REVIEW: “Bulkheads Make the Best Neighbors” by Ian Randal Strock

Review of Ian Randal Strock, “Bulkheads Make the Best Neighbors”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2020): 116–117 (print) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Permanent inhabitants in Earth’s orbit (possibly asteroid miners) have grown tired and resentful of the planet’s interference in their affairs. They have long yearned for independence but lack the necessary firepower to directly confront Earth. During a council session, a spacer named Maggie comes up with a clever plan: what if they smashed asteroids into tiny pieces to create a permanent “wall of junk” around earth? That will block off the planet and “keep the groundhogs [Earthers] down where they belong.”

There’s not much I can say about this story other than it is incredibly short, so short as to appear incomplete. It gives the impression that it is merely a scene from a larger story, the rest of which got mistakenly left out. For one thing, blocking off the entire planet seems like a massive overreaction to the simple burden of extra paperwork. A little more elaboration on behalf of the author would have helped put the story in proper perspective. Moreover, the author has decided to spell out the uncharacteristically “southern” dialects of the spacers, something that I always find a bit of a nuisance (let alone offensive), although here it is not so bad as to make the story unreadable. Overall, the story feels much more like a quick writing exercise than a complete piece of flash fiction.