Title: "Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium"
Author: Gray Rinehard
Published in: Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, May 2014
Slates: Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies
Trigger warnings: assisted suicide
Synopsis: Humans colonized the planet Alluvium twenty-two years ago; nine years later, the Peshari (lizard-like sapient creatures with four gender stages) show up and subjugate the colony. The colonists revolt periodically, and have so far lost every time, with the Peshari taking away chunks of the humans' technology base but letting the humans continue to operate farms and mines.
Two humans, Cerna and Keller, visit the Peshari Tephrist (engraver of "memory stones") to try and purchase a memory stone for Keller. These "memory stones" are how the Peshari deal with their dead (the corpses are "reduced down" and incorporated in a memory stone, which is then used as part of a building. After the Tephrist refuses, Cerna and Keller return to camp. Shortly thereafter, Keller (who is dying of cancer that his nanites are failing to counter) reprograms one of the camp's automated digging machines to start excavating the basement of "Chapel One", much to the surprise of the camp chief (who didn't authorize it) and Cerna (whose name mysteriously showed up as the chapel's designer). In fact, Keller had the machine dig four empty graves; he then asks Cerna to bury him in one after he dies, having deduced that the Peshari will treat any ground with a corpse buried in it as cursed. The very next day, Keller dies; that evening, after Keller's autopsy, Cerna uses the digger to bury Keller and cover his grave with a ceramic block. The Peshari are appalled at the "inhumanity" of a burial, while the camp doctor confesses to Cerna that she'd provided Keller with enough painkillers for him to "decide ... when to let go."
My reaction: I found myself with a number of unanswered questions. Why, in the twenty-two years since the humans first landed on Alluvium, has no other human ship arrived? If the Peshari hate being in enclosed spaces so much, how did they ever manage spaceflight?
Rinehard's writing style isn't bad, but some of the writing is just plain confusing; for example, in the sentence "The interlocking flutes were sharp-edged and equipped with heavy-duty pins as long as his forearm that secured it in the off-hours", is "it" the door, his forearm, one of the flutes, or what?
Overall, it's not a terribly bad story, but it's nowhere near great. This one goes below No Award.
Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/194234.html - comment wherever you please.