The Art of Absence by Don Webb

Published: 2013 in Rayguns Over Texas

Genre: science fiction

Setting: Earth and Mars, near future

Interest: I was provided a copy of the anthology and I’m slowly reviewing all the stories in it.

Summary: George Reynman used to hide things in the yard to intrigue his son, but it was his daughter, Peggy, who caught the digging bug. She became an archeologist, and married her freshman archeology professor. They eventually separated when he was more interested in speaking engagements and she wanted to keep digging. He thought she’d gone crazy when she agreed to go to Mars to look for a society that could have made the fabled Canisters of Mars. She dug a huge, inverted pyramid, didn’t find anything, and then died of inoperable cancer. Turns out, she dug the hole just to leave some Earth artifacts for later space races to find, once humanity wiped itself out.

Final thoughts: An interesting premise – she used her fame and a rich man’s gullibility to build a monument that would outlast humanity’s presence on Earth, and left a relic of her life at the end of it. Her artifacts were so random, though, you have to wonder what the aliens would have made of the creatures that left those artifacts behind. Makes you wonder what the future will make of our current time, and what artifacts we’ll leave behind. I did feel a little cheated that Peggy created the giant pyramid and then just died, with little indication that she was sick. I was a bit justified when I learned why she did what she did, as we go forward quickly in time.

Title comes from: I’m going to guess it has to do with the pyramid Peggy had dug into Mars. Instead of building one up, she dug one out. It was still a message to future generations and races to “look here”, but it was an absence of material.

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