“The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Science Fiction, October/November 2011).
Almost done with all of the short fiction Nebula nominees…
Kij Johnson’s stuff is usually awesome (who can forget “Spar”?), and I like this one as well. The novella is an interesting selection for Asimov’s: it hovers half way between fantasy and science fiction.
The hero of this story is the lead architect for a suspension bridge over a river of “mist” that will connect a divided Empire. In so doing, he (and we) learn that a great engineering project like this knits together not only iron, stone, and rope, but also the people who work on it. In changing the landscape and the flow of trade and goods, the bridge also alters the lives of the people around it irrevocably.
I like the way the precise nature of the mist is never made clear: is it magical or just some kind of physical matter we don’t understand? Such questions are beside the point.