Take me home.

I’ve just finished a first draft of the novelette (I ultimately didn’t go with the restructuring I was hopping to do, because of time contraints) and given it to my weekly writing group for crit, and this morning I was casting about to find something to distract me from “oh dear god did I actually leave all those things in there they are so goofy.”

Bethesda stepped up.

I was gleeful to start with, and then someone pointed out that at 0:29, you can see a date on the PIP-Boy, and that the year is 2102. In-universe, this puts it 25 years after the Great War and 159 years before the first Fallout.

It’s not that I don’t love the Fallout setting, and the way the institutions have grown up over time (and yes, still ridiculously pleased that the Khans survived New Vegas; they’ve been around longer than the NCR!), but I love the Fallout world, too, and am very curious to see what it was like a mere generation after the bombs fell.

I am so very much looking forward to this.

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“Song for Three Soldiers”, Stephen Vincent Benét

Oh, where are you coming from, soldier, gaunt soldier,
With weapons beyond any reach of my mind,
With weapons so deadly the world must grow older
And die in its tracks, if it does not turn kind?

Stephen Vincent Benét isn’t very well-known for his science fiction, as far as I can tell; he wrote “By the Waters of Babylon“, and the story is known, but since he was better known for other work and came to science fiction late in a relatively short life, his name doesn’t bubble to the top very easily in genre discussions.

I ran across the poem while looking up The War Game (1965, BBC, an “and you though Threads was upsetting” kind of mockumentary), which uses it as an epigram. About once every eight months I run across it again, and then I spend three days humming it to a tune that’s something like “The Streets of Laredo”.

This time, I thought I’d share; the text in its entirety is here.

“The Screwfly Solution”, James Tiptree, Jr.

AP/Nassau: The excursion liner Carib Swallow reached port under tow today after striking an obstruction in the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras. The obstruction was identified as part of a commercial trawler’s seine floated by female corpses. This confirms reports from Florida and the Gulf of the use of such seines, some of them over a mile in length. Similar reports coming from the Pacific coast and as far away as Japan indicate a growing hazard to coastwise shipping.

That cheery fragment is actually one of the less upsetting pieces of text in Tiptree’s “The Screwfly Solution”. It’s a fairly hard-hitting story, especially when you (for example) go in thinking that while it’ll probably be a good story, it’ll be a little dated and there’s no reason to think it’d make more of an impression than others you’ve read.

(I was corrected. To borrow a phrase from another work, I was corrected harshly.)

That short story’s remarkable to me at least in part because I honestly feel like the last few lines weaken the horror of it. Partly that’s surprising because I find most of Tiptree’s work is remarkably consistent and builds well on itself; partly that’s interesting because I’ve got a class on beginnings and endings tomorrow, and I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately.

Tiptree wrote a great many stories, and it’s hard to choose what to recommend first, but after “The Screwfly Solution” you could do worse than go with “Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!”, “The Man Who Walked Home”, and “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”.