Short Stories 366:64 — “Canth,” by K.C. Norton

cover“Canth” is one of those stories that feels like a glimpse of a larger tale already underway. As a reader, it was as though I stumbled upon an audiobook that had been playing in the background, but I had no way to ask it to begin again, so instead I was left to try to understand what was going on from tiny clues peppered throughout. That’s not to say “Canth” felt unfinished, but that this story, found in Women Destroy Science Fiction, gives you the barest minimum to understand character and motivation, and leaves the explanations for technology and history to be waved aside as less than important.

And it works. The captain is a woman who has hired a small ship and crew to chase after something she lost: her own ship, the Canth, which unfortunately has a perpetual motion machine at its heart and as such will never stop until it wants to—the notion that her ship can want to stop is one of those unexplained pieces, as is a casual aside that the way the machine works is because it is powered by her mother’s heart.

Around her, the hired crew threaten the sense of security in isolation that the captain has had in the Canth, and her worries and fears about what might happen are a large part of the tale, until everything turns sideways when the ship stops, and reveals it absolutely had a destination in mind—and they are no longer alone. “Canth” was performed really well on the audiobook, too, with a depth of emotional fragility in the captain’s performance especially.

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