“Xibalba Dreams of the West” (novelette) by André S. Silva
English Publication History: Solarpunk (World Weaver Press, 2018)
Original: Portuguese (Xibalba Sonha com o Oeste), 2012
Translated by Fábio Fernandes, 2018
Synopsis: The daughter of historically important scientist, Maiara follows but with a simple life as a teacher. The city, however, isn’t a simple organism and has a fair share of wonders and threats, including a serial murdered that the police are hunting. Maiara’s life is shaken when a mysterious message regarding her long-thought-dead father is whispered into her ear. The squalor of the city is chosen for the meeting, which irks Maiara and raises the suspicions of the police, but the message bearer has word that the city may be in peril, not because of the murderer, but because of the coming changes in climate that had father had predicted: a change in climate is a change in energy supply.
Analysis: To understand general human psychology that applies to the masses, I think it’s important to look at child psychology, like the Stanford marshmallow experiment: a child could either have one marshmallow immediately or wait for quarter of an hour for two marshmallows. Children who chose instant gratification turned out, as adults, to have lower SAT scores and higher BMI, which contrasted the other children who could wait.
I don’t exactly see a bunch of geniuses online, in public, on the road, at the airport… so let’s assume that most people would fall into the former category: instant gratifiers, who rely on direct experience (I can have one marshmallow now) rather than hypothetical experience (If I can wait, I predict to have two marshmallows). We can use this analogy with planning, as well. The former may make plans for tomorrow based on today’s weather (what they can experience), but the latter may make plans for tomorrow based on a tomorrow’s forecast (what they can predict). I feel like governments are of the former, but we also expect the government to be composed of the finest minds.
Oh, hello climate change denier! Sure, you can buy my beachfront property. Sounds like a good investment. I’ll happily head for the hills to my cabin. See you in thirty years!
Review: The story feels like one of either alternative history or a far-flung geopolitical future history. It’s richly built, that’s for certain, but too rich for my palate. Though it’s dense in detail, it lacks punch, as if the conclusion doesn’t have significant ramifications for the story (it does, but it doesn’t feel imperative). Thus, the story feels more like an adventure in world building than a plot with impact.