“The Long Road to the Deep North” in Strange Horizons

One of my favourite recent stories, and another one from the world of the Continuity, this pays homage to one of my favourite works of literature, Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches.

For Basho’s haiku I substituted Bislama poetry, which is something I’ve been interested in doing for a long time, and for Edo period Japan I substituted the far future world of the Continuity. This is available to read online and also in a podcast version.

From Bangkok he travelled into orbit, staying as a pilgrim in a Church of Robot mission, where facilities were basic but accommodation cheap. There he stayed for several days, in the orbital they call Gateway, the commercial hub of the system, observing traders and tourists, the meeting of Martian Chinese and Lunar kibbutznkis, of Orang Ulu and Man Tanna miners from the Belt, of tentacle junkies and flesh-surfing Others, of Louis Wu addicts and Guilds of Ashkelon games-world mercenaries. Always Earth dominated the view. In one of the observation decks he wrote:

Long obit

Mi lukluk wol



He wrote:

From orbit, Earth is the centre of the universe, it is Aristotelian. Yet that is a mirage which the Others do not share. In orbit, I saw the world, turning and turning. I sat in a bar with a view of the planet rotating below, listening to conversations while drinking Lao-Lao, the smooth rice whiskey which tastes different here, distilled from hydroponics rice terraces deep in the bowels of Gateway. Conversations all around me, in Martian Chinese and Hebrew, in Thai and in French and Malay, and whenever strangers met who did not share a language they reverted to the old contact toktok, the beche-le-mar of Old Melanesia and the Belt.