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From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled by Michael Swanwick

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“From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled” is a 2008 science fiction short story by Michael Swanwick. It is about a human and a millipede-like alien who flee the destruction of a magnificent city.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:


Quivera is part of the Europan delegation to Gehenna, a world occupied by large black millipede-like aliens. Unfortunately for him, however, he is in the glorious city of Babel when it is struck by meteors which kill the rest of the delegation. As a lone human he strikes a strange bargain with a high ranking Gehennan, and together the two of them are able to escape the confusion of the destroyed city and make their way through the steamy jungles of the planet. Along the way they encounter several dangerous obstacles and learn more about each others’ cultures, but will the two be able to survive in the harsh wilderness? Hmm, perhaps if they can just avoid those nasty mud geysers!

“Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”

“Wha-?” Carlos Quivera sat up, shedding rubble. He coughed, choked, shook his head. He couldn’t seem to think clearly. An instant ago he’d been standing in the chilled and pressurized embassy suite, conferring with Arsenio. Now… “How long have I been asleep?”

“Unconscious. Ten hours,” his suit (that’s me-Rosamund!) said.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • "From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled" is told from the point of view of Quivera’s suit – which was interesting and worked out quite well.
  • The Gehennans were very intriguing aliens. The descriptions of their economy, as well as their language, was fascinating.
  • I am a big Michael Swanwick fan so I may be biased – but I enjoyed the whole story and how the author told it. Sure, some weird things happen but that is classic Swanwick. If you like his other stories you will like this one too.

• The bad:

  • Not much really. Sometimes the Gehennan language was a bit too abstract – but Quivera’s suit does a nice job with succinct translations. (Lucky for us eh?)

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 15
• Word Count: 7,507
“From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled” garnered the following awards:

  • It was nominated for the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Where you can find “From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled”:

  • This short story first appeared in the February 2008 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
  • “From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled” is included in the amazing collection The Best of Michael Swanwick .
  • You can read this excellent story online for free at Asimov’s web site.

Some Interesting Links:

  • Be sure to learn more about Michael Swanwick by reading the Wikipedia page about him.

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like The 43 Antarean Dynasties, about a proud tour guide showing three humans the remains of his planet’s once great culture, by Mike Resnick.

3 thoughts to “From Babel’s Fallen Glory We Fled by Michael Swanwick”

  1. I read this story a while ago, and it was so badley written-in my opinion-that barely any of the above plot got through to me.

  2. I’ll agree that it was written… differently. What with the suit telling the story and the strange alien language literals. But I don’t think it was written badly – I thought it was kind of creative.

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