What raises a story above simply being entertaining to being a “good story” is often the layering in of multiple themes or meanings. On its surface, “The Rocket Farmer” is a fantasy about rocket ships as an agricultural crop: their natural history, the complexities of crop management, the inevitable tragedies of failure. But on a different level, the story concerns the more mundane and eternal struggle of one generation to understand and communicate with another. Sarnai is pulled between the bottomless pit of neediness that is her father’s struggling rocket farm, and the growing suspicion that she has failed to protect her daughter from the lure of the family profession.
The story is told in three voices: Sarnai, her daughter Sophie, and one of the rockets, waiting to fulfil its destiny. The result is a delightfully unexpected and–dare I say heartwarming?–tale of communication failures and eventual success. If the story had focused only on the clever conceit of rocket farming, it would have fallen flat for me, mired in a vast array of technical detail. But as a medium for a story of human interactions, it worked beyond any of my initial expectations.
(Originally published in Interzone #271)