EP161: Alien Promises

By Janni Lee Simner.
Read by Anna Eley.
First appeared in Bruce Coville’s Book of Aliens II, ed. Bruce Coville.

Jenny was silent for a while. “Promise me something?” she finally asked. “If they ever come for you, promise you’ll let me know?”

“Why?” I had trouble believing Jenny really wanted to leave. Maybe this was all some sort of joke.

“Just promise,” Jenny said.

“No.” Even if she was serious, Jenny was the last person I wanted following me into space.

Jenny took a deep breath. “I’ll tell you, too. If they ever come for me.”

Rated G. This is a young adult SF story.

Referenced Sites:
Secret of the Three Treasures by Janni Lee Simner
Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
Tale Chasing – Urban Fantasy podcast

Comments (34)

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  1. […] June 6, 2008 Listen to it at Escape Pod. […]

  2. Storman_Norm says:

    When I heard this was a yound adult story my heart sank a bit. I thought that this genre is already covered by Clonepod, but in the end I enjoyed the story. The idea behind the story, alien belivers forming a secret society of sorts, is original and fresh. As always, Steve does a great job offering diverse stories every week. Anna’s voice fits the story perfectly. Steve, the story makes sense to me and was plausible in a social sense to me. Great job all around.

  3. Tyson of the NorthWest says:

    I listened to in on mass transit this morning on my way to work. I enjoyed the story. Props to Anna, at first I wasn’t sure if her voice was right for the character but I think she pulled it off well.

    As I was walking the 12 blocks to work the story wrapped and for the last sentience I laughed, then started crying and couldn’t stop until the promo.

    Now, as I am surrounded by a family, clan, and lovers of my choosing inside me is still the twelve year old boy sitting alone on the playground with a Bruce Coville book, dreaming of leaving. And beliving no one would miss me.

  4. cede says:

    really enjoyed this, i still have that lonely feeling but i don’t want to go anywhere. i like the thought of walking barefoot on the beach or lying on the ground staring at the sky but i’m rather petrified of things lurking there, those cringeworthy spider arms

  5. Seamus says:

    I have a new favorite short story.
    I listened to it. I cried. I listened to it again.
    I’ve been a podcast listener for less than a year so far. This is the first story I’ve heard narrated by Ana. I hope to hear more soon.

  6. araña says:

    Is it so wrong to still want to leave?

    But still be within reach of Anna Eley’s wonderful voice.

    One of the BEST outtros you’ve done, Steve. Kudos, O podcasting master.

  7. Vance M. says:

    Not one of my favorite stories. I’d give it a “meh” on the shoulder shrug scale.

  8. Daniel Cotton says:

    I liked the theme. I’d like to point out that loneliness isn’t just something that can seem like an illness sometimes. It can be an actual illness, severe loneliness is a form of depression. So, if you ever find yourself thinking “they’re just lonely” please think again just to be sure.

    As for the story, good message about reaching out to your fellows and sharing your hopes and dreams. If you keep them to yourself then no one will ever help you achieve them.

    A little more worrying from the Young Adult point of view is the other message: ‘keep your promises and you may miss out on what you desire most of all.’ When the aliens flew off without her, the first thing that sprung to my mind was: “that’s what you get for doing the right thing. And it sucks!” However I also felt that the character (and I) would try and keep out next promise despite the disappointment.

  9. Jacob says:

    This one made me cry, thanks for the reminder. We are not alone; I don’t care how many times I hear it I still seem to need to hear it again.

  10. scatterbrain says:

    This was alright, but it didn’t make go wow like Friction(but I don’t think I’ll be touched like that ever again).

  11. Connor Moran says:

    My experience of listening to stories like this while doing some household chores suggests a new subtitle for Escape Pod.

    Escape Pod: Why I Cry While Doing The Dishes

  12. […] everyone’s favorite science fiction short story podcast Escape Pod is the young adult story Alien Promises by Janni Lee Simner. It’s read by Anna Eley, wife of Escape Pod Editor-In-Chief Steve […]

  13. tim callender (babylonpodcast) says:

    Fantastic story! Tyson covered all the points I would have made, so I won’t be repetitious. But I will say that this is exactly the kind of uplifting story SF can provide. Thanks, Steve!

  14. Tim Carter says:

    Loved the story!

    I could really relate to the story since I was the geeky kid in school that loved to read. While elementary school wasn’t really cliquish, I would cut off both legs before I would repeat high school. So the alienation (no pun intended) experienced by the main character really hit home.

    On the other hand, it also shows that you couldn’t possibly imagine what things others are thinking, especially those you think you could never have anything in common with. People can be very good at hiding their true feelings or what they really think.

    And, cheers to Anna, who did an amazing job voicing the story. She even sounded like a 12 year old would! So Steve, let her out of the closet more often. Just take a break and play with the kid, or something.

    Just kidding. I LOVE YOU, MAN!

  15. Tim Carter says:

    Hey, I finally caught up with the latest story.

    Now, I’m off to Pseudopod to play catch-up over there!

  16. Sushma says:

    Looks like I am the contrarian here. It worked for me till the aliens showed up. They were sooooo uninteresting, and didn’t quite justify Jenny’s belief in them. their appearance was anti-climactic, and I didn’t really care that all these other people showed up.

    I should have loved that story, I really wanted to- anyone who hated high school should.

    I liked Anna’s reading though, it was very expressive, though it took a little getting used to at first.

  17. Anna says:

    Steve – just wanted to stop in and give kudos to Anna’s narration. Like a previous commenter, I wasn’t sure her voice would work, but at the end I realized it was perfect. I loved how her voice seemed to capture the youthfulness of the character and then seemed to mature as the character did.

    Also, I loved the quote for this week. It touched me.

  18. I want to be really annoyed by the predictable moralistic blah that is this story. I mean, I am. I just feel like I’m being a grumpy old person for saying it.

    The last sentence almost redeems it… but not quite.

    To Sushma- the aliens were uninteresting because they weren’t the point- just a thinly veiled plot device to help the narrator realize that the people around her were interesting.

    And, before anyone admonishes me about not understanding or whatever, I WAS that kid back in my teenage years. I was that kid up until pretty recently, and I’m 32. I just don’t need to be hit over the head with it, is all.

    So, a solid “meh” from me on the story. Anna’s reading was well done.

    Keep ’em coming, and I’ll keep listening.

    Off to download Snow Crash- Steve, ya finally talked me into it!

  19. Hey, you know what I was just thinking earlier that I’d love to hear on EP that I haven’t heard (or read) in a long time? Some psionics. Not psychics, mind you, but psionics. Like, some Andre Norton style, spacers with psi-dampening helmets and laser rifles, or whatever. Something cool.

    Anybody with me on this one?

  20. Paul Fischer says:

    Yeah! Anna is back! I love Anna stories!

  21. Audita Sum says:

    Story made me cry for some reason. I guess I can relate. I used to be that awkward book kid, and I still sort of am.

  22. Sushma says:

    Dave, not to be churlish, but what the hell… I KNOW the aliens aren’t the point, and that is why it made the story kind of predictable, and it didn’t get beyond- ‘but we are all lonely together’ platitude. Decent aliens would have given it a much needed twist.

  23. Martin R says:

    Is it possible to read this story as chronicling a girl’s descent into psychosis or adolescent entry into drug culture?

  24. Jack Thompson says:

    I may well be lambasted for saying this, but I couldn’t listen to this story. Five minutes in, and Anna’s accent had grated on my ears enough that I simply had to pull my headphones out.

  25. Dray says:

    Anna’s voice was a good sound for a girl that age and also the same character older. The part where the aliens do show up is predictable and very cliche…and they are supposed to be. That way, when she doesn’t do what you would expect any of us BEM-heads would do and keeps her promise, it provides the right sort of twist for the story. And the part about building a ship adds a lot to it.

  26. Aussie Dad says:

    For someone who was that lonely kid, the longing for alien rescue and the eventual discovery that there are hundreds of people just like you who will care for you both resonated strongly.

    And yes, Dray, Anna’s voice was PERFECT for this part. Good job, Anna.

  27. Mike says:

    The story verged on formulaic, but the reading was great. I thought Anna did a great job. Anna, please read some of the grown-up stories! Sure, you’re a natural for kids’ stories, but I think you’d do really well with the grown-up kind, too.

    On a more general note, Steve, I like how you’ve started volunteering little tidbits about how you found each story. That’s interesting to me.

  28. Changwa Steve says:

    A sweet, simple story that reminds me of Ray Bradbury before he turned bitter. I kind of had some dust in my eye towards the end. Ok, in both of my eyes.

  29. OriNebula says:

    I loved the story since as a kid I always dreamed and hoped for the same dream for many of the same reasons and would have left without a 2nd thought. I generally don’t care for young adult stories since I didn’t really care for my teenage years. But for that very reason this story said a lot to me – a lot that I could never put it into words – but from some of the other posts I see here, I don’t think I need to – I’m not alone. I think it also touched me because I’m afraid that when my son is that age, he’ll wind up on the same emotional roller coaster I took and I want to make sure he knows too, you are not alone.

    Quick comment on Daniel’s comment about keeping promises – I’m not convinced they would have taken her if she hadn’t kept her promise – she wouldn’t have been worthy.

  30. Nora says:

    A Web of Trust that Marcus Yallow could be proud of.

  31. Like many others, I want to give Anna Eley a compliment on her narration skills. I thought she captured the teenage soul quite well.

  32. […] Pod begins this month with “Alien Promises” by Janni Lee Simner. This is a YA story that starts off being about the perceived loneliness […]

  33. Mike G says:

    This one did not do it for me. I saw what the reader was trying to do with the pubescent teenage girl with braces voice, and she managed it well – but the problem is that is one of the more grating, irritating characters to listen to, even when voiced accurately – especially when voiced accurately. No thanks.

  34. Fred McDonald says:

    Oddly enough, we listened to this one on the way back from a convention! That promise lives — ask those of us who come back to the cons over and over again and particularly in the staff who make it happen. I didn’t cry during the story, but that ending quote certainly made me tear up a bit. (Not the best thing to do while driving, mind you!)