Onto the 3rd installment of the FUTURES series and we have MURI by Ashley Shelby up. This story has to be the favorite of the series so far for me, and it is also the longest, coming in at around 40ish pages.
Shelby takes Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno and remixes it for a new century and a new crisis. The polar bear species has dwindled and the remaining bears are being relocated to Antarctica in humanity’s desperate attempt to alleviate their guilt. The last pod of Baffin Bay bears has been herded onto the Precession icebreaker, whose captain knows full well that the previous crews have lost their minds on similar voyages. Will this sea journey break apart into madness or will the bears be more than a mere spectator to their fate?
I am a newcomer to climate fiction, but what Shelby has crafted here, is a brilliant examination of our collective failures towards the environment and those bitter consequences. In brisk fashion, the story unpacks all of this in more within a few lines, such as this:
“How, for example, do you explain to a child who has never experienced the normal contours of spring why many adults preferred death to a world without it?”
MURI refuses to proselytize. It wasn’t written to make apologies or to assuage guilt. It is meant to describe the bed that humanity has made and much like the captain, who is trapped by fate. This story encapsulates so much of our current fears and anxieties about the current climate crisis. It even touches on those with the privilege of receiving these consequences secondhand who just shrug it off. They will be left to clean up a mess that they will not even view as their own. All of those who suffer because of those inconsiderate choices will be long gone before those who need to take responsibility, take it.
I did have to go look up Benito Cereno after I read the story and I plan on reading it at a later date, but considering the summary of Melville’s story at face value, it all brings a much deeper reading to MURI. I don’t want to speak on it here, since it would give away too much, but I think knowing about the original story after a first read, will give the reader that much more of an appreciation of Shelby’s literary skill. This is especially in mind with how faithful she was to the thematic elements in both stories. A true feat on her part.
Regardless, Shelby has written a fantastic climate fiction that epitomizes this subgenre. It is cutting, sincere, and beautiful. I hope to read more of her in the future and I am thrilled and honored to be included in a series alongside her.
You can purchase MURI here.