|Art by Joey Jordan|
“Local Senior Celebrates Milestone” by Matthew Claxton (2013 words)
No Spoilers: Millie just turned 110. Good genes, right? Well, that might be closer to the truth than it might seem at first glance. Because Millie isn’t like most hum—er, people. Like most people. No, she’s got a secret that she been hiding for a hundred and ten years, through trials and tribulations, through loss and love and life and death. The piece makes great use of casting a little old lady who seems the picture of innocence and revealing her to be something else entirely, a move made even more effective by how you might find yourself rooting for her, even when her mission isn’t exactly benign. It’s a piece that skirts humor with its premise but delivers a rather emotionally powerful impact and a bit of twisted fun.
Keywords: Aliens, Infiltration, Hybrids, Family, Interviews, Birthdays
Review: I love the way the story builds its two pictures of Millie, one where she’s a harmless old woman and the other where she’s the agent of a sort of alien invasion, a hybrid brought up to infiltrate humanity to make it ready for the coming of her people. It might seem like a ridiculous or humorous idea, but in practice the story keeps things grounded to the very real life that Millie has lived. The risks she taken, the hopes she had, the balance of trying to pass for human while remaining true to her alien heritage, the parts of herself that she’s never allowed to share with anyone but others like herself. Like with the husband she lost, and the children who are losing interesting in invasion in the face of a long quiet from the homeworld and what is probably a growing investment in Earth. And I connect with that feeling that she has, of nearing exhaustion and despair, of suspecting that maybe all her life has been spent in devotion to a mission that is never going to be realized. And yet she remains looking forward, knowing that life isn’t about winning or losing, but about the journey and the people along the way. Not that a little winning would be a bad thing. Well, unless you’re a human. And it’s a fun and surprisingly moving story about life and age and change, and riding that wave until it reaches the shore or dumps you into the drink. A great read!
“How Rigel Gained a Rabbi (Briefly)” by Benjamin Blattberg (3326 words)
No Spoilers: Dov is a Rabbi on his way to teach some children at a distant station when his ship takes him off course to investigate a distress call, something he’s not so keen on but that’s required by law. It brings him into debate time and again, first with the ship’s AI, then with an alien he meets above the planet he arrives at, and finally on the planet itself, with those who but out the call. The piece is fun and funny, with Dov the long-suffering teacher trying to reach his destination and continually blown off course. Meeting those whose situation has mirrored some of the Jewish history of being persecuted for being different. And doing the right thing even when he doesn’t really want to, because it’s unpleasant, but always remaining the teacher, taking whatever chance he can to maybe change a few minds and make the universe a more understanding and safer place for all people.
Keywords: Jewish MC, Aliens, Teaching, CW- Genocide, Distress
Review: I love the voice of the story, how everything here is filtered through Dov’s particular perception, translated into his way of seeing the world. The way that the aliens are “translated” into the speech patterns that he’s familiar with, which helps to give him added insight into the meaning of their words, and their intentions, because the subtle ways people communicate comes through here, and Dov doesn’t miss his opportunity to use that, to use that he’s getting in many ways a more profound translation. And it does give the piece a lighter air, despite the fact that it’s taking on some very dark and serious subject matter, evoking the often brutal and horrendous ways that Jews have been persecuted on Earth. What actually draws Dov into the plot personally is his sense of compassion and understanding for people who are facing genocidal violence. Even so, the tone remains full of humor, full of a certain kind of ridiculous that makes the story easier to handle and digest. It’s a neat bit of work, wrapping up a situation that is fairly textbook alien diplomacy (as out of Star Trek or something like that) and adding this distinctly Jewish take on it. The result is something that I smiled all the way through, that’s charming and just a bit silly for all that it’s also deathly serious as well. A wonderful read!