2017’s Prime Meridian is a standalone science fiction novella by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
In the glorious world of tomorrow, anyone with enough money can buy a ticket to the Martian settlements. Anyone with the right credentials can indenture themself to buy that precious ticket.
Thanks to her decision to drop out of college to care for her dying mother, Amelia doesn’t have money or credentials. Instead, she is one of Mexico City’s precariate. A new life on Mars can only be a dream.
Amelia makes her meagre living working for Friendrr, playing friend for hire to those incapable of making actual friends. She is not an especially likeable person, however, so even people self-selected for desperate yearning for social contact rarely choose Amelia. Her main client is Lucia, an elderly retired actress. Together, the two watch Lucia’s old movies. Lucia’s old B‑film about Mars may be as close as Amelia will ever get to the Red Planet.
Life takes an unexpected twist when Amelia’s rich ex-boyfriend Elías hires Amelia through Friendrr. Amelia has not seen Elías since he vanished from her life years ago. She’s not especially interested in reconnecting now. His wealth — or rather his father’s wealth — means he can afford her services. With Mars out the question, lacking the credentials needed for a better job, can she afford to turn down the second-class existence Elías offers?
Synchronicity: it’s a thing. In this case, not only did I encounter a number of novels about women in space (or who want to be in space), it happens I came across an article about actors who fill the same sort of niche Amelia does, in the real world. Enjoy!
I know science fiction is supposed to come up with wild, imaginative worlds but really, if humans had the technology to send people into space, would they really tolerate a socioeconomic arrangement where wealth and status, not to mention simple basic security, were in the hands of a few old rich men? Amelia lives in such a world; without a degree, the only way women like her claw can their way out of poverty is with the assistance of some rich man.
In Amelia’s case, that wouldn’t be spineless Elías. He is only the conduit through which his father’s wealth flows. Any life Amelia would have with Elías would be contingent on some arrangement that would not upset Elías’s father too much. It’s like being someone’s mistress but without the job security, since Elías’s father has already selected a well born bride for his son. It’s fortunate Elías is charming(ish) and good looking, because he has precious few other assets to offer.
Amelia is an engaging character. The specifics of her economic trap are shaped by Mexican society of the 21st century, but it’s a trap to which many readers should be able to relate. Well, except that aforesaid readers are denied even the dream of escaping to another world, unless it’s one within their own skull.
Although this functions as a standalone, there’s more than enough room for a sequel. I hope to encounter Amelia again in some future work by Moreno-Garcia.