Friday, August 3, 2007

William Shunn's "Inclination": An adolescent boy comes of age

Among the may be a half dozen Hugo 2007 nominated stories I have read to date in different categories, this one is simply the best. Something here touched my heart.

And very readable. Single sitting material. Felt like a short story rather than novella - was over too fast.

sf touch is provided by an exotic environment - a space port, a version of Google 500 years down the line ("Geoff"), space travel to far off stars, genetically engineered humans in many designs, ... But they are all incidental. Real story is essentially a human interest one.

Full text of this story is available online.

Story summary.
Jude, a 15 year old boy, lives in a fundamentalist ghetto of Netherview Station - a space station & space port with a population of "two million permanent residents and millions more who pass through every month". The Station orbits a planet called Netherheim; I think its star is called Freya - not sure.

These ghetto people follow a cult derived from Christianity, but much different - and have a lot of taboos. Among them, mixing with the impure Sculpted people that inhabit rest of the Station.

Sculpted refers to bio-engineered. Like turning your skin green - for fun! Or having 4 arms - rather than 2 arms & 2 legs!

He has never been out of ghetto. His dad is now forcing him to take up the job of a coolie at the space port that is part of the station.

Story is of his interactions - forced because of this job - with abominations that are these impure people, their customs, & finally questioning his own customs.

Beautifully told.

Fact sheet.
"Inclination", short story, review
Rating: A
First published: Asimov's April/May 2006
Nominated for Hugo Awards 2007 in novella category

Related: All Hugo Award stories.