The Farships Fall to Nowhere • 2020 • Generation ship short story by John C Wright

★★★+☆☆

Synopsis: It’s a far future on an inhabitable Rigel planet. An old man tells a stranger how they treat incoming generation ships over a beer or two. He discusses, how those gigantic ships land, or better fall from the sky, sometimes buoying on the ocean, sometimes drowning, always crashing. 

“Pale, sickly monkeys, most of them, and no matter what they’ve read in old, old files, no matter what their elders ever taught, they are unfit for life on any Earths. They don’t know how far they can jump, for one; their eyes don’t tell them how high a cliff might be, you see?”

They are maladapted to spores on the ship, actually depend on them and can’t survive the planet‘s ecosphere, soon develop allergies and get sick. Others get mad, develop religious ideas of lands of the Dead and paradise. And of course, they aren’t physically adapted to gravity – bones will break, hearts will fail. 

Review: I‘ve read my score of generation ship stories, and only in KSR‘s Aurora the issue of arriving with its problems was discussed. There, some spores from the ecosphere made it impossible to live on an otherwise beautiful world. This story was innovative as it focused on the arriving from a point of view of the target planet‘s inhabitant. 
It‘s rather disillusioned, naming all the ways how landfalls have gone wrong, how people don’t survive. Why thoroughly listed, I didn’t believe the arguments: The generation ships would have plans and protocols to prepare their crew for the planet – which might take an additional generation or two to explore the planet and change the settlers to survive.

The planetary system is located around Rigel, the third brightest and largest star. It has been used several times in SF, and in Star Trek it is the most dense inhabited system overall. In fact, it’s a system of four stars. Sadly, the author doesn’t use anything of this for the setting, and the story could just have taken place in an anonymous system. 

The story lives from the discussion alone, doesn’t use much of it’s protagonists, and has only a small funny twist plotwise. 

Recommended for readers who like idea driven stories. 

Meta: I‘ve read it in Shapers of Worlds

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