Aliens arrive on Earth but instead of saying “take me to your leader”, they say “I want a conversation with a normal person”. A familiar concept but slightly different.

Mal has been chosen for the task and an army of government advisors have tried to prepare her for the conversation she is supposed to have alone with the alien. Unsurprisingly, all the plans for getting the secrets to their propulsion system goes out the window when the alien steers the conversation at something completely different.

It is a nice little story about first contact expectations and what really matters in the universe. The meat of the story is the unique conversation Mal has with the alien, where Vaughn really captures the nervous ramblings that would be likely for any person in that situation. I liked how the story writes itself into tbe tradition of more positive first contact stories and aliens with a mostly information gathering motivation.

Read in Clarkesworld June 2023
Rating: 3+