Vilcabamba (short story)

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Vilcabamba is a 2010 science fiction short story by Harry Turtledove, notable both for its content and for the writer's unusual decision to publish it free online and thus waive the royalties from its publication (see external link below).

The story is set sometime in the 21st century, 50 years after an alien race called the Krolp conquered and occupied much of planet Earth. The story is told from the perspective of President of the United States, Harris Moffatt III, who rules a rump United States and Canada that runs along the Rocky Mountains. Moffat's father and grandfather were also presidents.

After being left alone for decades, the Krolp demand access to silver deposits below the surface of Utah. Moffat, realizing that any Krolp mining operation will leave the remainder of the U.S. uninhabitable, refuses, and launches an uprising. The uprising surprises the Krolp, but is quickly crushed. Moffat is captured and forced into exile.

The tile of the story is taken from Vilcabamba, Peru, the last outpost maintained by the Inca before it was completely crushed by Spain in the sixteenth century. In the story, one of Moffatt's cabinet shares this story with Moffatt, who is resigned to the fact that his rump U.S. will play that same role.

Turtledove analogizes the events of his story to European colonization in several ways:

  • The Krolp are initially greeted with peaceful overtures, which they quickly and violently refuse.
  • The Krolp possess technology far beyond human understanding.
  • The Krolp view humans as sub-creatures, and do their best to "Krolpize" those humans within their control.
  • The Krolp value mineral wealth, and readily break an agreement with the U.S. to get it.

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