“O Happy Day!” — Geoff Ryman

Geoff Ryman is the author of the novels The Warrior Who Carried Life, The Unconquered Country, The Child Garden, Was, 253, Lust, Air, and The King’s Last Song. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, Tor.com, New Worlds, and has frequently been reprinted in Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction series. Most of his short work can be found in the collections Unconquered Countries and the recent Paradise Tales and Other Stories. He is a winner of the World Fantasy Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, the Tiptree Award, and the British Science Fiction Award. He is also the editor of the recent anthology When It Changed. Another story of his appears elsewhere in this volume.

What is the role of violence in society?  Is there a place for it?  Is there a way to make violence socially acceptable?  Or should it be eliminated—at any price? 

Our next dystopia gives violence a cold looking-over, and after the examination is complete, no one is left innocent.  Like Golding’s Lord of the Flies, where the wrong conditions turn harmless school boys into malevolent brutes, “O Happy Day” watches people we often stereotype as gentle innocents turn beastly.  Women prove themselves as capable of mindless cruelty as men.  Homosexual men succumb to fisticuffs and in-fighting just as nastily as any straight men.  No one is immune to the temptation of violence.

What this story really probes is the borderline that divides violence from evil, the line where aggression becomes a true stain of wickedness.  And it asks:  is there anything we can do to wash away the stain?