Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Beryl as Big as the Ritz

beryl.jpgOne classic writing exercise is to read half of a short story and then write the ending you'd like to see happen. Then read the rest and see which ending you like better. (You can do this with TV shows too. Think about what you would have happen next if you were the writer.)

Here's something to try it out on that's in keeping with the 10-15 minute nature of the prompts here. Michael Swanwick has created a short short story for each element on the periodic chart, The Periodic Table of Science Fiction. This is about half the story. Where would you take it?
Beryllium
A Beryl as Big as the Ritz

On the Gem Planet, the rarest and most valued of all substances is dirt. Just the scrapings from beneath a hobo's nails would bring enough to support him for a year.

Across the desert plains of sheer diamond wealthy tourists come. They wear slitted goggles to protect themselves from the blinding reflections of the sun. There is a red glint ahead. That is their goal.

Hexagonal in cross-section, it is the largest outcrop of pure beryl on the planet. Artisans have carved rooms into it, with fluted columns and elaborate fireplaces, and there are banquet halls and ballrooms as well. At the break of day, when the sun shines through the Ruby Mountains and dawn lases across the plains, the guests are escorted to basement safe-rooms carved from darkest emerald. Even there, the walls glimmer elegantly.

But it is not beauty that brings visitors to the Ritz-Beryllium. Beauty, for them, is so common as to be invisible.

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