earth intruders

Great science-fiction short from The New Yorker. I’m a sucker for strange and concise fables that don’t bother to explain themselves, all the more so if they have a philosophical dimension – hence my love for Delany and Borges and Poe. Of course, I’ll also take my fiction strange and sprawling.  But this Millhauser guy does a lot of things well. This paragraph, for instance:

We had wanted, we had wanted—oh, who knew what we’d been looking for? We had wanted blood, crushed bones, howls of agony. We had wanted buildings crumbling onto streets, cars bursting into flame. We had wanted monstrous versions of ourselves with enlarged heads on stalklike necks, merciless polished robots armed with death rays. We had wanted noble lords of the universe with kind, soft eyes, who would usher in a glorious new era. We had wanted terror and ecstasy—anything but this yellow dust. Had it even been an invasion? Later that afternoon, we learned that scientists all agreed: the dust was a living thing. Samples had been flown to Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C. The single-celled organisms appeared to be harmless, though we were cautioned not to touch anything, to keep the windows shut, to wash our hands. The cells reproduced by binary fission. They appeared to do nothing but multiply.

The final paragraph is also terrific – but posting it would be pretty rude, right?

EDIT: “This Millhauser guy” has apparently won a Pulitzer (for Martin Dressler), and wrote the story that became The Illusionist. Minus ten for the aspring lit maven.


~ by staticandme on February 5, 2009.

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