“The Devil Squid Apocalypse” by Alex Acks (7024 words)
No Spoilers: Marcy isn’t exactly a typical guitarist in a punk band. She’s old, brown, ace-aro, and has pain issues from an adolescence and early adulthood cleaning houses and a lifetime of working too hard for too little. But, out of work and without much in the way of prospects, when a neighbor kid starts up a band, she gets involved part because it pays and part because it’s something to do. Which is how she ends up on stage when the world is invaded by aliens. The story is weird and has a great energy to it, capturing a healthy helping of that punk spirit while offering up a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and a situation where the stakes are high indeed. It’s a story that walks a fine line between fun and devastating, between funny and shatteringly depressing. In the end it provides something not quite light enough to be a romp, but kick-ass all the same, and it’s one hell of a ride.
Keywords: Music, Aliens, Invasions, Queer MC/Characters, Resistance
Review: Truly Marcy is the hero we need rather than the hero we deserve. Her sheer done-with-this-shit TIRED is something I both feel and am here for. The plot is just wild, and I love the twists and turns, the way that it’s actually a very grim story with a lot of death and indeed the enslavement of all of humanity, but it never feels all that terrible. And maybe that’s because the story frames it in the context of the things that Marcy has already survived, has already dealt with. She’s a survivor, holding on because other people don’t expect her to, because what she knows above everything else is that you have to help people, have to try and reach out, to save what you can, or else you’re only a part of the problem. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re tired and it seems like all you’re doing is putting off the inevitable crushing end that comes to everyone. Because it certainly seems like that kind of kindness is bailing out a sinking ship, never able to really turn the tide so that things can be put to right. Even in the midst of an alien invasion, when people should figure out how to come together, Marcy can’t stop people from toadying up to the alien aggressors, can’t stop collaborators or those who will take any opportunity to sell their souls. But what she can do is fight anyway. For herself, and her friends, and even those assholes who don’t want it. Because that’s how she was raised, and that’s how she knows to be.
And really this is just a wonderful story of resistance and what it means to be punk. Really punk, and not the bullshit, whitewashed, monetized version of punk. It means giving a big middle finger to authority, but it also means working for something better. It’s not just disobedience and rage, regardless of what the band’s leader kind of endorses. It’s about purpose and frustration that world isn’t what these people want it to be. It’s full of corruption and violence and fear and punk is a push back against that, a call not for more mindless violence but rather to spit in the eye of fear and do the right thing regardless. To fight. To make loud music to wake people out of their compliance and collaboration. To start shit, even when you’re old and your bones ache and your back is fucked and your friends are just as much a mess as you are. For all that punk stresses individual expression, it’s also about collective effort to not back down. So that Marcy and her found family can figure out a way not just to resist but to overthrow their oppressors, using the same corruption that kept the aliens in power in order to bring the whole house of cards crashing down. It’s vibrant, it’s brash, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Definitely make the time to read this one—it’s fantastic!