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Salvador by Lucius Shepard

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by Lucius Shepard

• Page count: 12

Salvador is an award winning science fiction short story by Lucius Shepard. It is about a group of specially trained US soldiers using drugs to enhance their fighting abilities in Central America.

Salvador follows the story of Dantzler, a soldier in the Special Forces of the US Military. He and his platoon are in El Salvador looking for Sandinista patrols prior to an invasion of Nicaragua. As fresh young soldiers they rely on ampules – drugs that help them stay calm and focus their rage. As Dantzler and his buddies increasingly use the drug they find it more difficult to distinguish between reality and hallucination.

In 1985 Salvador won the Locus Poll award for Best Short Story, the SF Chronicle award for Short Story and was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Short Story.

Salvador is an intense story about the atrocities of war, combat and drug use. If you are a fan of Vietnam era stories (or movies – like Platoon) then you will probably really enjoy this story.

Gradually his arms and legs lost their heaviness, and his heart rate slowed. His vision sharpened to the point that he could see not only the pinpricks of fire blooming on the slope, but also the figures behind them, half-obscured by brush. A bubble of grim anger welled up in his brain, hardened to a fierce resolve, and he started moving toward the volcano. By the time he reached the base of the cone, he was all rage and reflexes. He spent the next forty minutes spinning acrobatically through the thickets, spraying shadows with bursts of his M-18; yet part of his mind remained distant from the action, marveling at his efficiency, at the comic-strip enthusiasm he felt for the task of killing. He shouted at the men he shot, and he shot them many more times than was necessary, like a child playing soldier.

Where you can find Salvador:
Salvador originally appeared in the April 1984 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
• It was included in the World Fantasy Award winning collection The Jaguar Hunter. Also available in electronic format from
Salvador was also included in Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Second Annual Collection and The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction.

Lucius Shepard, the author of Salvador, often sets his stories in Third World locations, and in the early 1980’s spent considerable time in Central America, including El Salvador. Check out this 2003 interview at in which he talks about his writing and traveling experiences.

If you liked this story you may also enjoy Falling Onto Mars, the Hugo award winning story by Geoffrey A. Landis about prisoners sent to Mars to sort things out for themselves.

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