Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Gambler

Novelette by Paolo Bacigalupi
Originally Published in Fast Forward 2

People want to read happy, fluffy, meaninglessness; not the serious and important stories. But Ong is a stubborn idealist, and while the other writers in his news organization get millions of hits with stories featuring the "Three S's" (Sex, Stupidity, and Schadenfreude), he is on the verge of being fired and getting his visa revoked. In the midst of a celebrity sex scandal, Ong's boss gives him an ultimatum: increase his readership fifty times over, or get his visa revoked and be shipped back to Laos.

But like his father, who died protesting totalitarianism, Ong is too idealistic to surrender his values to expediency.

The least common denominator targeting of media and the American people's willful ignorance of government corruption and environmental issues make this the sort of dystopia that we are already living in. But the real point of the story is the stupidity/righteousness/daring of sticking to your principles even if it ruins you. Ong's search for ratings and threats from his boss are intertwined nicely with the flashback of his father standing up to the secret police. And despite the sound of that last sentence, it isn't exaggerated or melodramatic.

The ending to this story is just great.

4.5 out of 5 extinct bluets for Mr. Henry David Thoreau.

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