If you can’t rip yourself off, who can you rip off?
“The Margin” is a “tech-ier” version of an earlier short story of mine, titled “Out of Sight, Out Of Mind.” In the earlier story, a city mayor discovers an ancient portal through which he banishes homeless people, where they live in the same world as ours but slightly out of phase, neither seen nor heard. That piece didn’t go anywhere, unfortunately. So I stole the basic idea for “The Margin,” only the “portal” in this case is a hatch to an unused section of a massive, generational starship in deep space.
The approach in “The Margin” is a little less mystical, a little more realistic. The “undesirables,” as they’re considered, are shuffled off to the margins of society, just as they are in real life today. Our communities have a sad history of doing this; “redlining,” the effort to force minorities into specific neighborhoods, is an example.
“The Margin” has other inspirations, too. One is from a favorite episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, titled “Past Tense.” In that story, the homeless and impoverished people of San Francisco are banished to a walled-off district. Another inspiration is the biblical tale of the Good Samaritan, where a marginalized person helps another in need.
The most disturbing part of this story is the ending, and it’s disturbing because it illustrates a frightening modern reality. Charity Gritt’s father is willing to sacrifice her rather than step up to help those trapped in the Margin. It’s no huge mental leap to imagine that same scenario in our hyper-polarized society today.
A less-disturbing fact about this story: If you’ve read my book Radiance, you’ll recognized the design of starship Estera. It’s based on the Bernal sphere space station concept I used for Canaan. Again, why not rip off yourself if it works?