Anneque G. Malchien’s Our Cosmonauts Are Dying, published 2013, is a short story with astonishing depth. Once I started, I didn’t want to put it down, and it’s a long time now since I found a story like that. It’s intelligent, detailed and emotional – science fiction that is believable and insightful.
This is an end-of-the-world story, an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Echoes of Armageddon and a hundred other such films, always fun to watch; also When Worlds Collide. Or, on the subject of books, there are echoes of Stephen Baxter’s Ark, for example. But of course this is a short story, not an epic. The protagonist is a Swedish scientist, not an all-American hero like Bruce Willis.
This made me laugh:
“Kill all the gays!” shouts his cameraman.
“Hey!” Johnson cries.
Someone throws a punch. “I’m gay! And I say we kill all the Muslims!”
“Well I’m Muslim!” someone else shouts, “And I say we sacrifice the non-believers!”
The asteroid in question is 10 Hygiea, the fourth largest in the Solar System. Hygiea is a goddess from Greek and Roman mythology. As our hero Jens Ottosson says: “A goddess, at least. Of cleanliness. From her we get the word hygiene. Now she’s the patron god of social warfare. Perhaps the social workers brought her down on us.”