My story recommendation of the week is for "Ray of Light" by Brad R. Torgersen, from the December 2011 issue of Analog (cover art by Bob Eggleton), which lives up to its title, a ray of light in the gloominess of 21st Century science fiction.
"Ray of Light" starts out well within the parameters of the dark style currently in vogue. The story is set some twenty years after aliens entered our solar system and scattered a cloud of small mirrors inside the Earth's orbit, depriving our world of most of the sun's light. Max Leighton and his teenage daughter Jenna are two of the small group of remaining humans, struggling to survive at the bottom of the frozen oceans. Early on, Max flashes back to when Jenna was four and asked why they didn't live where it's dry and sunny like the characters on Chloe and Joey, her favorite pre-catastophe kids' show:
People were dying all over the world when NASA and the Navy began deploying the deepwater stations. The Russians and Chinese, the Indians, all began doing the same. There was heat at the boundaries between tectonic plates. Life had learned to survive without the Sun near hydrothermal vents. Humans would have to learn to live there too.Max and the other adults in this deep-water society work hard to keep everyone alive, but in their hearts they have lost hope for the future. Jenna and her young friends will need to teach them (and us) a lesson about maintaining the determination to reach for a better tomorrow. It makes for a moving reading experience.
And we did, after a fashion.
I explained this as best as I could to my daughter.
She grew very sad, a tiny, perplexed frown on her face.
"I don't want to watch Chloe and Joey anymore," she said softly.
I had the pleasure of meeting Brad Torgersen at the Writers of the Future workshop -- he was a winner the year before with his excellent story "Exanastasis," which you can find in Writers of the Future, Vol. XXVI. Brad is a Chief Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, and looked sharp in his dress uniform at the WOTF ceremony. Since winning WOTF, he has become a regular in Analog. His story "Outbound" was the AnLab winner as Analog readers' favorite novelette of 2010, and I certainly won't be surprised if "Ray of Light" makes him a repeat winner.