The short story “Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar was published for the first time in 2016.
Anyone willing to go to Mars as a colonist has the opportunity to make the one-way trip but on jalopies, one-person spacecraft, not exactly safe. A swarm of jalopies is traveling to the red planet with all the risks involved, but people like Haziq have left everything, including his family, to go and live on Mars. To spend the time, travelers listen to music like Mei or talk to each other over the radio to break up their loneliness, sometimes even communicating with people like Eliza, a nurse working in the Earth’s orbit.
Lavie Tidhar took inspiration for “Terminal” from the “Mars One” initiative, which aims to establish a permanent colony on Mars from 2023. Commented as madness and a suicidal mission by scientists and aerospace engineers across the world, in 2013 it still had received the candidacy of over 78,000 volunteers. Since then the only progress was in the selection of candidates who are supposed to be the first group of colonists while the timeline for the rest of the project keeps on being reviewed in a more pessimistic way. What would happen if there was a real possibility of accomplishing that one-way trip, even if risky?
There are many people who for different reasons are willing to take risks in search of a new life. Even today there are people who travel on “sea jalopies” for that reason, it wouldn’t be surprising if someone really accepted to travel on one-person spacecraft all alone with a radio as the only way to have some company.
“Terminal” is just that, the destination of a journey that represents a hope for those who have nothing to lose as for those who have a deep desire to go to Mars. However, it’s the story of a journey and is one of the cases in which that’s what matters and not the destination. Lavie Tidhar offers fragments of life of some travelers taken from their past, their emotions, their hopes, their reactions to the limited possibility of keeping company to each other.
In a handful of pages Lavie Tidhar can offer only a glance at some characters and everything that accompanies them but that’s enough to make the reader feel the impression of being in a jalopy with them. It’s for this immersion in what becomes above all a journey into emotions that I think “Terminal” is a must-read story. The story is set in the same fictional universe of the novel “Central Station” but is totally autonomous.