SH Flashback: “In the Cold,” by Kelly Jennings

During my twelve years as a fiction editor at Strange Horizons, we published over 500 stories. Now that I've been away from the magazine for a couple of years, I'd like to do a sort of a retrospective, posting links to some of the stories (one story at a time), with brief comments.

I'm still working out how best to present these stories. I think in each post I'm going to give a brief non-spoilery description along with the link, and then give some further discussion after a spoiler warning; my hope is that you'll go read the story before reading my full comments.

Without further ado, here's this week's Strange Horizons Flashback story:

In the Cold,” by Kelly Jennings
It's about a girl on a wintry colony world; it's about responsibility and leadership, and hard choices; it makes me cry every time I read it. We published it in early 2012, and I feel like it didn't get nearly as much attention at the time as I'd hoped it would. (3,000 words)




I find this story heartbreaking. I love the character of Nicola; I'm sad about the heavy responsibilities that she knows she'll have to bear; I love the dynamic between her and Hugo. I normally loathe no-win scenarios, but I find this one very compelling, and devastating.

Although I've never asked Kelly about this, I think that this story can be read partly as being in dialogue with “The Cold Equations.” (As well as standing well on its own.) I don't want to turn this into a discussion of “The Cold Equations” (and I hope that if any of you comment, you won't focus entirely on this comparison), but I wanted to note that I like “In the Cold” a whole lot more, partly because it has an entirely different focus.

I also like that this story includes a bunch of other stuff going on in the background. The barely-surviving colony; the broken weather-control system; the generational issues; the backstory with the loss of a couple of other colonists in a previous storm; for such a short story, it has a lot going on.

But mostly I love it because it pulls me in, makes me care a lot about the protagonist, and then rips my heart out. “I promised him we would come.

Mostly I prefer happy endings (or at least hopeful ones, or at least bittersweet ones) to really sad ones, but I'll always make an exception for a story that can make me cry the way this one does.

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