Group Read 27The Big Book of Science Fiction

Story #76 of 107: “Pots” by C. J. Cherryh

One of my favorite science-fictional settings is when explorers find a planet with an ancient long-dead civilization. This is the setting for “Pots” by C. J. Cherryh. “Pots” also deals with another favorite science-fictional theme, the generation ship.

Cherryh’s story is long and moody, but it could have been just a flash fiction gimmick because the central idea is very simple. Usually, I have spoilers in these discussions because these pieces are my response to our group reading. However, with this story, I won’t give it away.

There are lots to like about this story. The characters are very ancient. Between cloning and the time dilation of relativity, Dr. Gothon’s life spanned over a quarter of a million years. This is one generation ship story where the characters remember their mission, and some of them even remember the start of the mission.

On the other hand, the O’Henry ending of this story is both neat and a groaner. I saw it coming. I’m never happy when a writer intentionally withholds information from me. And I don’t know if the story would have been significantly different if we knew everything right from the start.

Nor am I happy with the explanation for the conflict. I saw no reason to suppress the truth. I think “Pots” would have been a much more effective and moving story if everyone learned the truth on page one, and then have the story unfold about how it changed the different characters. That would have eliminated an exciting action scene, but so what.

I’m disappointed when science fiction uses B-movie logic to contrive a plot. “Pots” has a lot going for it, the writing, the richness of the worldbuilding, it didn’t need a violent confrontation between two groups to move the story along.

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James Wallace Harris, 1/18/22

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