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The Lantern | Exurb2a

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updated 02 Aug 2023

"The Lantern" is a science fiction short story from Exurb1a's sister channel Exurb2a that explores themes of fate, time travel, and choices.

The Lantern

Key Points from "The Lantern"

  1. The Setting and Protagonist: The story is set on a waypoint station orbiting a planet called Sundansk. The protagonist is a tired and somewhat disenchanted worker on the station.

  2. Introduction of the Lantern: The protagonist encounters a mysterious creature known as the "lantern" in a bar on the station. The lantern is an otherworldly being with scaled skin, enormous eyes, and tentacle-like appendages.

  3. True Names and Knowledge: The lantern possesses the ability to know the true names of everything in the universe, including planets, objects, and people. These true names hold essential information about the nature, age, and fate of each entity.

  4. Ether Space Travel: The lantern explains that in the future, starships travel through ether space, a region where time and duration lose their conventional meanings. Special beings called "lanterns" stay awake during these journeys to guide the ships through the complexities of ether space.

  5. Temporal Paradox and Predictions: The lantern reveals that it can see both the past and the future, and it predicts the protagonist's fate. This introduces the concept of a fixed future, leading to a discussion of whether the future is changeable or predetermined.

  6. Recruitment and Initiation: The lantern invites the protagonist to become a lantern as well. This would involve undergoing a transformation on Earth and then guiding starships through ether space. The protagonist initially declines due to a lack of interest in leaving their current life.

  7. Perspective on Life and Choices: The lantern's knowledge of the future highlights the protagonist's discontent and missed opportunities. The story prompts reflection on the importance of pursuing true passions and not letting fear dictate life choices.

  8. The Nature of Time: The lantern emphasizes that time is an unchangeable entity and that future events are fixed. This concept challenges the protagonist's belief in free will and introduces a sense of inevitability.

  9. Acceptance and Transformation: Despite the protagonist's initial reluctance, the lantern reveals that it has lied about the outcome. The protagonist will ultimately choose to join the lanterns and embark on a new path.

Lessons from "The Lantern":

Overall, "The Lantern" explores philosophical and existential concepts through the lens of science fiction, inviting readers to contemplate the nature of time, fate, and personal agency.