Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » October 2018 » “Dawn of the Aquarians” by Michael Diamond

“Dawn of the Aquarians” by Michael Diamond

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, Michael Diamond gives us a world that is sweetened by the promise of reincarnation, but is rapidly devolving into political turmoil.

Dawn of the Aquarians
by Michael Diamond
USA, 2059

I am reincarnated as the middle daughter of my youngest grandchild, Eliza. Mother recognizes in my toddler mischief a familiar sense of humor. She can’t quite place it. My second wife of the last incarnation is now the overprotective older brother. But that’s not the half of it. My first wife of that same incarnation has just been reborn as the squawling baby brother. Can you believe that? Pretty damn weird. The two women barely knew each other and now they are siblings.

I remember having a fleeting awareness of both their identities the morning Ben, the baby, was born. But really it wasn’t until the Redemption that I fully grasped the interpenetration of everything, saw totality in the flesh.

Mother, sweet Eliza, you died in childbirth. The wickedness that let this happen. The insanity of a culture in devolution. It still takes my breath away, even though I have her back now. I am a window onto that apocalyptic landscape. The pain of that loss wrecked my father, Eliza’s sweet little WASP boychik. It annihilated my three-year-old self. The world after the First Ecological Disaster was not a place to bring up any child, let alone a motherless one.

I can hardly speak of it, even though now, since the Redemption, my Eliza’s no more than the blink of an eye away from me at any time. Quantum Universal Integrated Experiential Temporality. Balm for all the many forms of loss. Those feelings, emotions, sensations, thoughts. As keen to me now as they were then. So many worlds at one time. It takes a bit of the sting out of any particular horror story. The bliss at reunion with everyone I ever loved, and even some of the ones I didn’t love so well, is all the more fierce. So that’s the set-up. The Redemption, still one hundred eighty-two years away.


I got to be a towhead in that life, blue eyes, apple cheeks and all. It was an evil time. Each of the major cartels had cordoned off the water supply to their region through “exclusive use” contracts negotiated by the politicals which they had bought and paid for. The unsuspecting populace had been kept in the dark as usual, until it was too late. Politics, a deadly form of public distraction, had fooled all but a small cadre of cognoscenti about the real business at hand. The business conducted in back rooms, over encrypted networks, by a handful of oligarchs.

The hospital where Ben was born only had water on the first three floors. It was all they could arrange with the local Aquarian authority. Obstetrics was on the seventh floor. The oligarchs and plutocrats had their own private health services located in “research institutes” founded for the purpose of siphoning off healthcare dollars from the federal budget for their own personal use. The National Institutes of Health had devolved into a conglomeration of public-private “partnerships” whose purse strings were plucked by their corporate overlords. Oversight had been effectively abolished through a series of deft “emergency” political initiatives and the shuttering of all government watchdog programs.

The hell of it was that most Americans were happy to leave it to the Big Boys. Best not to watch the sausage-making. Liberty parceled into technological quanta available to the highest bidder. Bitter servitude for the per force unwashed masses. As I stood, fists balled, at the foot of my dying mother’s hospital bed, I bore witness to the resurgence of puerperal fever.

Childbed fever, as it was known in the nineteenth century and earlier, had been all but eradicated in the civilized world of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. No longer were expectant mothers threatened with a one in four chance of death merely for having assented, more or less, to being the vehicles for the perpetuation of the species, the potential bearers of the future Messiah. Simple hand-washing and other sanitary measures had done the trick. By the time Ben was born, there were no longer antibiotics to treat the virulent strains of bacteria bred in public hospitals. The death rate for uncomplicated childbirth now superseded the pre-antisepsis level of twenty five percent due to untreatable nosocomial infections. Nosocomial, “our house.” A morbid joke. Only the oligarchs had access to the sanitary birthing suites available in their Big Houses, moonlighting government doctors at their beck and call. My sweet Eliza—my granddaughter, my mother—was just another casualty of the Water Wars.


MICHAEL DIAMOND‘s day job is as a psychiatrist and doctor of medical qigong in the Washington, DC area. He has published occasional verse, fiction, and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal The Exquisite Corpse, in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press, and in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of manuscripts, their dog, two cats, a cockatiel named Peaches, and a tank of hyperactive fish.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Oct 19, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,