Fiction Fix: “The Martian Agent, A Planetary Romance,” by Michael Chabon


The Fiction Fix is your weekly dose of short story. If that’s not your drug of choice, too bad: consider it medicine. Every week, we’ll scour the literary magazines you don’t have time to read, online and in print, and let you know where to find one story worth reading. This week, we’re recommending an excerpt of “The Martian Agent, A Planetary Romance,” a steampunk short story in the No. 10 issue of McSweeney’s that Slashfilm suggests is an adaptation of Michael Chabon’s new screenplay-in-progress, John Carter of Mars.

Because we only recently finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and saw the film adaptation of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, we’ve had Chabon on the brain lately. In many ways “The Martian Agent” is a huge departure from both of those works; set in the summer of 1876, it follows a family with two young boys who are on the run for the border in a world where the British Revolution never took place.

As always, the author’s uncanny descriptive powers are enough to break your heart: “The night and its furor of animals and bugs blew in and stirred the damp black strands of the mother’s hair.” What’s more, McSweeney’s smartly posted just enough of a teaser to hook us in (what is a land sloop?!), but not enough that we can avoid shelling out the dough to read the entire thing.

Plus, we want to get to the Mars part.