place, or time, or culture, rather than some RADA actor who's playing a space-person. Unfortunately, as with so much in science fiction, creating new dialects is dangerous because the loony lefties will come after you, accusing you of racism. (Yes, there are loony lefties. There's plenty of sane people on the left too, but we have to stop claiming that there's no loony lefties. SF has a lot of them. I've met them. They exist). Once I had the accusation of 'dialectical racism' levelled at me for another story, and was fortunately able to defend against the charge by pointing to two lines in the story that demolished the argument (showing that the characters involved weren't of the racial identity that they needed to be for the accusation to hold water). However, that experience left me wondering what would have happened if I'd cut those lines out, as arguably I should have, because they didn't carry any weight. The answer of course is that I'd have been pilloried and forced to apologise for something I hadn't done (and I've had SF people tell me often enough that it doesn't matter if you did a thing, comrade, you have to apologise for it anyways). But I'm drifting from the point here...

This is one of the stories I feel proudest of, but it's also the one that contains the most things I feel uncomfortable about. Sexuality is much more present in this than my other stories, as normally there's too much going on in a story to allow time to think of such things, (I've always had a problem with movies where the plot-to-destroy-Earth can be put on hold for a while to give the leading couple time to bonk) but the narrator here has nothing but time on her hands. There's also a lot of swearing, and the original version had the rudest word imaginable in it, which I put in and took out, put in and took out, before finally deciding to leave it in because I felt the characters would say/think that. Multiple rejections later, each rejection claiming that they liked the story, but felt that X was weak, where X was a different thing every time, I came to the conclusion that the editors weren't being very honest with me, and took the word out. On the story's next outing it sold.