“Hydraulic” a short story by Ekaterina Sedia

Represented by the six of hearts, this was story #10 in my 2014 Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. I own this story as part of an electronic copy of the anthology “Dark Futures: Tales of Dystopian Sci-Fi” which is lending a few stories to my annual project.


: operated by the pressure of a fluid
: occurring or used in a hydraulic system
Full Definition
1 : operated, moved, or effected by means of water
2 a : of or relating to hydraulics
b : of or relating to water or other liquid in motion
3 : operated by the resistance offered or the pressure transmitted when a quantity of liquid (as water or oil) is forced through a comparatively small orifice or through a tube
4 : hardening or setting under water

I’m sure I’ve written before about how I enjoy stories that have a cryptic title. Perhaps it was the title “Hydraulic” (what could THAT be about?) that led me to add this story to my roster for my 2014 Deal Me In challenge. I don’t remember now. Anyway, I’m still not 100% sure what the story title means. The setting, I can tell you, is a future dystopian America. One that has become isolationist, where Congress voted in 2012 to “sever all ties with the rest of the world,” and where “government crop dusters” herd clouds and citizens use velorickshaws to get around. It’s raining almost constantly too, and domestic cats are beginning to turn green from an algae that has taken up residence in their fur. Perhaps this last element felt the most dystopian of all for many readers…

The protagonist of the story, Lewis, is a detective on the trail of Jack Elsinger, suspected of “illegal battery charging and possibly worse.” In this dystopian future, energy is at a premium and the country had “switched to a rain powered economy” in 2017. (See? Here we’re getting closer to the title of the story) During his surveillance (aided by “spidercams” of course) Lewis is surprised by recognizing the woman Elsinger is dating as none other than Callie Swainson, a fading star of the world of interactive computer/video gaming.

It is Lewis’s reaction to seeing and meeting Callie, this person “he knows but doesn’t know,” that made this story interesting to me. It certainly wasn’t a happy story, but I liked it.

I do not believe the story is available for free online anywhere, but the kindle version of the entire collection mentioned above is only $4.99. http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Futures-Tales-Dystopian-SF/dp/0982619723

What did you read this week? Any new good short story discoveries?


My own personal first experience with hydraulics was when I was (I think) eleven and my family bought some hydraulic jacks – similar to the one pictured below – for use on an extended summer camping trip. What an amazing, magical technology this seemed to me to be! Lifting the great weight of our pop-up camper so easily. 🙂



  1. March 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Sounds very Bladerunnerish. I’ve read two more, another by Orwell and one by Munro, but there’s no way I’m going to be able to connect them this time around.


    • Jay said,

      March 10, 2014 at 7:03 am

      Ha, yes, it has those elements, but trust me, detective Lewis is no Harrison Ford. 🙂

      I’m sure by next weekend you’ll have Orwell and Munro on speaking terms. 🙂


  2. Dale said,

    March 9, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Jay, I haven’t heard of Ekaterina Sedia before. But I liked your inclusion of the definition! A good dystopian story can be very enjoyable from time to time.


    • Jay said,

      March 10, 2014 at 7:05 am

      Her name had come up in at least one other place, and I knew she had a story in this anthology (which I’d bought on a lark a couple years ago) so I recruited her for DMI. I don’t regret it and would like to read more by her at some point.


  3. Candiss said,

    March 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Sounds interesting! I like my dystopian tales short, so I should definitely nab that collection.

    I have read three novels by E. Sedia – The Alchemy of Stone, (an unconventional automaton fantasy about a clockwork girl who becomes an alchemist…not my usual thing, but it was wonderful!) The House of Discarded Dreams (a very strange, surreal affair about a house that floats out to sea and has entire worlds develop within it…very, very weird, but the language is beautiful) and Heart of Iron (a sort-of steampunk young adult story set in alternate Russia…I read it for a group, and I didn’t really enjoy it. The story was too simple. I think Sedia was trying to keep her writing subdued and less strange and more conventional, and it was a bit dull to me.)

    Thanks for the heads-up on this collection!


    • Jay said,

      March 11, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Hi Candiss,
      A couple others that I’ve read in the collection weren’t that strong, but the price is reasonable at least. 🙂 I have at least one more from it coming up in this year’s DMI.

      I’ve had The Alchemy of Stone on my radar for awhile now, and have “heard good things” about it.

      A YA-Russian-Steam Punk story?! – sounds like a can’t miss (on the surface anyway)



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