The colonists on Mars keep dying regardless of what intervention the experts take: increased exercise to combat the difference in gravity, a stronger ion shield to protect against radiation and to ward off cancer, sunlamps, vitamins, antidepressants, and sleeping pills. After its founding ten years earlier, no one from the first two expeditions survives.
One of the colonists, “an irrelevant old biochemist who hadn’t published since [her] arrival on Mars, an old woman … whose time was running out,” starts looking for answers beyond chemistry and physics. She’s laughed out of the room. She explores religion and philosophy and eventually hits upon the Gaia hypothesis, that is, the earth is the source of life on the planet. Once removed from the environment, earth life dies.
The story is more a statement on religion than it is on interplanetary colonization. Is the irrelevant old biochemist insane? Or has she come across the answer to the colony’s problem? It’s not really made clear, but the ending is logical and familiar to literature either way.
This is not a little pick-me-up or a tale of humankind’s triumph over adversity. It is a portrait of people in extremis and what measures they find necessary. While I admired the way the author packed a lot of story in a small space, I can’t say I enjoyed it.
According to her blurb, author Eden Fenn is a software developer and vat meat enthusiast—whatever that is. Her work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (COOL!) and the Baltimore City Paper. She’s currently finishing a young adult novel about gender and power on a strange planet. She lives in Baltimore with her wife and a very bad dog. Aww, no bad dogs.
The story can be read here.
Title: “Gaia Hypothesis”
Author: Eden Fenn
First published: Daily Science Fiction, April 13, 2020