‘Overhead’ by Jason Stoddard
When I started reading the anthology I said I’d try and ignore Jetse de Vries’s introduction and concentrated on the stories themselves. This has proved difficult as he inserts a mini-intro-cum-puff-piece at the start of each one. This one is essentially a love letter to Jason Stoddard, who is his One True Pairing when it comes to optimistic SF. It is a bit embarrassing.
Initially I thought ‘Overhead’ represented a step up from two inoffensive but extremely bland and contrived stories. It certainly has a more interesting structure (although hardly a wildly innovative one) and Stoddard plays out his more substantial tale with greater skill. As the story continues, however, the relentlessly flat characterisation takes its toll.
Up on the moon, Ani Loera, lottery appointed leader of the community, has to work out how to deal with the fact supply shipments from Earth have stopped; down on Earth (some years previously), Roy Parekeh is making the deals that will establish lunar colony; gradually the two threads combine. There are ideas here but neither of our two protagonists come to life. Eventually the ideas become similarly unlikely and unengaging: as Earth sinks into a Stalinist command economy (optimism!), the moon becomes the last hope for humanity, a bastion of American exceptionalism and the pioneer spirit (de Vries describes Stoddard as “the ‘can-do’ mentality become flesh”). Through adversity, this abandoned group of Heinleinian Competent Men find the stars. It all sticks in the craw.