Monday, February 25, 2013

The New New Thing: Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Tamarisk Hunter"

If you want to read this story, here; if you want to listen to it, here.

"The Tamarisk Hunter" was first published in High Country News, an environmentally-directed news outlet that employed PB as an editor. It's a present-tense story about a man named Lolo who rips out tamarisk (or salt-cedar) from the banks of the Colorado River (I think) as a way to make a living; what's especially important is that he gets a water bounty for that work, which enables him and his wife (and camel) to survive on a little patch of dry western land. And while other tamarisk bounty hunters have had to move on, Lolo keeps himself in business by secretly planting tamarisk; and this scheme could go on forever, except the river is being walled in more and more. So the story ends with some National Guardsmen telling Lolo that there's no more water bounty, which means he won't be able to survive there.

Now, I live in a city that knows drought, so this story might hit me in a different way, but here's what I got out of this: a view of the future of water scarcity and state (and city) claims on watersheds. But the story itself is very thin in terms of plot and characters: Lolo does what he does, he's worried about his wife Annie who doesn't like cities, but that's not a major part of the story. Rather the wordcount focuses on very realistic information about the effects of drought on many communities. It's an important topic, but not a moving story.

Still, it was republished in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, so someone liked it.

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