“When Kingdoms Collide” (short story) by Telmo Marçel
English Publication History: Solarpunk (World Weaver Press, 2018)
Original: Portuguese (O Confronto dos Reinos), 2012
Translated by Fábio Fernandes, 2018
Synopsis: Much to everyone’s approval, the Clorophylled People were granted to right to independently govern themselves within their own segregated enclave, which benefited by the so-called Kale Leaves so that they could hide from the disdain and benefited the non-Clorophylled as they wanted to rid themselves of the genetic freaks. Now lacking most organs as they can absorb the sun’s rays, they seem to become less and less human, including the very human pastime of consuming meat (the baseline humans that do are called Eat n Shits). When admirers (those who subscribe to the idea yet but are too poor to afford the genetic alteration) join the colony yet go missing from within, one detective is tasked to infiltrate the colony as an admirer.
Analysis: The world of fauna, as opposed to the world of flora, is full of examples of differentiation. Many simple animals can tell the difference between what’s food and what’s not. Further, they can detect what is friend, what is foe. Herbivores on the savanna graze together, but when one predator draws near, they know fear; likewise, the lion knows a gazelle is food but not the grass blowing in the wind. Dogs know when there’s another dog even though they may have never seen another dog before.
Animals may discriminate based on experience because, after all, even animals can learn. Pigeons and sparrows can live together, but know that the crow can be a diabolical son of bitch. Meerkats will tolerate ground squirrels and cape foxes, but jackals can really go fuck themselves.
Humans, being animals, mammals, and primates, can also differentiate, of course; however, rather than simply recognize what’s different, humans have the unique tendency to discriminate based on a idea rather than experience. As there are as many difference between us as there are actual people, stereotypes abound: Fat people are lazy. Blonde people are dumb. Asians can’t drive. When hate is infused with this stereotyping, discrimination surfaces. This is often done out of the sense of superiority, that their characteristics (race, gender, etc.) is better than other characteristics; also, envy could be a catalyst to hate.
As the Clorophylled People are rich, they can afford the generic alteration; thus, they relieve themselves of the onus of eating, something of which those of lesser social standard are suffering: insufficient food supply. The Clorophylled, however, don’t have to eat any more as they have an ample supply of sunlight – luxury of luxuries. Meanwhile, the hungry go hungry and the angers rises.
Review: This story feels too fast for its own good. Only 14 pages, the plot builds so quickly that the pinnacle can easily be seen coming into reach. There’s enough world-building here to expand it to 140 pages, probably, and could very well benefit from some characterization on its many sides. So, considering its dense form, it’s quick to please like an appetizer but leaves the reader wanting something with a little more meat like an entree.