Can you help me remember the name and author of this sci-fi short story?
April 27, 2017 8:00 PM   Subscribe

It's a short, absurdist sci-fi story I read in English (assuming an American author, but it could have been translated) that was likely from around 1960 because of the US/USSR Space Race influence. The plot involves Soviet children and/or young adults being recruited into government service. Some are trained to operate a false moon rover to make it seem impressively automated, but it turns out to be all staged on Earth! Others have their feet amputated and replaced so they can later learn a traditional dance, despite their handicap.

Extended plot summary follows:

Soviet (?) children and young adults were conscripted into government service to be in the military or to make it to the moon. After the initial indoctrination, many wake up the next day to find their feet amputated and replaced by prosthetics so they can imitate the "glory" of a previous war veteran who lost his feet but was still able to dance a folk dance with grace.

The children, because they are physically small, are trained to secretly operate a moon rover. It's supposed to be automated, but they don't actually have the technology. The children are intended to operate it on the moon's surface until they run out of oxygen and die, and it will be presented to the world as though the functionality was robotic, not human-powered. They accept this because it works towards the glory of the Motherland.

In the climax, the main child eventually realizes he or she is not actually even on the moon; it's basically a stage where the "moon rover" is operating. I think the child attempts to hold their breath as long as possible, of course thinking there is no oxygen anywhere, and there is some interaction at the end fighting or running away from one of the soldiers with the false feet. There are train tracks present, perhaps guiding the "rover".


Thanks in advance for the help!
posted by bangitliketmac to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Omon Ra!
posted by Countess Elena at 8:47 PM on April 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Thanks @Countess Elena! That's it!
posted by bangitliketmac at 8:52 PM on April 27, 2017

WEIRD -- this also reminds me a lot of MAGGOT MOON, a YA that came out a few years ago. it's set in a 1950s neo-Nazi dystopia (called the Motherland!), in which the regime elaborately stages a moon landing & our young hero helps sabotage it. it's a great, super-dark little read.
posted by changeling at 9:11 PM on April 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

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