Friday, August 12, 2016

Teenagers from Outer Space, by Dale Bailey

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(Historical SF) In 1955, Nancy's best friend Ellen dates a bad boy who introduces her to Bug Town, where aliens live. Nothing is the same after that. (11,690 words; Time: 38m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Award-Worthy
Recommended By: SFRevu:4

"," by , appeared in issue 119, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Each of the main characters follows a different path towards a different objective. Joan, the principal character, wants freedom from her overbearing father. She finds it. Nancy wants to protect Joan. She fails, but saves herself. The story's emotional impact comes from the loss she feels. Johnny seems bent on self-destruction. It finds him.

Once the story gets going, there's plenty of tension. We're sure someone is going to get killed, but we're not quite sure who or when.

Obviously there is a parallel between "Bug Town" and the "Colored Towns" that existed in most American towns back in the 50s and 60s, but that's not what this story is really about. First, the Bugs are never treated as inferior nor as second-class citizens. Second, Bug Town and its occupants really are alien and incomprehensible.

Whether the author intended it or not, Bug Town reads like a metaphor for drugs and drug culture. When you go there, you see and hear things. Things seem wonderful there. You can't get enough of it. Etc. In that reading, Johnny gets Joan addicted, but she dumps him for a real stoner when he tries to rape her. Nancy tries it, but manages to resist it. Joan and her boyfriend (and the rest of the druggies) leave town after Johnny gets killed, leaving their dying pot plants behind. Joan mourns her friend, never knowing what became of her.

Con: The first half of the story is rather slow. A very minor nit is that the aliens slur proper names but otherwise pronounce English perfectly.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. LOVE this one.

    I read the themes very differently than you do. But I agree--it's spectacular.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I'd love to hear your take on it.