55327_girl-writing_md RSR rating: hard SF, 3 stars, published in Lightspeed.

This is about a woman who writes letters to her dead lover. Through this vehicle, we learn that her lover Socorro cut short a Mars mission simulation that had developed deadly environmental issues by killing administrators until they ended the exercise.

This is a well-written story, one of the standard, highly sentimental narratives that’s very popular right now. The letters drip with obsession. The emotion is smoothly developed through successive revelations in the letters. However, I dispute that this is hard SF.

I’m difficult to sway with emotion. Checking RSR’s criteria, there are, first of all, some issues with suspension of disbelief. Why would people behave this way? If there’s some issue with safety in the Mars mission simulation, whether physical or psychological, the monitors would be all over it. After all, this is important research that will impact the likelihood of an actual Mars mission. If there’s some political aspect that would prevent this, it’s not revealed in the letters. Socorro comes across as a nutcase rather than a trained scientist. I’m left wondering if she meant to sabotage the mission for some activist agency.

Given that feel, I’m thinking this story fails RSR’s second criterion, as well. There is no science that’s essential to this story. It would work for any situation where an activist nutcase goes off and murders a couple of administrators to get what she wants. PETA targeting a slaughterhouse, maybe? Disgruntled employee in corporate America?