Fiona Jones. Hello! Hello! Hello! (Clarkesworld Magazine, #210 March 2024)

I really don’t like reading fiction on a screen, despite a couple of attempts with an Amazon Fire tablet and a Kindle. Back in the halcyon days of my reading a lot of SF, there was just that something special about handling a magazine, especially the better produced ones. For a while I was getting printed versions of Clarkesworld Magazine from Amazon UK, and they were things of beauty. Mind you, a few copies of F&SF had to be carefully handled when I was reading them on my morning commute on the train, as the cover illustrations were sometimes quite naff.

Anyoo, alls of this by way of an introduction to the fact that I read a short SF story in a current SF magazine, on a screen. And, somewhat bizarrely, it was at 3am a couple of nights ago. The story is online and PLEASE DO READ IT BEFORE GOING ANY FURTHER. My ability to fall asleep is legendary, and even now that I’m of an age that a couple of trips to the toilet during the night is a thing, I do generally drop off back to sleep in a trice. Not so the other night, and I blame that to an excess of chocolate Easter egg and simnel cake, a can of a Norther Monk DIPA, and a lamb tagine consumed on Easter Sunday. With my phone next to me with the alarm set, I found myself sitting up in bed and reading this story, by an author new to me. And the fact that she is an author new to me is no surprise, as it is her first published story, which bodes well for her.

It reminded me a little of Kij Johnson’s ‘Spar’ which was a Nebula Award winner and which appeared in Clarkesworld w-a-y back in 2009. 15 years ago, really, how is that even possible?

Not mahoosive amounts of alien sex, but in a deep space contact between a human and a very alien alien (Johnson’s human-alien interfacing was definitely a thing). The alien is the protagonist, and it is a creature evidently of little physical substance, enabling it to explore the small, strange circular thing that is drifting through space. We follow the alien’s thought processes as it tries to make sense of this very, very sold thing, which it explores and finds out is actually home to another strange, solid thing inside it.

It’s a great POV character, and a great First Contact story, albeit a strange one as the human (we assume it is a human) perspective of the contact isn’t really there.

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