Short Stories 366:267 — “The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex,” by Tobias S. Buckell

Another book from my pile of “Hey, exactly how long have I had this anthology? Oh my word, that long?” books, New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction from People of Color opens with a lovely introduction from LeVar Burton, and immediately beings delivering on the premise with “The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex.” Buckell drops us into the day-in-the-life of a cab driver in a future Earth where aliens have come—by the droves—because Earth is just so gosh-darned quaint to visit. The allegory is pretty clear: humanity as a whole gets a taste of the whole colonial “let’s go see this place, pick the bits we like, commodify and commercialize it, change everything to suit us, and then leave without doing anything positive for the locals while outright making their lives worse in the process.”

Tavi drives his cab and does his best to scrape by (like a lot of humanity is doing now) and then one of his fares opens the door to passenger compartment while they’re high above the city, blathers on about “the spires!” (Manhattan’s skyline) and then… jumps out of the cab. This is going to be a problem, Tavi thinks, but the way the problem spins out and how it ends up working into the narrative is as clever as it is cynical (and ties back into that allegory I mentioned).

I really, really enjoyed this, to the point where I think it was the perfect mix for me specifically as a reader because of the way Buckell handled that cynical and grim side along with Tavi (and his supporters) looking at the world the way it is and finding the cracks to survive in. The glimpses of his network of people—all aware that none of this is a game they can win, but supporting each other as best as they can regardless—spoke to me on that whole queer chosen-family level, and I was in.

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