One of the things that I learnt from reading Science Fiction when I was young was that short stories can contain entire worlds and can anchor themselves to my imagination as firmly as any novel. Done well, they can be intense, illuminating and completely satisfying.
‘Water: A History’ is only seventeen pages long but in it, I visited a different world and met a remarkable woman. It’s the kind of short story that first made me fall in love with Science Fiction. It’s about emotions and choices and consequences and what it means to be human rather than about science and it feels tureen the way that only good fiction can.
This is the story of a woman (we never discover her name) who has outlived all of her contemporaries and is facing the end of her days. She lives in an enclosed colony on a planet that was supposed to have enough water to support human life but which turned out to be both arid and toxic. Let me introduce you to her with a quote that speaks to her character and way of thinking
Since Adrianna Fang died last year, I’m the oldest one left. I’m supposed to feel sad and alone, maybe, or at least the chill of my looming mortality, but I don’t feel that way at all. Instead, I feel wonderfully unmoored. I am now the only person in the colony of Isla who has any direct memories of Earth. This means that I can abuse this position at my pleasure and tell them all kinds of bullshit stories they have no way of disputing. It’s my way of getting back at them for the way they treat me now: like some kind of minor god rather than a human being.
She is a strong woman who has walked her own path since childhood. Along much of that journey, she was accompanied by Sadie, the love of her life. Now Sadie is dead and she is alone amongst people who don’t have the memories to understand her context. Until she meets a young girl called Lia and a new friendship begins.
I lost myself completely in this story because I believed completely in the person telling it. I felt I knew her. I admired her. I understood her choices and wished I had the courage to make the same kind of choices, although I know that, like most people, I don’t.
If you want to travel to a different world that still poses the same challenge to people who want to follow their hearts rather than the rules, then read ‘Water: A History’ and meet an old woman and a young girl and let them live in your imagination. They may make you cry but they’ll also give you hope.
K J Kabza is an American writer, based out of Tuscon.
He has sold over seventy stories to places such as Tor.com, Motherboard, Nature, F&SF, Strange Horizons.
If you enjoy Water: A History, try his short story collection, The Ramshead Algorithm and Other Stories.
In The Ramshead Algorithm and Other Stories, sand cats speak, ghost bikes roll, corpses disappear, and hedge mazes are more bewildering than you’ve ever imagined. These 11 fantasy and science fiction stories from KJ Kabza have been dubbed “Sublime” (Tangent), “Rich” (SFRevu), and “Ethereal” (Quick Sip Reviews) and will take you deep into other astonishing realities