I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve read a novel in one sitting, and I can’t ever recall reading a short story collection without stopping along the way. There’s too many natural breaks for me to keep turning the pages. But Brad R. Torgersen’s Lights In The Deep captured my attention and held it — at first with his carefully drawn (and very human) characters, and from story to story by the positive emotional uplift and general hope for humanity.
The stories are what you might call part of the superversive movement – all variations on the same theme: normal people in impossible situations who refuse to give up.
In socio-sexual terms, the characters are deltas, the “everymen” of the world who simply do their small part in a greater cause, who hope in the midst of their trials, and model a certain kind of heroism in the process–one that can have profound effects.
In “The Chaplain’s Assistant”, an agnostic cleric in an alien occupied warzone makes a plea for peace and changes the course of history. In “Ray of Light” (2012 Hugo & Nebula nominee), humanity find themselves on the bottom of the ocean after the sun goes out, but a teenager longs to see the surface. In “Outbound” (2011 Analog Readers Choice Award winner), a paraplegic comes of age on a space station after most of humanity is wiped out in war. Overall, a great collection with enough credible science, interesting ideas, and sense of wonder to remind one of the golden age of Sci-Fi.
Torgensen has an essay in the collection where he lays out what he believes to be the answer to the decline in science fiction:
In order for Science Fiction to have value and meaning— to say nothing of an audience— I think it could stand to go back to the “mythic” tropes more than it has of late. Re-explore some of the more classic, more time-honored themes. Re-elevate the human to a place of dignity and power. Re-embrace themes that are hopeful, optimistic, perhaps even spiritual in nature.
I think he’s on to something.