I missed announcing this one when it came out a few months ago. To be honest, I had almost entirely forgotten about “From the Darkness Beneath” since its been sitting in the publishing queue at Space and Time magazine for over three years. To say they have a slow publishing schedule would be like saying Sauron was a not-so-great guy.
“From the Darkness Beneath” is one of my rare ocean stories. I only note that because for my day job I work in the ocean, and many people think that should lead directly to a lot of my fiction taking place therein. I guess it’s that write “what you know” thing. I’ve never been a big proponent of “write what you know” because if I actually did that, I’d have a pretty narrow range of fiction. I’m a proponent of “know what you write” instead, but that’s a topic for another post.
But getting back on topic, I wrote “From the Darkness Beneath” a long time ago, so the inspiration for this story would have been entirely lost if not for a hastily scribble note that I’ve found. Obviously I wrote the note with this post in mind, likely back in 2012 when I sold the story. It’s just six words: rare earth elements in short supply.
Rare earth elements are a group of chemically similar elements important to the manufacture of many hi-tech products. Most are not really rare, but they don’t tend to occur in concentrated deposits, so they can be reasonably hard to obtain in any significant amount. Likely most people have never even heard of rare earth elements (they have wonderful names like Yttrium, Promethium, and Gadolinium), but they’re important to many products we use on a daily basis, including computers memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, and fluorescent lights.
Given the importance of these elements to modern society, I wanted to explore what would happen if they became truly rare. To what lengths would a corporation go to obtain them? This extrapolation led me to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and a mining colony owned by the Pacific Abyssal Mining Consortium on the East Pacific Rise (rift zones are one of the few areas where rare earth elements grow in relatively high concentrations). This setting naturally creates a sense of claustrophobia and isolation, so I took those ideas and ran with them, eventually coming to the story of Yim, who with a genetically engineered chimpanzee (a Pan sapien), is the caretaker of an automated mining facility where things go awry when an unexpected visitor gets aboard.
If you have a chance, I hope you’ll check out “From the Darkness Beneath,” available in the current issue of Space and Time magazine (#124).