Short Stories by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Monday’s short fiction is from the 2014 Campbellian Anthology, as I slowly make my way through the alphabet.

The Wanderers

Published: February 2013 in Clarkesworld

Genre: science fiction

Length: 8 pages

Setting: a future Earth

Summary: Aliens come to Earth after watching our entertainment. They know we’ll appreciate their ability to dominate and torture, based on all the movies they’ve watched. We’re doing a great job of hiding from them (as piles of ash that only one of the aliens realizes used to be people), but that just means Earth was the perfect place for them to come. They needed a challenge, after all, and their own subjects were boring and died without trying to fight back.

Final thoughts: This one was creepy. We’ve got aliens that think humanity likes torture and violence and horror, since that’s what our entertainment was all about. Of course, be careful around the cars. They must be weapons since they’re always exploding when they crash, which doesn’t match the physics of what should happen. The aliens kept making reference to classic movies that fit the situation (“…more like The Road or I Am Legend, only not like those at all because there was not even one of you left and no monsters in the shadows”). Turns out we killed all of humanity before the aliens could come and do it for us, and the aliens don’t realize it yet.

Title comes from: the aliens were the wanderers, looking for a good planet to inhabit and dominate

The Siren

Published: April 2013 in Strange Horizons; there’s also a podcast of the story

Genre: fantasy

Length: 12 pages

Setting: it felt like suburban California, present day

Summary: Mina shows up one day at Jen’s house. Her mom met her in Greece and invited her home. There’s something odd about her, starting with the bones poking through at her shoulder blades and continuing with the song she sings whenever she’s near the water. Turns out she’s a siren and, although not actively trying to harm Jen and her mother, her song drives them to nearly drowning. Jen decides to help Mina by crafting new wings for her, which sends her to a career of sculpting.

Final thoughts: While not as creepy as the previous story, this one was still quite depressing. None of the characters were particularly happy with their lives. Jen seemed to help the most – the wings she made for Mina did improve her life, and eventually her mom got over her dad’s death. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as The Wanderers.

Title comes from: Mina was a siren.

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