“No man is an island, entire of itself,” wrote the poet John Donne in his famous Meditation 17, “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” True enough. But connectivity is not stability. Archipelagos constantly reshape themselves. Take the case of a landmass called Thomas Kumagai…
I wrote the first-draft of this story in Week 3 of the Clarion West 2005 workshop. Geoff Ryman, author of such works as 253, Air and The King’s Last Song, was the instructor for that week. He challenged us to come up with a “mundane” science-fiction story. Mundane SF stories are low-key, realistic, near-future, and avoid over-used tropes such as aliens, FTL, parallel dimensions and time-travel. They are about possible worlds rather than alternate worlds.
Admittedly, the story’s basic conceit– a world filled with artificial islands, many trying radical experiments in transhumanism– is not our world. At the moment, there are few artificial islands and even fewer transhumanists. Most of us live under the iron heel of some self-important nation-state or the other. Worse, globalization is making us more homogeneous, not less.
Anyway, Geoff liked the story, and since a story needs only one fan, I worked on Archipelago some more and a few weeks after the workshop sold it to Strange Horizons. It has served me well. It was nominated for an award, I stay alert for opportunities to inflict it on friends, and despite its flaws, I am fond of the tale, as one must be, of earnest blunder and eager green.