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 title of the story is taken from Vilcabamba, Peru, the capital of the Neo-Inca State and the last outpost maintained by the Incas 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 of the Americas 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.


The story is set sometime in the 22nd 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 and Prime Minister of Canada, Harris Moffatt III, who rules a rump United States and Canada (whose governments merged in order to pool resources against the Krolp) that runs along the Rocky Mountains and the Wasatch Range with its de facto capital at Grand Junction, Colorado. Washington, D.C. remains the de jure capital of the United States, although it is under Krolp occupation and the last president to have actually resided in the city was Moffatt's father Harris Moffatt II. Moffatt's grandfather Harris Moffatt had also served as the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada.

After being left alone for decades, the Krolp demand access to silver and a small amount of gold deposits miles deep below the surface of northeastern Utah. Moffat, realizing that any Krolp mining operation will probably leave the remainder of the U.S. and Canada uninhabitable, knowing that Spain had been left practically uninhabitable after the Krolp had strip-mined nearly the whole country for the mercury they discovered deep below its surface, refuses, and launches an uprising. The uprising surprises the Krolp, but is quickly crushed within three days. Moffatt and his wife, Jessica attempt to flee to rump Canada. However, after 20 minutes, they are captured and forced to live out the rest of their lives in exile in the Krolp's North American capital of St. Louis, Missouri.

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