‘The Earth Of Yunhe’ by Eric Gregory
Xiaohao has invented a whizzy bit of nanotech that cleans contaminated soil whilst also converting it into a “massive solar power plant, communications hub, and computational substrate”. Hooray! He promptly defects from Ecclesia, the “metanation” who have bankrolled his research, to take his invention back to his home town, Yunhe in China, which has been devastated by industrial pollution. They equally promptly charge him with sedition for formenting revolution with foreign technology and his dad, who happens to run the town, gives him a good kicking and throws him in jail. Never fear though, our narrator is his sister who soon allies herself to Xiao’s plan and organises an amazingly quick, easy and non-violent revolution. Optimistic indeed.
‘The Earth Of Yunhe’ highlights the problem with Jetse de Vries’s call for solutions. Xiao’s invention is essentially a magic bean; this is not constructive thinking so much as wish fulfillment. The story itself suffers from being so compressed that all its events seem ludicrous or contrived or both.