Locus on “Immersion”


Rich Horton reviews “Immersion” in the August Locus:

Aliette de Bodard’s “Immersion”, in June’s Clarkesworld, addresses cultural imperialism. As we have come to expect from de Bodard, the story is thought-provoking and challenging, and built around a nice SFnal idea. The story is set on a space station inhabited by apparently Asian-descended people. Quy’s family runs a restaurant often catering to “Galactic” tourists. The central SFnal maguffin is “immerser” technology, which helps people take on different appearances, and speak different languages, to deal with people of other cultures. Quy uses it, begrudgingly, to deal with customers. Her more rebellious sister is more interested in understanding how the technology works. And, more affectingly, one visitor is the wife of a Galactic man, and she seems to use the tech to fit in better with her husband’s milieu. But this only distances her from her own self, her own history. All this is very intriguing, and quite thought-provoking, but the story doesn’t fully work: it seems a bit too programmed – and some aspects of the setting don’t quite fit. The space station, in particular, seems unnecessary (though perhaps this story fits into a wider future history where it all fits together).

Hahaha, I must protest. Space stations are always necessary for a good plot!


  1. Yes, space stations in every tale, please. Hotel New Hampshire on board Deep Space 9, Hamlet on the Death Star and Die Hard on Spacedock.
    It’s a great story and I find it exceedingly odd that the reviewer gets that it is a tale of cultural imperialism but thinks setting it in a port is “unnecessary”. If one were writing of a family dealing with the effects of early 20th-century cultural imperialism, surely it would be better set in Hong Kong than in London?

  2. Well, the space station is necessary, especially in the context of “Immersion”.

  3. Well, strictly speaking, I could have set this in any touristic destination in the universe–but I had to pick a place where cultures mingled, and yeah, a space station seemed pretty ideal for this. (I’m not quite sure why you need a justification for picking a space station rather than a planet, but then again I’m a big supporter of putting a lot of “unecessary” details for atmosphere and roundedness rather than paring a tale to bare bones).

  4. And, hum, @fin: aw, thank you, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  5. I meant to say that is necessary for the guidelines of Clarkesworld Magazine, because it is very true that it can fit plenty of settings real or fictional. Nonetheless the story has an excellent atmosphere and a sadness through the lost of some sense of belonging, traditions and identity. I loved it, so a thank you again, Aliette, for a wonderful story. Keep them coming! 🙂

  6. Mihai: ah, OK, that makes sense! (not sure it’s true though, the story wouldn’t work without the immersers, and they’re pretty clearly SF… But the space station does add an extra layer of “this is definitely SF, I swear!”). And thank you 😀

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