This short story is quite a special one:
- the author KSR doesn’t write short stories very often nowadays. Most of his stories appeared in the 1980s, and from there on they only trickled in here and there. This one is from 2020, the one before (“Oral Argument”) appeared at Tor.com in 2015, and then one from 2010.
- the story is published exclusively in German for the weekly magazine 32/2020 of Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), a well-known daily newspaper located in Munich, Germany. You can access it there, but you need at least a temporary subscription. SZ asked KSR to write them a story how the world will be in 100 years.
- its genre is Magical Futurism, which isn’t found very often or well-established. Magical Futurism is similar to Magical Realism but is set somewhere in the future (here: 2120 AD) instead of our times. KSR often switches genres, including alternate history, space opera, hard sf, etc. This story seems to be an experiment by him to touch Magical Futurism.
I decided to write the review in English although the story is in German just as a service for those KSR fans around.
So, what’s the story about? The nameless narrator lives in the tower house of a large cooperative at a city’s sea port. He signed a contract with a farmer living an hour drive outside of the city to change their living places and obligations for one hundred days.
His new home will be the farmer’s cooperative and all the obligations, including organic agriculture on the basis of “four-a-thousand” which says that each year the farm has to accumulate 0.4% more carbon in the earth than the year before. Add to that a strip of untouched land for wildlife and you have KSR’s vision of sustainable agriculture.
Life starts beautiful without any larger problems, and the narrator misses his city’s life. But he enjoys watching the wildlife passing through the jungle strip, including bears, wolverines, foxes and others, caught by a camera.
Then, a strange thing happens: an undefinable dark spot appears in the pictures. He investigates further, but can’t find the source and is afraid of it. When he calls the farmer, he seems to know about the occurrence but only speculations about the dark spot’s identity.
Coming back in his own apartment after the hundred days, life returns in his normal ways. Until he notices a dark spot in an alley…
The story is only nine pages long but manages it to transport the daily life on the farm very well in a level of detail which is very typical for the author. It includes a lot of comments on sustainable living in the city as well, but the story’s core is at the agricultural side of course. There’s not much of a plot, and the magical part only adds a tiny bit of suspension to the narration.
It’s a short fun read which I enjoyed mostly because I’m a KSR fan. Nothing award-worthy or memorable, for sure.