Struggling artists from the city adjust to life in the suburbs as their modest home is chomped away by corporate-owned land reclamation whale machines.
- read for free on Lightspeed Magazine
- short story
- 1 hour read
- not even near future scifi, this is now
- manages to be both humorous and anxious about the millennial fears of a changing climate and never owning a home
Now, Cale and Stardust had done it. They’d given up their dreams of being cosmopolitan artists and moved upstate. Started a family. Built equity. Done the adult thing. What did they get for their sacrifice? Isolation, boredom, and mud gobblers chomping away at their net worth every morning.
Don’t let the nearly eight thousand word count intimidate you. If you’re not a boomer and either rent or have a tenuous hold on home ownership, this story will speak to you. At its core, it’s about everything that’s preventing this family from having a home (rising sea levels and the quite literal monstrous machines of gentrification), while at the same time, still finding meaning in resistance and creating a home despite the futility of it all.
I like how there’s no correct individual solution for a collective problem. The solution should be collective. But Cale and Stardust, like any other individual, have choices to make and everything has drawbacks. The city is increasingly unaffordable, and the suburbs are isolating and infested with mechanical monsters. There’s also a sense of them wanting to make more meaningful, artistic lives for themselves but struggling to make it happen due to the demands of making a living in this economy.
Before moving upstate, Cale and Stardust had been struggling artists in Brooklyn. Or perhaps they’d simply been struggling to be struggling artists. Neither of them had much time for the art part. Stardust had settled into a job as the program manager of a graduate film school, earning a not uncomfortable salary selling her as-yet-unfulfilled dreams to eager students with trust funds and daddy’s credit card. Cale got one of his sculptures in a group show now and then, but most nights he was too tired from designing social media assets to head into the studio.
The interactions with Caleb’s dad is so good that it makes me mad. God, I hate him and all of his irrelevant advice. He represents the out of touch boomers explaining away why they did it right and you’re doing it wrong.
“It was simpler in my day,” Cale’s father said on the phone. “Back then you bought a piece of land and you built a house on it and you popped out some babies. That was it. Easy peasy.”
Although this story covers all of my deep personal anxieties (Yes, I am an aging millennial without property. I live in the Philippines where climate change-induced disasters are only getting worse), the tone manages enough humour and levity to make it fun to read. It’s an adventure in adulthood and fighting overwhelming forces beyond our control.