Sunday Short: Carrie Vaughn's The Best We Can

Sunday, November 23, 2014
This Sunday's short is another sci-fi short story for Sci-Fi November -- Carrie Vaughn's The Best We Can, published via
First contact was supposed to change the course of human history. But it turns out, you still have to go to work the next morning.
It is no secret that I love the short story format and the science fiction genre at this point, right? I love the variety and diversity of ideas and viewpoints. This story had a unique viewpoint (the science academic) that I can relate to as a former (disgruntled) graduate student.

The main character has made a discovery -- an unidentified object in our solar system. She was the first to grasp the significance of the image, and she has become something of a crusader to get started a project of studying the object closer / bringing it back despite all the hopeless (and depressingly accurate) bureaucracy holding up any effort. Because identifying an object from another civilization would be a really big deal for humanity, right?

I loved this story even if it was more than a little depressing. I loved this story because it actually tells a pretty accurate tale of the current field of research at large.

So much of science fiction is optimistic views of scientific communities working together to bring about the greater good for all. And honestly? Science is a lot like that. Scientists love their science and most want to do something to impact the future in a positive way. But scientists are humans, too. Scientists have a sense of ownership over their day to day work that can be borderline obsessive / possessive. Science, in the present day incarnation, does involve a battle with other scientists for a finite amount of resources. And it is fun to have a story that depicts that all pretty accurately with a fair amount of well written prose about how wonderful it would be to actually find proof of other intelligent life outside Earth.

So, this week's story doesn't feature mythical creatures or fancy new technology -- but I like to mix my sci-fi up on occasion. I love that sci-fi short stories give me (and others) the opportunity to explore both far away future technology and it's implications in addition to modern day issues. And I happen to love an ambiguous ending such as what we are left with here (even though I know many -- such as my husband -- aren't!).

Favorite line: 
Essentially, there are two positions on the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and whether we might ever make contact, and they both come down to the odds. The first says that we’re here, humanity is intelligent, flinging out broadcasts and training dozens of telescopes outward hoping for the least little sign, and the universe is so immeasurably vast that given the odds, the billions of stars and galaxies and planets out there, we can’t possibly be the only intelligent species doing these things. The second position says that the odds of life coming into being on any given planet, of that life persisting long enough to evolve, then to evolve intelligence, and then being interested in the same things we are—the odds of all those things falling into place are so immeasurably slim, we may very well be the only ones here. 
Is the universe half full or half empty? All we could ever do to solve the riddle was wait. So I waited and was rewarded for my optimism.
Rating: 4.5/5

Any thoughts on The Best We Can? Read any good sci-fi short stories you'd recommend to others this month for Sci-Fi November? Leave a comment below!

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