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Dhuluma No More

“Dhuluma No More” is the second story I’ve published in Asimov’s SF so far, and if I have my information right, it’s on newsstands now. (The Fictionwise eMagazine edition is up as well.) The advance notice of its forthcoming publication (in the September 2008 issue of Asimov’s) read,

the acclaimed Gord Sellar returns with “Dhuluma No More,” a counterpoint to Robert Reed’s novella from the perspective of a desperate African terrorist in an uncertain future

… which surely got me feeling wary: in a literary armwrestle between myself and Reed, I would not be betting on myself. It’s nice to share a ToC with him and Nancy Kress, though — and, neatest of all, Ian R. MacLeod, who was a teacher of mine at Clarion West in 2006. (And apparently carved out a piece of territory I was planning on visiting as well — he tells the Sepoy Rebellion as a tale of British uprising against Mughal rulers, where my alt-history reversal in that vein was a Chinese Opium War set in England. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with it!)

Interestingly, that quote above reflects what I had in mind as I originally wrote the story, but in fact, the story is told from the POV of the reporter who talks the desperate African terrorist down off his ecological ledge.

This is the first story I finished drafting after attending Clarion West, though the redraft took me over half a year (of halting attempts) to get right. I started the first draft of this story somewhere within the Arctic Circle, but high above it in a passenger plane that was carrying me home to Korea, and it had a very, very sad ending. (The protagonist died, drowning in frigid water, as Ngunu carried out his awful, doomed plan.) I got some useful feedback from my friends and classmates from Clarion West, Shawn Scarber about Ngunu’s portrayal, and Guy Immega on some scientific glitches.

Illingsford is a reference to my old friend (and gifted poet and photographer) Jack Illingworth. (Which is one reason I had a change of heart and decided that somehow, Illingsford would damned well survive the conclusion!)

Ngunu’s middle name sounds exactly like the Korean word for “fool” (바보) but that’s not my intended reference. If you didn’t catch it, by the way, there’s a story you’re just gonna love, here. (Or download it, it’s the third in this book.) If it’s your first time with that piece, I envy you: it’s probably the best novella I read in all of my university years.

The range of interpretations that Melville’s story has received got me wondering whether I could tell a story with similarly ambiguous loyalties. Is that a happy ending? Or is it a tragedy? Can it be both at once?

What do you think?


Val Grimm reviewed the story at The Fix.

“… crackles with righteous indignation… an excellent, furious story about the real cost of humanity’s efforts to combat Climate Change, particularly on the developing world.” (Colin Harvey, Suite101)

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