In­vaders: 22 Tales From the Outer Lim­its of Lit­er­a­ture

Ja­cob Weis­man, edi­tor

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - PETER DABBENE

Tachyon Pub­li­ca­tions Soft­cover $16.95 (384pp) 978-1-61696-210-4

The sto­ries are what they need to be, and if that in­volves a dog­like alien’s word­less meet­ing with a shep­herd, so be it.

Ja­cob Weis­man set­tles—or per­haps pro­vokes— the de­bate about what con­sti­tutes lit­er­a­ture, and what rep­re­sents “genre fic­tion”–sci­ence fic­tion, in this case–in the story col­lec­tion In­vaders: 22 Tales from the Outer Lim­its of Lit­er­a­ture.

With a se­lec­tion of au­thors and sto­ries that don’t al­ways fit the tra­di­tional mold of sci­ence fic­tion, the ti­tle In­vaders is not so much rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the sto­ries con­tained within, but rather of the “out­sider” sta­tus of the au­thors. The list of con­trib­u­tors is im­pres­sive—jonathan Lethem, Kather­ine Dunn, Steven Mill­hauser, W. P. Kin­sella, and Junot Díaz, among many others—but these au­thors have made their names and rep­u­ta­tions in main­stream lit­er­a­ture, not sci­ence fic­tion.

Smartly, Weis­man ad­dresses the ele­phant in the room im­me­di­ately, with an in­sight­ful es­say about the blurred lines sep­a­rat­ing those

two some­times ar­bi­trary cat­e­gories. Then, it’s time to jump into the sto­ries them­selves, which vary in con­tent and style from the word­play of Amiri Baraka (“See, you’re in­tel­li­gent.[..] I’m out­tel­li­gent.”), to Mill­hauser’s trippy mock nonfiction, to Kin­sella’s bizarre and hu­mor­ous story of an alien who be­comes the Seat­tle Mariners’ mas­cot. There are also af­fect­ing sto­ries to be found, sto­ries that probe the fu­ture of hu­man­ity with imag­i­na­tion and com­pas­sion, such as Ju­lia El­liott’s “LIMBS” or Deji Bryce Oluko­tun’s stand­out “We are the Ol­fa­nauts”.

Be­cause of the book’s va­ri­ety, it de­mands a sense of open-mind­ed­ness to­ward what con­sti­tutes sci­ence fic­tion. But the writ­ing it­self is con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent, and oc­ca­sion­ally ex­quis­ite. There’s never a sense of these au­thors “slum­ming” in genre fic­tion sim­ply be­cause they can, or be­cause they were solicited for an an­thol­ogy con­tri­bu­tion; the sto­ries are what they need to be, and if that in­volves a dog­like alien’s word­less meet­ing with a shep­herd, so be it.

At its best, sci­ence fic­tion sur­passes sim­ple, con­ven­tional tales of “in­vaders from space.” With wry wit and sin­cere af­fec­tion, this col­lec­tion shows us that many times, the in­vaders not only have good in­ten­tions but also have much to share.

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