A short story based on a collaborative project I participated in, looking at three-dimensional printing in the near future. The gimmick is a travel itinerary.
Before we had any idea how dangerous it was to bolt human beings to exploding tubes and launch them into space, when inventions like the lightbulb and airplane and telephone were warping the planet at a ferocious pace and escaping the earth’s gravity well suddenly seemed possible —we imagined that exploring the Universe would be a lot like the famous expeditions we had seen before.
This issue’s Fictionist features a short story by James McGirk, a writer who moved to India in the early days of Manmohan Singh’s economic reforms. The Godling of Greater Kailash is an intriguing story, loosely based on McGirk’s experience as a photographer’s assistant during a particularly long and hot Indian summer, when New Delhi’s expatriate community was flooded with Burmese refugees.
We vet families and can bar them from joining the Op – but once they leave our sphere of influence, the Op must seize control and wield kin as clandestine cover. But the pliant, detached creatures we select for foreign assignment are not householders by nature. Much as we suffer the consequences, and much as it might be humane to do so, we simply cannot execute our children without risking accusations of profound hypocrisy and international outcry.
So horrid and bright to open his eyes. So much better to stay enshrouded in ruddy dark. But other signals were… penetrating too. His gullet came unfastened, pulsing and melting, and a sour bulge of liquid rose and – oh fuck, he sat up too late – popped and disgorged into his cupped hands. He cradled this liquid inch; it had weight and mass, and the gluey but slippery consistency of watered cornstarch. Sweet artificial scents of partially digested alcohol rose from its glistening surface. How much like an offering this was, with its bobbing rice grains and bilious yellow tint (he was bent on his knees in the sand). The smell intensified. A nostril twitched. Revulsion clenched him, and he flung his slop into the fire pit.
The rocket had failed. Kim Jong-un snapped off his the monitor and turned to face his advisors. What could they possibly tell him? This was total failure. Five ashen men in uniform glittered in the gloom. They groveled and made excuses. Kim lifted a hand and batted the air as if to shoo a fly, and the men backed away slowly, heads bowed deeply in shame. He waited for them to leave and left the control room for his private chambers. The hallway smelled of sandalwood and cognac.
“James McGirk’s short story “The Tramp Steamer” presents a side of Richard M. Nixon we’ve never seen before. McGirk imagines the young lawyer and his new bride traveling on a tramp steamer of the United Fruit Company to celebrate their first anniversary. Seasick, angry, jealous, Nixon reveals his inelegance to his wife who yearns for more glamour and glitz. McGirk takes the facts of the Nixons’ actual 1941 trip and spins out an incisive and compelling story of bitterness and dreams.” LINK