REVIEW: “The Baker of Mars” by Karl Schroeder

Review of Karl Schroeder, “The Baker of Mars”, in Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich, (Center for Science and Imagination, Arizona State University, 2017): 83-102 — Download here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

The story starts of juxtaposing the wild strangeness that must accompany colonising Mars with the quiet ordinariness of a Tampa diner. Myrna runs the diner as a sideline business, with most of her time taken up by catering to those who colonise Mars from afar — telecommuters who live on earth but function according to Martian days, Martian hours (forty minutes longer than our own), Martian timezones. It’s a trick balancing act, to live in one timeline but work in another, and Myrna’s catering service helps people live according to the timeline that they work in.

Schroeder’s story takes up the “public/private” matter that we’ve already seen in earlier stories in this anthology, because it is only through such ventures that such telecommuting colonisation can take place. The infrastructure is publicly supported, but much of what goes in to it is privately funded, by people like Wekesa Ballo, who had “sunk all his money into buying [a] bot and getting it transported to another planet, in the hope that what they build there will someday attract clients and customers beyond the launch companies and speculators” (p. 86).

It’s a story of many layers, though, not just this one, with ordinary humans living ordinary human lives while at the same time living lives upon Mars both virtual and real. The presence of these layers allows Schroeder to play with fact and fiction in a way that makes for a satisfying read.