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‘The Weather Man’ by Theodore L Thomas

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I’m not sure what you would call this; a meteorachic dystopia, maybe?

The Weather Congress was the supreme body of Earth, able to bend states, nations, continents, and hemispheres to its will. What dictator, what country, could survive when no drop of rain fell for a year? Or what dictator, what country could survive when blanketed under fifty feet of snow and ice? (293)

There is no suggestion of how this unlikely world government might have come to pass. H&C wave this away as being part of a “venerable tradition” and even invoke Fredric Jameson but really it just signals that this is not a story overly interested in realism.

Despite the title, ‘The Weather Man’ has three protagonists, one for each branch of the organisation: political, scientific and operational. The first is a Congressman who decides to pin his political future on whimsically endorsing a constituent’s request to make it snow in the desert. The third is a bloke who drives a boat across the surface of the Sun in order to enact the solar changes required to change the weather. Which, I think you will agree, is pretty far from Hard SF.

Instead, the story’s inclusion probably rests on the second protagonist, a female scientist who comes up with the maths needed to alter the Sun. This may be a depiction of scientists at work but, to these eyes at least, the speed and simplicity of the process is more Hollywood than hard. H&C describe her as a “stronger and more rounded character than is usually found in the sf of the period” which is odd because Thomas depicts her as frankly unhinged. She is totally lacking in basic social skills, she slouches and slurs, she bursts into tears when things don’t go her way, she has a bizarre oral fixation which means she is constantly putting her finger in her mouth, she only achieves acceptance by her colleagues when she enters a robotic state of monomania. She does actually have a personality though; the female characters in the first and third parts are described solely in terms of a) their appearance and b) their relationship with the protagonists. So I am not exactly bowled over by Thomas’s credentials as a trailblazer.

Quality: *
Hardness: **

Written by Martin

12 April 2010 at 09:54

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