This story is very typical Analog. NASA is testing its very early stages of an asteroid defense system – the DART system (this mission actually happened recently), but during the test they discover something that looks like an artificial structure. After ruling out China and Elon Musk it is clear it must be aliens. NASA prepares a mission to check it out. Who will go and what will they find? The story is mostly light in tone and the discovery is amusing but a little overly positive.
I did find it odd how Oltion apparently felt the need to add a few bashes at American politicians. There is literally a congressman saying:
“… but if we approve this boondoggle, we’ll be sending a man up there. A white man”.
With how things are going this is probably pretty realistic, but just seems offbeat to add weird things like that in a story that is about something totally different.
The story has more than few nods to Contact with similar obstacles for the female astronaut to be the one to go on the mission, but this short story doesn’t provide nearly enough depth to the cardboard villains to make it even worth adding in the first place.
This novella is about genemods which Kress more or less made her writing career on. In this story gene modifications are still in the early stages, but a rogue group have successfully modified babies with a gene that make them more empathic. What I found interesting with this story is the perspective it is told from. Not directly from those involved with the gene modifications, but here from a manager of an actress preparing for her role in a movie about the first kids with this empathic gene. This is what Kress does best with these kind of stories, telling it from a more indirect angle. Following the consequences of new developments in research rather than the actual inventions. As the story goes, the manager and the actress gets more directly involved as things spiral out of control.
Even though the story is well written and the plot flow nicely, I did feel like some parts of the stories were a little constructed. Like the main character is a dwarf and has a broken relationship in the past involving a non-dwarf kid. All this of course makes a nice parallel to the gene modifications that are central to the story, but it is also a bit too neat.
Read in Galaxy’s Edge July & September 2022 Originally published in Asimov’s March 2009 ISFDB Link Rating: 3+
I have been reading science fiction for far too many years without reading Robert Sheckley. The first story in the collection Untouched by Human Hands sets the tone for what to expect from Sheckley. “The Monsters” is a story from 1953 that subverts the usual tropes of the genre by telling a first contact story from the aliens perspective.
A reptilian-like race observers a rocket landing on the surface and strange bipedal creatures exits the ship. The aliens refer to themselves as humans and the Earth-humans as monsters, but it is clear for the reader what is going on. Through casual conversations among the reptile aliens we get a sense of what kind of society they have, their moral values and how the interpret the actions of the visting “monsters”. Sheckley’s writing is very clear and to the point, but still conveys a lot of information.
For a modern reader the plot and the concept of challenging our moral values with an outside look might not seem that original here 70 years later, but I still think Sheckley’s writing is above many authors of the present. It is clear without being dumbed down and has a lot of satirical subtext without being pretentious. Highly recommended.