Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Lo'ihi Rising" by Geoff Cole - IGMS issue 15

A Yeast-Free Recipe to Make Lo'ihi Rise

By Geoffrey W. Cole

In the first year after their children were born, the original inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands would pile their families into their canoes and sail to the volcanic coast of Hawaii, the Big Island, in order to perform a ritual that ensured their children would have a long and happy life.

They walked inland to the field of hardened lava-rock where their parents had performed the same ritual when they were infants. Once settled in, they'd kneel beneath the hot sun and carve a hole in the porous. Then, they'd place the dried umbilical cord of their child in the hole, put a stone over the hole to keep the umbilical cord in place, and camp out for the night.

Above them, the active volcano Kilauea might spit smoke or lava, and sometimes mighty Mauna Loa would belch fire. It was a holy place, close to their gods. In the morning, if the umbilical cord was gone, their children could hope for a long and prosperous life.

My wife and I learned about this ritual during a trip to Hawaii & Maui in spring 2008. We were engaged at the time; she hoped to avoid planning a marriage by eloping on the islands, or as we liked to call it, getting Mauied. During the same visit to Volcanoes National Park, we learned that a new Hawaiian island was growing from the ocean floor southeast of Hawaii. In fifteen thousand to fifty thousand years, the seamount would rise above the waves to become a new island named Lo'ihi. I filed that tidbit of information away in the "oh so awesome what a great idea but it needs to ferment" drawer.

A few months after the tip, after my wife-to-be and I had settled back into our daily routine of work and lunch, and the warm sun of Hawaii seemed but a pleasant dream, I realized I needed to find a birthday present for my lovely fiancé. I opted for a story. Step one: it had to be a love story. Step two: I wanted to evoke our Hawaiian vacation. Step three: there was still a new island growing on the bottom of the Pacific. So I asked myself: what will happen when the new island is born? Real estate boom. The fact that my fiancé and I had been looking to buy a new home in Vancouver's hot pre-crash market helped fuel this speculation.

The world in which the story is set is loosely tied to a series of other short stories and novels I'm working on. For the setting, the history of the Big Island of Hawaii helped shape how the place looked in the future I imagined for it. Over the past couple hundred years, Hawaii has suffered more natural disasters than the average tropical paradise. Towns and villages and individuals have been wiped out by tsunamis, earthquakes, lava flows, ash fall, clouds of poisonous gas, mud slides, shark attacks, and bad shellfish.

Despite these disasters, the Hawaiian people (of all ethnicities) bounce back, re-build, and seem to live care-free lives despite the terror looming all around. My fiancé and I saw a grisly humour in these innumerable tragedies, so I wanted the future Hawaii to suffer her fair share of disasters.

I had a setting, I had an event around which the story would turn, all I needed was the lovers. Thank goodness the post-humans Fadid and Kabime (pronounced the Hawaiian way) came along. They received half the blessing that the ancient Hawaiians sought for their children in the rocks beneath Kilauea: Fadid and Kabime lived for a very long time. They lacked the other half of the Hawaiian blessing: they weren't happy.

How can love survive over decades, centuries, millennia? For my fiancé's birthday, I tried to answer those questions. And I speculated on the best way to cure sentient VDs.

Hey, it worked. She married me!

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"Lo'ihi Rising" by Geoff Cole is available now in issue 15 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

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