Set in a near future, this story depends on the idea of “affiliances,” a transhumanist concept that encompasses both family, shared interest and common bonds, as introduced by Vernor Vinge in “Rainbow’s End.” This story was originally written for “Ravens in the Library,” an anthology supporting a musician, S.J. Tucker and her medical bills.
The conceit of the story is taken from one Tucker’s songs, called “Valkyrie Daughter,” in which a soldier petitions the Goddess Hel to allow his fallen daughter’s spirit to be sent to the Valkyrie at the expense of his own hero’s guarantee to Valhalla. The song touched my heart so deeply, and I wanted so much to have a part in giving back to this real life bard whose music I dearly love.
Another kind of child custody is brought up in this story: between two women who were once married, and who together had a child. In the near future recombinant pregnancy should be possible – the genetic material of two individuals – any two genetically compatible individuals – should be enough to combine and make a child that is a legacy of both parents.
This is a science fiction story in that the plot revolves around that bit of science, and requires a much more vigorous and wide-reaching Internet than we have now; one where the heavy virtual reality goggles are now just glasses you wear.
It also postulates Utah as a legally seceded state designated as a “religious freedom zone” in the same way that there have been reprehensible “religious freedom” laws created in my home state of Georgia to protect businesses from discriminating against gay folk. It’s a gentle but intentional irony that Dianic wiccan fundamentalists (Sally and her community) were accepted and can thrive there!
So, science fiction, but! The augmented / virtual reality game (Sun Moon Star) that Jill participates in, however, is now not terribly far from reality, as people playing Pokemon Go have already begun causing a stir among the mundane folks of the world through their own version of augmented reality.
In a world where such an all-encompassing game exists, is it not possible that people would quit their lives to play 24/7, wandering the landscape on procedurally generated instances, speaking like characters from a fantasy story, singing beautiful songs like S.J. Tucker writes and performs.
It’s not too far from possibility now today, given all the love people have for their Teams Valor, Mystic, and Instinct, they are proto-affiliances in their way. In the story, in Sun Moon Star, real life proficiency is just as required as it is necessary for Pokemon Go players to walk.
This story was rejected for the anthology, but I keep coming back to it and keep wanting to let it fly in the world. It was written all in one afternoon, all in one great pulse, and I think it’s a shame to not release it somehow.
If you like the story, go and buy one of S.J. Tucker’s albums online, or visit her at Dragon Con and put money in her tip jar. She’s the one who deserves the credit and the reward for this one.