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July 2005 Archives

July 30, 2005

Williams "Green Leopard Plague"

Walter Jon Williams
"The Green Leopard Plague"
Online version, via Asimovs magazine.

This is a Nebula award winning short story. It is a very good short story, with several of Williams' traditional subjects - martial arts, hand signals to supplement spoken language, and so on. It also has a powerful emotional angst.

What bugged me is that one of the crucial plot twists hinges on a scientific mistake that the lead character should not have made. Without giving too much away, one plot point involves a genetically-engineered plague that gives people warts that contain chlorophyl. If infected, you can get an enoughness of food by just standing in the sun.

Williams' hero posits that this will put an end to the economy, for without the need to put food on the table then who will do the low-level scut work that every society demands. Fair enough, but he forgets one of the key things about food. As the economic historians remind us, almost our entire food budget is spent on improving the taste and variety of our diet. Given a sourdough started, 100 lb bags of flour, some salt and some multivitamins you can keep yourself alive for pennies a day. The only difference in his plague is that you don't have to knead and bake the bread.

Still, it was a good story.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 01:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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