Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kage Baker's "The Empress of Mars": A woman of grit refuses to be cowed down by powerful establishment

If it were not set on Mars, I would have called this novella length story non-genre.

I found the first quarter a bit tedious (took me nearly a week); rest was single sitting thing. But there is nothing really outstanding about it; it's one of those "ok while you read it" stories.

Full text of this story is available online.

Story summary.

British Empire is the dominant colonizer of Mars - through the "British Arean Company" (BAC); people from Celtic Federation are low cost labor imported when needed by BAC, & dumped when their job is done. Heroine comes from the later group.

Mary Griffith, with a "doctorate in xenobotany", is a woman with many kids. She is hired by BAC for work on Mars - "to discover about useful lichens on Mars". She runs out of her usefulness in 5 years, & is fired - with no money to buy a passage back to earth. As part of severance package, she receives a small patch of land in Celtic areas - kind of slums of the colony. This Mars appears to have a lot of fertile land; only she has got the worst of it.

To make a living, she begins brewing beer & sets up a restaurant. "Empress" of title is the name of this restaurant.

When going through a particularly bad patch, she happens to dig out a big & very rare "red diamond" from her land! This will make her very rich.

As the news spreads, she has gold diggers raiding her land & ruining things. And finally the lawyer of BAC visits, claiming small print of her land bequeathal contract that lets BAC take back the land when it pleases, & that she is now under notice to vacate in 30 days!

End is sort of indeterminate where she has decided to fight off the claim of BAC in courts.

Fact sheet.

"The Empress of Mars", short story, review
First published: Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2003.
Rating: B
Nominated for Hugo Award 2004 in novella category.
Nominated for Nebula Award 2003 in novella category.