(Go here to read the story first, if you prefer not being spoiled!)
When I was in primary school, I remember that I always used to go outside on breaks on rainy days. I must have been around the age of nine, since that was the age at which I started reading SF, and my young imagination turned my rain-clothes into a space suit and the school yard to the surface of distant planet of torrential, icy rain. I was an explorer, protected only by the thin outer skin of the suit, a foreigner on a foreign world. I would just stand there, letting the droplets fall on my rain-coat, enjoying the feeling of almost, but not quite, getting wet.
This is nearly twenty years ago now, but the memory stuck and eventually found an expression in the opening of “…vad som räddas kan” (“…what can be saved” — sorry, only in Swedish so far), where the protagonist Rufus finds himself contemplating his situation on the surface of moon of perpetual rains. It is perhaps worth pointing out, in this context, that though this is in many ways a very personal story for me, I am not Rufus, though we have things in common. Neither am I any of the other characters that appear in the text, though I could point out common traits and similarities to me in all of them. (In a sense this is trivial, since one cannot write what is not within oneself. However, since I’m aware of this and still elect to allow characters features that I identify as my own, this does become a concious choice; make what you will of that…)
As I mentioned above, “…vad som räddas kan” is a story that is dear to me, and so not all similarities to reality are coincidental. There is an abundance of conscious allusions as well: pointers to works by other authors whom I admire, to my interests, and to my own personal mythology. This is probably the most evident in the names used in the story, in fact all but the name of the protagonist are references to something or someone — Rufus just introduced himself by that name, the way characters sometimes do. Examples include, but are not limited to, the Spanish civil war, palaeontology, and an old video game series. I wouldn’t recommend trying to figure these things out as you read them, though. In fact, I would strongly discourage it, as I’m sure it would ruin the reading experience thoroughly — most of the references are there for my own obscure pleasure, and were never meant to be found by others.
Speaking of names, the names of the heavenly bodies mentioned in the story are not in fact just random syllables, but references to a particular mythology that came up in researching the story. The moons also have names from this mythology. I didn’t want to crowd the story with too many unintelligible names, but I guess that it is safe to state them here: the moons and the station Emancipation (or “Emma”) are in orbit around the gas-giant Sotuknang, which is in turn in orbit around a star (re-)named Taiowa. The moons, in the text referred to only as Sotu I, II and III, marking their order from the mother planet, are really named Tokpela, Tokpa and Kuskurza, respectively. The story is thus set on Tokpela, though, as is mentioned in the text, the shorter names are more commonly used.
Why choose this particular mythology? Well, there is no simple answer. The reason within the story is that the signs of life on the moons of Sotuknang were first first intercepted at an observatory in Arizona, whence the mythology is from originally. A better answer is perhaps that I enjoy doing research. “…vad som räddas kan” is meant to be a hard SF story, which requires honest research, and I honestly hope that I’ve got details such as the plague afflicting the planet, and the Latin believable, and that the details not specifically mentioned somehow increase the believability. Originally, the world in which the story is set was imagined as a backdrop for an RPG, so there is a lot more back story to draw from. The RPG never did take place, but I’m hoping I’ll have an opportunity to revisit the world at some point.
This short story is the one which has taken me the longest to write, much longer than “Stenarna“, owing in part to the long research, but also because its personal nature made me even more picky than I usually am. Furthermore, sci-fi short stories is one of my favourite genres, making it more important to me to make a well thought through contribution as my first real contribution to the field. The sign of a good sci-fi story — short stories in particular — is that it has a strong “what if?” as its foundation, not necessarily answering it, but discussing it. I hope to think that I’ve managed that with “…vad som räddas kan”, but that is really up to the reader to judge.
I think I’ve probably spoiled the reading experience enough by now. Just like “Stenarna“, the story is released under the Creative Commons license BY-SA-2.5-SE, and is available as a pdf here. Share and enjoy, and remember: true journey is return!