Yes, this is what I was missing! Proper sci-fi imagination, where the first few pages have you swimming with augmented humans as they explore beneath a sheet of oceanic ice on Enceladus, one of the smaller moons of Saturn, as the indigenous life swarms up to see what they're doing and try to seduce them or nick their flippers, which anyone who's visited Cairo will find eerily familiar.
LARC Transmissions, by S. Shane Thomas, “Tales from the League of Atlantis Reborn Colonies” is a collection of 46 short stories on the theme of humanity’s expansion to colonise other, Earth-like worlds using LARC spaceships, which take batches of Earth’s excess population off-planet at the rate of half a million at a time. Seven or so LARC ships have ploughed a route to separate destination planets for hundreds of years and many of these stories are set within a few years of their arrival.
I should declare a format preference now, that I like the flowing complexity of novels more, but it isn’t legitimate to complain that LARC Transmissions isn’t a single developing tale because this project has been clearly billed as short stories, therefore any briefly introduced characters or fleeting coverage of themes is valid and in keeping with this format. That said, each short story is a moment in time from seven journeys as they draw closer to their arrival, so a semi-connected structure grows around rib-like episodes and, if you twist your head a bit, you can just about see it as the scattered chapters of a larger theme. This happens in folklore a lot, where for example the story of Noah is only a passing episode in the wider historical record of a tribe. If he’s been and gone in five pages it doesn’t matter because that glimpse was enough to be remembered. The book as a whole is not a single story but if there are enough points of impact, although it’s hell for an editor, the collection becomes publishable and that’s what it is, professionally publishable and enjoyable science fiction.
Each of these stories has the feel of a creative writing exercise, where a student has to compose an original stand-alone scene on the subject of… within the theme of interplanetary travel and colonies. As the student has an unusually interesting and productive mind, it looks like they’ve just kept having ideas and running with them, twisting their tails and then moving on to the next in a sort of whirling, scattering explosion of imaginative concepts. I have to emphasise this: S. Shane Thomas has filled this book with his bounding imagination, transporting the reader to a wealth of situations and visions that fully justify the cover price. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turns out he works for an advertising agency or in design and I’d even forgive him if he had imagineer printed on his business card because this writer has got something that so many others would kill or die for; an entertaining and original creative mind.
Are the short stories too rapid? Possibly, although some people only want to read one or two a night or maybe something bite-sized on their e-book screen as they travel from A to B. I have to conclude that sci-fi short stories work if they are entertaining and if they present a new idea or different way of engaging a thematic question. By those criteria, LARC Transmissions is a very decent pack of short stories and, although inevitably some are more credible or entertaining than others, the laundry monster only appearing realistic if you’ve just returned from Cairo, I do recommend that you read this because it is worth it. In the book it says there’s more to see for free on the author’s website: www.LARC-Sci-Fi.com
Now piss off and buy it!