Short Story Review: “Calved” by Sam J. Miller

5 of 5 stars.

In the face of most everything changing, one thing that remains the same is generational differences in perspective largely driven by social and cultural change over time. This speculative tale uses as a backdrop a vastly different world after the poles have melted and much of the United States, Central Europe and India have flooded. Growing deserts ring the planet.

This sad yet beautiful tale focuses in on Dom, an American immigrant to Qaanaaq, Greenland after his native NYC is destroyed by floods, and the teenaged son, Thede, he barely seems to know anymore. Dom lives in one of the many immigrant shantytowns around Qaanaaq, now a resource-rich booming city of 2 million and counting [compared to its 2013 population of under 700 people–I looked it up]. The nearly absentee father is unskilled labor and mostly illiterate in the Scandinavian language of commerce, whereas his ex-wife has a better job and custody of Thede. Dom’s job on ice-boats pulling in icebergs for fresh water also keeps him away from his son.

Now he’s looking at signing unto a year stint on a boat, but loath to tell Thede who already pulls away as a teenager. The boy cringes when the father asks about friends, activities, school subjects, girls, and college plans. Even the ex-wife’s warning that Thede is 1) getting bullied, 2) in love and 3) attending the Institute after graduation provides Dom with few ins. All he has is his memories of the loving boy he knew and some shared rituals, one of which revolved around Thede trying on Dom’s beloved NYC t-shirt once a year for his birthday. In a desperate act of love, Dom gifts the tee to Thede–and it’s well received.

Thede wears it a half-dozen times before the tee disappears. Dom presses the point, watching the gulf between him and his son widen . . .

This tale appears in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I received this new anthology from Netgalley.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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