Sunday Shorts—Depot 256, by Lisa Allen-Agostini

coverWhen I read Queers Destroy Science Fiction, I found the overall tone to be somewhat depressing; often the “victory” (if there was one) was snatched from scraps, and flavoured with settling-for rather than triumphant (and part of it was maybe having listened to it at the wrong time of year, in the depths of cold, cold winter). A few stories in, Authors of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction is giving me a bit of that same vibe, and “Depot 256” is a brilliantly written example of what I mean about that.

Set in a future of Trinidad where things have gotten abysmal (ecologically, sociologically, you name it), it follows a young girl who is a cog in the wheel of the cocaine trade, who is on the edge of starving all the time, trying desperately to survive, and who encounters another child who is determined to make it out of this world. There’s a push-and-pull between the two girls, the bitterness of hope that seems (at least nearly) futile, and just the overall tone of the tale being clear: this is what happens when we devalue human life as nothing more than a source of cheap labour.

It’s a brutal story, but it’s of a sort that science fiction does so damn well: it shines a light right back at the present day and leaves the reader—hopefully—a bit shaken and uncomfortable with a truth being told in a fiction.

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