THE LONG HAUL from the Annals of Transportation, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009 • 2014 • alternative history by Ken Liu

★★★

Meta: isfdb. This alternative history short story appeared November 2014 in Clarkesworld. It was re-published in The Best SF&F of the Year 2015.

Synopsis:

There is a lot of space in a zeppelin, I thought, idly. That space, filled with lighter-than-air helium, keeps the zeppelin afloat. A marriage also has a lot of space. What fills it to keep it afloat?

There was no Hindenburg disaster, no World War II, and the airshop era continued for decades. A reporter’s travelogue where he accompanies an intercontinental zeppelin haul from China to Las Vegas. Zeppelins in this alternative history are the mode of transportation to avoid environment pollution costs. He travels with a married couple – baseball fan Icke and his mail-ordered Chinese wife Yeling – working in six hours shifts navigating their zeppelin.

Review:  Don’t expect much tension – this is no action story but tells the background of intercultural marriage which blends seemlessly into the alternate Chinese/U.S. setting. You could consider it as slow, but it paid off for me very well because of the strong characters and their relationships.

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