The world that Silvia Moreno-Garcia depicts in her novella, Prime Meridian, feels like it could be ours, but is marked by slight differences. Amelia lives in Mexico City, not too far from our present day, or in a slightly altered future. Cryptocurrency is commonly used, VR parlours are popular, and she had hoped to find work in biotech as an urban farmer, but caregiving responsibilities at home forced her to drop out of school and short courses in plant-modification are not enough to help her enter her field. Now she works as a Rent-a Friend, an app-based gig job, and sells her blood to elderly billionaires hoping for a youthful infusion. Woven through the daily drudgery of just managing to make a living, there’s Mars, and the space colony that Amelia is determined to make a new life on, if she could only afford it.
Amelia is trapped in an unforgiving city where her opportunities for work and schooling have dwindled. Her success as a Rent-a-Friend depends on her likeability and appeal, although she often feels too bitter to be likeable and too tired to be appealing. She’s half-heartedly holding on to tired school friendships that are her last vestiges of a professional network. The novella carries a striking reminder that now and in the future, whether on Earth or on Mars, people continue to need the things that help us thrive: a sense of identity and place, human connection and social support, and stories that help us build and expand on our personal narratives.
We spoke to Silvia Moreno-Garcia about the influences that built this Mexico City of the slight future, the barriers that Amelia faces to career success and stability and what she needs to overcome them, and how to write (and create) inclusive futures in which everyone can be an active participant.