Review: Nothing Goes to Waste by Hugh Howey
Science fiction is often about technology and I enjoy that, but some of the best science fiction is about something more grounded. It's about the way people act and how they might act in situations different from now. That is often technology. "Nothing Goes to Waste" is a short story by Hugh Howey that explores the limits people will reach when they need to be the best, especially if they didn't previously believe that was possible.
"Nothing goes to Waste" it is the story of a character who was small and disrespected and bullied because of that, but who learns that she can become a jockey. Something she believes may please her father who has never respected her in part because of her size and in part because she isn't a boy.
In this case she isn't riding horses she is riding Theryls which are faster, but also largely effected by weight so they can measure the cost of every ounce in time. So the less someone weighs the more valuable they are which creates the primary conflict of this story.
The character does the normal things you might expect from someone who is trying to weigh as little as possible which is starving herself. But it doesn't stop there. As the story goes nothing goes to waste so, with the help of the owners she works for she removes everything that isn't necessary. This includes having muscles removed because that aren't needed. In the end it goes even further than that looking for that last tenth of a second that can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The story is short and with thought a person can think of fairly simple solutions to the question. Simply add more weight to the Theryls if the jockey doesn't weigh a certain amount. But that isn't the point, and the people in charge wouldn't care enough to change their sport to do this. The point is that trying to be perfect by giving up everything is just as wasteful as many other things and it is well told, creating an interesting character with an interesting point of view in a short amount of space, though, like other stories by Hugh Howey it is barely science fiction.