Reading: Placa del Fuego by Tobias S. Buckell
I’ve already talked about the quality audio productions over at Clarkesworld Magazine. Each of those audio productions are of stories selected from the electronic pages of the monthly webzine. I like this model, as it provides multiple distinct entry points into the content. I recently discovered Transmissions From Beyond which features “stories selected from the pages of the TTA Press magazines Interzone (science fiction & fantasy), Black Static (horror), and Crimewave (crime & mystery).” I have a feeling you’ll be hearing more about that from me in the future.
I’m a fan of Tobias Buckell, in fact it was his short story collection, Tides from the New Worlds that pointed me at Clarkesworld Magazine by way of Wyrm Publishing. Thus, I was excited to hear that he has a story, Placa del Fuego, in the July Issue of Clarkesworld. It’s also the audio selection!
Placa del Fuego
You don’t need any background to be able to appreciate this story, but it’s set in the larger universe of Buckell’s novels. I’ve reviewed Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose all of which I’d highly recommend. They’re each very distinct stories that chronicle some aspect of humanity’s oscillation between subjugation and xenophobic hegemony. In any large military conflict, there will be collateral damage. One of Buckell’s greatest strengths has been to tell these stories with a collaboration between the major players and a representative from the potential collateral damage. This literary parallax enriches what are already uniquely interesting stories.
Placa del Fuego is exactly what I expect from Buckell. By that I mean scary oppressive aliens, a beautifully complex setting, and individual humans trying to find their place in it all. The uniquely scary alien in this story is just an unknowable chunk of walking destruction. The titular setting is an island where the trees occasionally release a flammable substance that falls like rain. An island means boats and Buckell manages to conjure up some motor-less speed boats that are made of awesome.
All the stories and novels in this universe have a fractal quality and this one is no exception. The street urchin’s plight, living on the edge of society on a small island is reflected in the offworlder’s plight living on the outskirts of humanity’s revolution. Humanity itself is on the edge of the collection of “local” alien cultures and it’s hinted that the aliens that humanity has encountered are all refugees from a vast and none too friendly empire of some sort. Buckell uses an economy of words to weave all of this together and this story is a great addition to his overall storyline.
While writing this, iTunes decided to play the intro Yerba Buena’s Island Life. I now feel an urge to run some statistics on how many songs in my collection would have induced the same “I’m reading about an island that suffers from naturally occurring napalm rain and iTunes knows this” feeling. I don’t susspect I’ll encounter much more “naturally occuring napalm” fiction, but it’d be good to have the numbers.