Review of The Exterminator’s Want Ad

We despised green power networks because climate change was a myth. Until the climate actually changed.

“The Exterminator’s Want Ad,” by Bruce Sterling, employs a cool conceit: it tells the story of the U.S. after climate change–and after an ensuing civil war–from the point of view of an embittered, spiteful partisan of the losing side. It reads like the cri de coeur of some portion of the American id, in love with getting and spending, unwilling to consider the consequences.

The narrator invites our scorn, and yet there is something appealing about his honesty. Who among us does not love air conditioning on an August day? He is uncomfortable in the networked future, where technology allows humanity to maintain a bare margin ahead of the forces of collapse.

I read the story over, trying to find its meaning. Of course there are always several. The reading I like best has to do with the resilience of humanity. Selfishness has its place, as does cooperation, and the presence of both in the human memeplex gives us insurance against a lot of possible outcomes. It’s good for us. Whether it’s good for the planet we call home is more in doubt.

“The Exterminator’s Want Ad” appeared in the November/December 2010 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction