ENGH 451 – Science Fiction

If You Can Make It There, You’ll Make It Anywhere

I was thoroughly enjoying W.E.B. DuBios’s “The Comet” as it explored the issues of race relations and the fear of being alone.  Being set in New York City, it almost felt like a thoughtful episode of Sex and the City.  But instead of another round of cosmos (the martini cocktails), the characters deal with the cosmos in the form of a comet’s tail.

At every turn, the story exposes us to separation between races and classes.  The two main characters could not be more polar opposites from the physical heights of their locations to the material levels of their belongings.  Jim is a poor black man who must venture “down to the dark basement beneath” as part of his menial job.  “That lowest cavern” exists “in the bowels of the earth” and mirrors his place in the social order.  Julia is a white woman living in a fancy “upper window” home with servants to wait on her.  The repetitive mention of her “silken” clothing also denotes her higher position in society.  He’s from Harlem; she’s from Central Park.  He takes the subway to work; she owns a luxury car and a life of leisure.

When their worlds collide, they see each other as human beings first before remembering their differences.  Despite their diversities, the two strangers band together under the belief that they might be the last two humans alive.  Escaping to the roof of the Metropolitan Tower, they seemingly rise above the color of skin and expectations of class.

Even with the story’s heavy-handed afterschool-special tone, I liked the social commentary and contrast between the two characters.  That is until the “Honk! Honk!” of a car horn changed the characters’ loneliness and my attitude.  Instead of a romantic “we’ll survive and build a new society” ending, it turns out that everyone outside of New York is still alive!  What a load of crap!

Are you really going to tell me that a non-sentient stellar phenomenon like a comet could target the “deadly gases” from its tail to only decimate New York and its boroughs?  Is the city really that bad?  Couldn’t the comet at least wipe out New Jersey too or any other area that will eventually host a Real Housewives series on Bravo?

There is absolutely no explanation – scientific or absurd – why the rest of the world wasn’t affected by the comet.  Does the sewer system amplify the poisonous gases?  Is the comet just upset at a Broadway producer who wouldn’t give it a part in Starlight Express?  Was the comet actually a ship of aliens who used a lethal tractor beam to seize the Brooklyn Bridge they legally “bought”?  Any reason for the death being restricted to New York might have helped me accept the story.  Instead, my jaw dropped in amazement at this copout of an ending.


One Response to “If You Can Make It There, You’ll Make It Anywhere”

  1. […] post is partially in response to jaycrede’s post and more generally in defense of authors who take certain liberties when writing science […]

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