Smashing Saturday Shorts (10)

Alien Monster, by Barry Alder

Summary: A man searches for salvation for the deeds he committed on an alien planet.

Thoughts: An interesting idea, and one that I’m sure everyone’s thought about at some time or another, at least in some regard. If it’s not aliens, it’s some other devastated culture or another.

I confess, I spent the first third of this short story mentally saying, “Go cry, emo kid,” to the main character, because as deep as I can appreciate his angst being, it doesn’t mean I want to read about it for 33.33% of the story. But after that, the story actually touches on some rather compelling questions, among which is, “Is humanity and all its violence actually terrible on a grand scale, or are we just so arrogant as to think that nobody could do worse than us?” And the issue of predestiny, and whether the universe as a whole is a sentient being. As short as this one is, it tackles some hard issues, and doesn’t leave you with any answers but instead lets you think about it for yourself and arrive at your own conclusions.

Toward the end, though, it does take a bit of a disturbing turn and starts to sound like it’s endorsing atrocity, in a sense of the ends justifying the means. Man is small and can’t see the big picture, but his genocidal actions benefited the universe because it assisted the goals of humanity. One hurts many because a larger group will benefit. It’s more than a little disturbing, and it seems to handwave the moral and emotional issues it brought up earlier by saying, “The universe wanted it to happen, and besides, we all get reborn anyway so what happens to us now just doesn’t matter.”

But as disturbing as that issue is, it’s a testament to the author that they were able to cram something so deep into so few words, and leave a lasting impact on the reader. Stories don’t have to feel good in order to be good, and I think that’s was the goal here. It is a good story. I recommend you take a look at it. It won’t take long to read, but it really does get you thinking.

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