Published in: Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, a magazine edited by Edmund R. Schubert
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” tells a story about a human colony on the planet Alluvium. Humans have been conquered and occupied by a race of spacefaring kitt… er, lizards, who have strange customs when it comes to dealing with the dead. The gist of the novelette is that burying a dead human makes the lizards very upset, and thus a dying man who plans his burial manages to shake things up. It’s an intriguing proposition, but the story itself felt quite dull.
The plotting would have needed some more work, even if the story is decently written. There’s just too much talking heads to keep me intrested. Now the whole story was about the dying guy’s friend finding out what it was all about, but the really interesting part would have been what happens next and what further complications there will be. It’s frustrating when a story fails to focus on the most interesting aspects of its proposition.
Rinehart could also have explored the tensions between humans and lizards in more detail. Now the whole occupation situation seemed quite artificial. Even though humans’ bitterness for the situation is mentioned a couple of times, it felt very superficial and unrealistic. Having read a couple of books about Palestinians, it seemed to me that this story lacked the desperation of people living under occupation in the real world. It was hard for me to get immersed in a storyworld that was this artificial.
This is the first story published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show I’ve ever read, so it’s something new to me, at the very least. Card’s personality may scare off some people, but apparently he doesn’t really control the way the magazine is run day-to-day, so discarding everything that IGMS publishes because of the publisher’s views on gay marriage (“it’s the end of democracy in America”) or something like that is perhaps not a very sensible position. (Judging by Edmund R. Schubert’s own Hugo withdrawal post, Card’s name on the title is a same kind of disadvantage for the magazine as L. Ron Hubbard’s name is for the Writers of the Future contest.)
Knowing practically nothing about the magazine (you have to subscribe in order to read it online), it’s hard to say if the novelette does a good job at representing the kind of fiction that IGMS publishes. There’s a sample issue online for those who are interested, in addition to the Hugo-nominated story itself. After reading Rinehart’s piece, I’m not strongly inclined to give the magazine a go, because the story didn’t blow me away. However, it’s well possible that the Puppies failed to pick the best story that IGMS has to offer.
Even if this story didn’t really convince me, I’d like to add here Gray Rinehart has produced some interesting stuff, like this quite reasonable Hugo mess reaction post and this Larry Correia-inspired folk ballad: