Thursday, September 29, 2011

Life on Mars, tales from the new frontier: "Martian Heart" by John Barnes

Autumn is here and I’m still reading my way through Life on Mars: Tales from the New Frontier (Viking, April 2011), the new original Young Adult science fiction anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan that's comprised of stories from a range of contemporary international writers, including the late Kage Baker, Alastair Reynolds, Nnedi Okorafor, Stephen Baxter, Nancy Kress, Ian McDonald, Rachel Swirsky, and Kim Stanley Robinson.

The eleventh tale in the anthology is “Martian Heart,” penned by American SF author John Barnes. It’s a touching hard science love story about an old man, Cap, who recalls his younger days prospecting on a frontier Mars with his now-deceased wife, Sam. Here is one of the more romantic passages:
Sam was different. Everybody I knew was thinking about the next party or at most the next week or the next boy or girl, but Sam thought about everything. I know it’s a stupid example, but once back in LA, she came into our squat and found me fucking with the fusion box, just to mess with it. “That supplies all our power for music, light, heat, net, and everything, and you can’t fix it if you break it, and it’s not broke, so, Cap, what the fuck are you doing?”
Interestingly, Barnes explains in the “Author’s Note” how a poem by Robert W. Service about cremation [presumably “The Cremation of Sam McGee” (1907)] inspired part of the plot of “Martian Heart.”

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