A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day nine – The Zero Meter Diving Team

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day nine – The Zero Meter Diving Team, by Jim Shepard

Read it online here:

The Zero Meter Diving Team

Mendacity. That’s a word I’ve thought about a lot ever since I first heard it as a kid – from the movie version of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” of course.

Mendacity means lying. But to me it has always meant something a little different – a little more. Mendacity is that kind of lying that is so central to the way you live your life that you actually come to believe what you are lying about.

Sort of like The Emperor’s New Clothes. I always thought that the people wanted so badly to believe that they are deserving that they actually came to believe the emperor was clothed. The part of the story they never tell you is that after the little kid spilled the news that the emperor was naked, he, and his entire family, were arrested, tortured, and executed – then every evidence that they ever existed was destroyed.

Today’s story, The Zero Meter Diving Team tells of a society full of mendacity. Mendacity, toadyism, nepotism, and incompetence. The result of all this dysfunction is something a lot more terrible that a naked emperor.

We all lived under the doctrine of ubiquitous success. Negative information was reserved for the most senior leaders, with censored versions available for those lower down. Nothing instructive about precautions or emergency procedures could be organized, since such initiatives undermined the official position concerning the complete safety of the nuclear industry. For thirty years, accidents went unreported, so the lessons derived from these accidents remained with those who’d experienced them. It was as if no accidents had occurred.

I’m glad I found this story – I have discovered an author that I want to read some more. In The Zero Meter Diving Team he has done more than his share of historical research and it feels real. Placing a fictional story in a setting where well-known events are occurring has the challenge to make sure the horrific crisis doesn’t overshadow the human drama.

And it doesn’t.