Generation Gap

“Between two worlds life hovers like a star, ‘Twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge, how little do we know that which we are!”

Instructor Black lifted her eyes from the tablet to see if Byron, across centuries and unfathomable distance, had reached her pupils: they looked bored. The space-born always looked bored, only when they gathered after hours to chat quietly in their private cant did they show any animation.

“Now this was written by a great poet before the migration, before the ecolapse, before the information revolution – yet it still speaks to us today. Now I know there are some words you’re not familiar with: ‘night’ you’ll remember is the dark part of the planetary rotation and ‘morn’ indicates the beginning of the exposed phase. ‘Horizon’ is an easy word: on earth I remember great open spaces where one can stand and see the curve of the land fall away, perfectly joined by deep azure skies towering above. That beautiful shimmering line between earth and sky, separating the living from the infinite, is the horizon.”

Her monitor noted students were accessing data-stores to verify her definition of horizon – one had already tagged the definition ‘relevant to historic poetry’. This curriculum was supposed to drench the new generation in human richness; bind them to us; make them part of our story and show them they are not alone. It had failed. Instructor Black realised now it was always doomed to fail.

Blinking back tears, she read on as her students gazed impassively: “Of time and tide rolls on and bears afar, Our bubbles; as the old burst, new emerge, Lash’d from the foam of ages.”


6 thoughts on “Generation Gap”

  1. This is such a beautifully constructed story! The quotes are perfect for the setting, and really work even in this far future scenario. I loved the language and the emotion, and the upbeat ending quote saved me from feeling incredibly sad about it all.

    I have no language nitpicks, this is very accomplished and flows beautifully!

  2. I love this – perfectly-chosen bit of Byron developed into a perfect science fictional moment. I’d say it has resonance, except stv will laugh at me. The instructor’s identification with the poem is very nicely contrasted to the students’ apathy and incomprehension – lovely emblematic way to access the alienation between generations and experiences.

    A couple of nitpicks: “The space-born always looked bored” should, I think, have a semicolon or colon before “only when they gathered after hours”, the full sentences feel a bit weird separated only by a comma. I’m also a bit unsure of the excessively poetic language used by the instructor, particularly the bit about the horizon – do people really talk like that? As a teacher it would only alienate her audience even further. Also. “drench” really didn’t work for me, I found it jarring.

  3. I absolutely loved this! I think it may be your best piece to date. I love the way you connected the Byron quotes with the text. It was so beautiful, sad and nostalgic (oddly enough) to read.

    I loved your first sentence after the quote, especially “…to see if Byron, across centuries and unfathomable distance, had reached her pupils”. It gave the piece an epic, space opera, quality. Although, I agree with Doc about the comma separation in “The space-born always looked bored, only when they gathered after hours”

    I also love this bit: “This curriculum was supposed to drench the new generation in human richness; bind them to us; make them part of our story and show them they are not alone. It had failed.” It says so much about the hopes and dreams of those who had to leave the planet and makes it even more poignant that this is not working.

    Wonderful juxtaposition between prosaic and uninterested students and emotional and poetic instructor. Thanks.

  4. Instructor Black is giving a lecture on what living on Earth, a planet, was like, in an attempt to ‘educate’ the youth into ‘knowing their place’. She realises, though, that the attempt to do so using abstract concepts which the children cannot relate to (horizon, for instance — and I like that we the reader can easily relate to these concepts) will in no way win the children over to the adults’ point of view.

    I do love the descriptions of night and morning, and so on. They are completely sensical, but feel very alien. Lovely. I also enjoyed how the children are portrayed: the beauty which the instructor finds in the poetry and her knowledge of planetry geography is completely unrelated to the children’s experience; the children appear only as interested in it as they need to be in order to complete the course.

    > The space-born always looked bored … show any animation.
    Here I thought that the point of view seemed to jump a bit jarringly from Black’s to some omniscient narrator. This did not sound like a thought Black (who I presume is herself space-born) would have.

    > That beautiful shimmering line between earth and sky … is the
    > horizon.
    The description seems to be about something that the children can see (because of ‘that’, but also the placement of the adjectives), as though they were looking at a picture, but this isn’t clear. Otherwise the horizon seems oddly described for something that the children can’t see.

    There was some nice descriptive bits in here. Thanks.

    1. Was thinking about our RL conversation about this piece last night. My comments still stand: the whole of paragraph three (the largest paragraph by far) is about the ideas of horizon, night and day, and the whole fourth paragraph only makes sense if she was trying to teach them their place (“bind them to us”, “make them part of our story”).

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