I, Alien, page 1
Some people say probing other planets for intelligent life is an exciting, romantic job. As far as I’m concerned, that only goes to show they’ve never done it. Me, I do it for a living, and I’m here to tell you it’s nothing but a pain in the orifice. The air smells funny even when you can breathe it, the animals smell even worse (and taste worse than that, half the time), and even when we do find people, they’re usually backward as all get-out. If they weren’t, they would have found us, right? Right.
Down we went, into the atmosphere. Iffspay—he’s my partner—and I rolled dice to find out who got stuck wearing the calm suit. I give you three guesses. The calm suit we needed for this planet is the most uncomfortable one in the whole masquerade cabinet. It’s bifurcated at the bottom; it’s got tendrils near the top, and then an awkward lump at the very top. Guess who got to put it on. I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t Iffspay. I think he uses loaded dice. Before we could really start quarreling, the heat-seeker indicated a target. Three targets, in fact, grouped close together.
Trouble was, they were at the edge of a swamp. I worried that they might escape into the water or into the undergrowth, calm suit or no calm suit, before I could slap the paralyzer ray on them and we could antigravity them up into the ship. And if they did—if even one of them did—we’d have to go through this whole capture-and-release business somewhere else on the planet, too. Once was plenty. Once was more than plenty, as a matter of fact.
—From “Hi, Colonic” by Harry Turtledove
EDITED BY MIKE RESNICK
DAW BOOKS, INC.
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Copyright © 2005 by Mike Resnick and Tekno Books.
All Rights Reserved.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1326.
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INTRODUCTION by Mike Resnick
DIARY OF A GALACTIC ÉMIGRÉ by Laura Resnick
THE INJUSTICE COLLECTOR by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
CREATURE FOR HIRE by Paul L Martens
PEDAGOGY by Michael A Burstein
THE LAST WAVE by Kay Kenyon
THE EAGLE HAS LANDED by Robert J. Sawyer
CORRESPONDENCE WITH A BREEDER by Janis Ian
RESIDENT ALIEN by Barbara Delaplace
XENOFORMING EARTH by Tom Gerencer
THE SKEPTIC by Jennifer Roberson
NATURAL SELECTION by Laura Frankos
AORTIC INSUBORDINATION by Batya Swift Yasgur & Barry N. Malzberg
HARVESTING by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
WHAT MUST BE by Josepha Sherman
AND I WILL SING A LULLABY by Paul Crilley
AQUARIUS by Susan R. Matthews
FIRST CONTRACT by Linda J. Dunn
ANAKOINOSIS by Tobias S. Buckell
THRESHOLD by Terry McGarry
NOBODIES by Adrienne Gormley
THE LOAVES AND THE FISHES by John DeChancie
ALIEN GROUND by Anthony R. Lewis
HI, COLONIC by Harry Turtledove
ACTS by William Sanders
LIFE HAPPENS by Ralph Roberts
YOU by Anonymous (aka Stephen Leigh)
ME by Mike Resnick
INTRODUCTION by Mike Resnick
SCIENCE FICTION LOVES aliens. We’ve had cute aliens, frightening aliens, brilliant aliens, stupid aliens, friendly aliens, hate-filled aliens, lustful aliens, aliens who think and sound just like us, and aliens whom we will never begin to understand.
The true alien is a cipher that doesn’t serve much use in science fiction. If he exists—excuse me: if it exists—it probably breathes methane, excretes bricks, smells colors, reproduces by budding, and has totally different concepts (if it has any at all) of love, hate, fear, and pain.
So, very early on, science fiction writers learned to use aliens as metaphors for various aspects of the human condition—as a funhouse mirror they could hold up to humanity to examine whatever happens to be pleasing or annoying the writer that particular day.
The history of science fiction is filled with aliens, many of whom became more popular than the humans from the same stories. You can go all the way back to Tars Tarkas in the Martian stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs; the whole crew of Second Stage Lensmen in Doc Smith’s Lensman saga; Tweel in Stanley G. Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey”; and on through memorable and beloved aliens created by Eric Frank Russell, Roger Zelazny, Vonda Mclntyre, and dozens of others, right up to Chewbacca in the Star Wars saga.
Every science fiction writer has created aliens at one time or another. Even Isaac Asimov, who populated his robotic and Foundation futures with nothing but humans, eventually got around to it in The Gods Themselves. And certainly every writer in this book has created aliens in previous stories.
But this time we asked them to do something different. Remember that I said aliens were incomprehensible? Well, not anymore—because each author was asked to write a story in the first person of an alien. The aliens in these stories are not just the main characters; they’re the narrators.
Last year I edited Men Writing Science Fiction as Women and Women Writing Science Fiction as Men for DAW Books. Those were nice imaginative stretches, but nothing compared to the stretching the authors in this book were asked to do.
And, being science fiction writers, they succeeded in ways that surprised even the editor.
DIARY OF A GALACTIC ÉMIGRÉ by Laura Resnick
ALACTIC DATE: 17%.8*!0/MWUG PRETTY GIRL TUREEN
After a long and arduous journey during which I traveled five thousand light-years without a bathroom stop, I have arrived safely at my destination, code named “The Planet with Waffles” by the Interstellar Council on Covert Relocation (ICOCR). However, there were several mishaps during my voyage which made me fear I would not survive long enough to submit my application to the Bureau of Galactic Refugees, Escapees, and Synchronized Swimmers (BO-GRESS) for my Relocated Interstellar Fugitive benefits.
The catastrophic explosion of my transport vehicle’s sound system when I neglected to install proper safety devices before exposing it to With Wafflish music, code named “Britney Spears,” caused my navigational system to malfunction. Consequently, I am not in the designated landing zone, code named “City of Angels.” That destination was selected fo
Fortunately, however, despite this problem, I seem to have landed in a zone as benign as the designated one, this one being code named, according to my observations, “Sin City.” Despite causing some negligible destruction to indigenous machinery upon landing, my arrival attracted no serious attention and incited no comment beyond a few untranslatable exclamations from several natives making elaborate but incomprehensible gestures.
After emerging from my vehicle, I discovered that the transport pod’s molecular-restructuring device was damaged during landing and no longer functioned. To quote the most sophisticated philosopher whom I have encountered in my background reading on the Planet with Waffles: It’s always something. This mishap meant that I could not disguise the pod as a nuclear warhead, though I’d been informed that this was advisable in order to conceal evidence of my arrival and to protect the pod from discovery in the event of a laborious indigenous ritual, code named “UN weapons inspection.”
Eager to avoid exposure as a newly-arrived interstellar fugitive from injustice, I immediately adopted the personal demeanor which ICOCR advised me is appropriate on the Planet with Waffles, which is to say that I began wriggling and drooling whenever encountering native inhabitants. Concerned about my inability to camouflage my transport pod as planned, I have spent the past three planetary solar cycles discreetly observing it from a nearby vantage point, code named “Caesar’s Palace.” I am now convinced that the pod arouses no curiosity, suspicion, or agitation in the indigenous life-forms of this hot, arid, rather garish locale. I believe I can safely abandon it.
Admittedly, I was alarmed at one point when a native armed with a club, a projectile weapon, and restraints approached the pod and spent some time examining it. However, he merely made brief notations on a small piece of paper, which he then affixed to the pod, and he walked away and has not returned. Based on my information about With Wafflish customs, I believe he is offering me a written salutation or else giving me a personal voucher for monetary compensation.
With my demanding journey completed and my anonymous arrival confirmed to my satisfaction, I now turn my attention to fully assimilating myself into the world of Waffles.
GALACTIC DATE: CORFU &^3>9?=*4$=9 VER-VET MONKEY
I am, of course, merely guessing about the galactic date, since I have yet to find a quasar-cycled timekeeping matrix on this primitive planet. For the purpose of keeping an accurate record of my activities here, I have attempted to reprogram an arcane but readily-available informational system known as “Windows” to compute a galactic calendar by extracting what logical reference points it can from the localized sesquicentennial equinox balanced vertically against the ratio of the adjusted theoretical galactic axis to the mean acceleration of solar expansion.
To this end, I am encountering some technical difficulties.
GALACTIC DATE: ABORT, RETRY, FAIL
My caseworker at the ICOCR recommended the Planet with Waffles because of its obscurity in the galactic scheme of things. Her/his/its exact words were, “No sentient being will ever find you in that remote rear-liquid of a star system.” (I believe he/she/it meant “backwater,” but universal translation devices are notoriously literal.)
My caseworker evidently gave me good advice, since I have yet to spot a familiar race, let alone a seemingly intelligent one. Given the high price on my head back home, due to my fearless opposition of the Anti-Gravity Tax Penalty and my bold leadership of a rebellion which nearly brought down the government and all its hairdressers, I cannot risk coming into contact with any individuals who might recognize me, expose me, or send me back to the oppressive regime which has vowed to neuter me and take away my toys if I’m captured alive. (And what they’ve vowed to do to me if I’m captured dead is so cruel that I cannot bear to repeat it.)
Luckily, as my caseworker anticipated, my physiology ensures that I am so far passing as a native inhabitant of With Waffles. Unfortunately, however, With Wafflers seem to be a deeply suspicious race. Whenever I query individuals for information, they’re alarmed to the point of hostility.
GALACTIC DATE: BATTLE OF HASTINGS, JULY 4,1776
Yesterday, curious about the planet’s code name, I entered an establishment where the natives consume waffles. I was shouted at, pointed at, kicked, and then chased back outside while being assaulted with sturdy objects.
Given the peculiar (even vulgar, if I may be so blunt) appearance of most With Wafflers, I find this treatment puzzling. It’s clear that there is some manner in which I’m failing to assimilate. Unfortunately, my period of background reading and cultural instruction before coming here was limited, due to the haste with which I was obliged to flee my own planet—in my idealistic naiveté, I had never anticipated just how vindictive governmental hairdressers could be.
Anyhow, though I am speculating in an informational vacuum at the moment, observation has led me to wonder if I would encounter fewer difficulties among the With Wafflers if I covered my genitals, as so many of them do.
Of course, this notion may merely be a stress-response to my social and intellectual isolation on a primitive planet five thousand light-years from home.
Meanwhile, through further investigation, I discovered that partially used waffles are sometimes deposited in a receptacle code named “trash can.” Using stealth and cunning, I managed to acquire one of these . . . and must now report my puzzled disappointment. It’s rather like getting close enough to a spectacular nebula to discover that, in fact, it’s just space rubble.
Still lingering in the vicinity of Caesar’s Palace for the time being, I remain uncertain of my plans and increasingly confused about the actual date.
GALACTIC DATE: FILE 404, ERROR
Disaster! I have been seized by my enemies!
GALACTIC DATE: SLURP MURMTAG 17 MINUS Σ
According to the time-traveling Glamorgellian scientist in the cell next to mine, my captors are not, as I feared, mercenaries preparing to collect the bounty on my head by returning me to my home planet to face unspeakable punishment. Instead, it seems that my disguise has been too effective, in a manner of speaking, and I am now incarcerated as an indigent member of a native With Wafflish species, code named “man’s best friend.”
The victuals in this facility are tolerable, though far from exciting. My quarters are not uncomfortable, but the abundance of odors overwhelms my senses.
GALACTIC DATE: MOZART MOZZARELLA MUEZZIN MUZZLE
Captivity is proving to be surprisingly educational. The time-traveling Glamorgellian scientist, code named “Spot,” has been on the Planet with Waffles for seventeen centuries—or five minutes, or sixty-four metric tons, depending on which time-keeping system you use. In any event, an experienced veteran of this planet, he is a veritable font of information about it. However, he’s not sure of the galactic date either.
GALACTIC DATE: FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL STELLA 555-7413
According to Spot, I am physically identical in every way to a popular indigenous With Wafflish subspecies, code named “Golden Retriever.” Spot assures me that I was given good advice about the wriggling and drooling, but someone at ICOCR should have cautioned me against questioning the natives. My repeated attempts to communicate, in search of information, appear to be what attracted suspicion to me and led to my being incarcerated here. According to Spot, my conversational overtures were almost certainly misinterpreted as hostile, or at least annoying.
Additionally, I now learn, I was not given the requisite accessories, talismans code named “collar and tags,” which virtually all extraterrestrial species here need in order to move about witho
ICOCR is going to receive a very angry communication from me about this idiotic oversight.
Moreover, I’m not the only one. By now, I’ve recognized nearly twenty other sentient races imprisoned in this facility, most of them having arrived on this planet without suitable talismans, either.
Spot assures me, however, that I am likely to be released soon, thanks to a bureaucratic loophole, code named “adoption,” which is usually applied to members of my species. This is fortunate compared to his own situation. Spot tells me he resembles a Wafflish subspecies code named “bull terrier,” and consequently encounters not only legal difficulties wherever he goes, but also projectile weapons. Given that Glamorgellians developed time travel, inter-dimensional travel, and chew toys, I find the With Wafflish attitude to Spot’s race truly shocking. Spot, however, assures me that he’s accustomed to it after five minutes or seventeen hundred years or sixty-four metric tons, and has even grown to enjoy his sojourn on this planet. His assignment here, which he is currently wrapping up, has been to study the effects of global warming on processed organ meats in a carbon-based planetary system. So far, his findings are staggering in their galactic implications.
GALACTIC DATE: PUCE
According to the Shirulian explorer code named “Lassie” in the cell on my other side, our situation is more precarious than Spot or I realized. If we aren’t adopted within a specified number of solar cycles, we face execution.
This strikes me as a rather severe penalty for traveling without talismans.
When my caseworker at ICOCR warned me that the Planet with Waffles is a primitive, backward place, I should have taken her more seriously.
Fortunately, Lassie has a plan. There is a rebel group which she believes can be convinced to attack this facility and free us. Members of the current dominant species on this planet, they are sophisticated enough to oppose the execution policies which currently threaten our lives. Unfortunately, they are also too timid to act without sufficient influence from someone among us. However, Lassie, like all Shirulians, possesses telepathic abilities and—what luck!—has experience in astral projection. Under her influence, the rebels are expected to attack tonight.