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EP208: An Almanac for the Alien Invaders

By Merrie Haskell

Read by Sarah Tolbert

Previously appeared in Asimov’s.

In January, there will be an annular solar eclipse, with the path of annularity moving through the Indian Ocean and into Sumatra and Borneo. Two days later, aliens will invade Earth.

No spaceships will loom large in blue skies, nor hover over our cities. At night, though, when we see blinking dots of light near the horizon, as small and pale as any star, we’ll think they’re planes or satellites of human origin. They won’t be. These are alien ships, come for conquest.

That is all we can see. What we hear is just as faint and difficult to resolve: we hear rumors. Or rather, one persistent rumor: “the aliens want volunteers.”

Naturally, I and my junior faculty friends need to drink quantities of beer to discuss this in detail. I expound that it’s a hoax.

Rated PG-13 for adult concepts and alien recruiters.

Comments (26)

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  1. Brave Space Monkey says:

    Slow start, but strong and thoughtful finish.

    A quiet end to the world we know, doesn’t make for a summer blockbuster. That’s alright, there’s more to life than explosion and ninjas and stuff…

  2. phignewton says:

    this story bugs me on so many levels… Social destruction occurs when outside technology and market forces are imported, not when bits of rock and shit are packed up and hauled off… objects have very little to do with our current culture unless they’re shiny and can access wireless networks. Go ahead, take the damn pyrimids! see if we care!

  3. Jennifer says:

    Very intriguing story, I couldn’t break away. I mean this literally because I needed to go run errands and couldn’t until the story ended.

  4. JC says:

    i liked how timeline events in the story were told in “future tense.” Forced my listener’s perspective out of its comfort zone. Good story and great narration.
    Thanks for making me actually look forward to my commute, EscapePod!

  5. David says:

    The outro on apocalypse seemed more in keeping with horror than any other genre. Though I thouroughly agree with them.

    I enjoyed this perspective on a large scale invasion and forcible cultural conversion.

  6. MasterThief says:

    In case of alien invasion, shoot all the anthropology professors first.

  7. [...] Fiction: Listen to “An Almanac for the Alien Invaders” by by Merrie Haskell at Escape [...]

  8. Gia says:

    This story was somewhere between blah and whiney. I wasn’t convinced that she had a good reason for doing it (besides “I lost my husband and my job and now I’m sad”) so all I got was her stealing artifact just as something to do with her mopey, blase life.
    What really annoyed me was how nobody was fighting it. There were no conflicts with the aliens and no resistance movements and nobody tries to stop them as they take the artifacts. There isn’t even a riot besides the one in April (and that was before the invasion was in full swing). All we get are a few guilty consciences. That’s it?
    One more thing. Why did they go out of their way to mention that the aliens had boobs? It didn’t add anything to the story and it just distracted me.

  9. scatterbrain says:

    I thought it was quite good; in fact, I think it could have been longer, a novel if Haskell could do it.

  10. Poppa Cap says:

    This ranks up there with some of the best I’ve ever heard from Escape pod.

    Though I found some of the dialogue preachy and whiny. I thought it to be wonderfully well written and read. It also brought up a intriguing topic to me, how would the Euro-centric/Western world (Who have never really have been conquered, except by each other) react to such a task of dismantling the their culture for the display of others?

    All around an extremely well built story, that has my brain turning with possibilities

  11. Ken_K says:

    Hard to believe that this story was published by Asimov’s too. This post modernist experimental fiction stuff is getting kinda tedious. Just sayin’…

  12. Caises alot of questions…

    Enslavement of mankind. Humans who donated themselves for medical experimentation. Colonists off to who knows where. Disassembling the armies of Earth. Taking the art and monuments. Sounds like To Serve Man!

  13. BingoRage says:

    Bipedal, bilaterally symmetrical hominoid aliens with breasts – BS
    We’ll give your junk back in 3000 years. – BS
    Generous alien retirement plan – BS

    Something else is going on.

  14. cant believe says:

    I am a little disturbed about the political message in this story which seems to be pro colonialism.

    Did no one else pick up on the message that the story seemed to preach that its alright for an outside civilization (or corporation) to basically take whats not theirs as long as we receive some minor medical benefits because in the end we will all be forced to leave our comfort zones or something and turn into something better and may even one day if we are lucky form our own syndicate and do the same to another race.

    The same thing was done to many people by “the West”, and no it was not fun and might does not equal right.

    Man I am sounding preachy myself man, and if you have read this far good on you, but this storys hidden political message was just dam awful and the author should be ashamed and I am surprised frankly that no one else picks up on it.

    To see this story’s theme played out right now follow the current debate on whether the museum of London should return the acropolis statues to Athens.

  15. cant believe says:

    Also to the host’s comments linking this story to Childhood’s End. I believe you can’t, because in that story the aliens were untapping something biological in humans so we could reach our full potential.

    What the aliens did in this story was to give no choice but follow a market agenda, where it will be big fish eat smaller fish. So I think you can’t link the two texts in their ideology.

    Sorry I have been so whinny but I did a Sci-fi paper on this sort of topic in university so old habits neh.

  16. Dseattle says:

    That was excellent. History repeates itself.

  17. V says:

    Whether I agree with this story’s “message” or not, it is thought provoking.

  18. devora says:

    Great story, well read. It’s anti-colonial, a post modern criticism of the hubris of Western ideas about ‘other’ peoples. There were resisters; they end up on ‘reservations.’ Losing one’s job and mate at the same time, while being conquered by a clearly insurmountable alien race, could lead one to give up. She wasn’t just bored w/ a ‘blase’ life. She had no life. I also think the idea of time limit on colonialism is fascinating.

  19. tim says:

    I also liked this story. I think an interesting subtext was this- the protagonist felt betrayed by her husband; did this make it easier to betray humanity? Were her commments regarding the return of human artifacts (“will we treat them as well in 3,000 years?”) a sign of hope, or justification for her choices? A thought-provoking story, and well-read too.

    A friend and I recently had a conversation regarding the first contact storyform. He boiled it all down to either happy galactic friends a la Star Trek, or we’ll be fodder for lizards, a la V. I said there are other options, other stories; “Almanac” is an excellent example of this middle path.

  20. Gia says:

    I will have to disagree with you, Devora, about the people on reservations being the resistance. The Reservation were mentioned in the context of being for the benefit of people like Gregory, those who can’t handle the invasion, but haven’t acted out. There is nothing that implies that they did much resisting of any kind. The resistance would have to be actively resisting before there could be any discussion of sending them anywhere. This could be as simple as mentioning “In December,[Faction Name Here] will try to assassinate [Name of Important Alien Leader]/ blow up [Important Alien site]/ disrupt the transportation of artifacts in an attempt to reassert their freedom. The aliens will kindly relocated them to a place where they will be happier.” As the story is, there is no resistance.

  21. I daydream about exactly this sort of thing quite often. Although in my version, the alien overlords are a bit haughtier, the point is that they FORCE us to get our sh!t together by simply removing our ability to chose. But the details about life-extension to provide for retirement after mandatory service, as well as the part about becoming full members after a period of abject subjugation- those points are dead on. So, naturally I found this story quite intriguing. I was kind of sorry nothing really came of it, but it was a good listen all the same.
    I should note that in my version (it wasn’t mentioned in this story), there is no resistance, because the alien technology is so overwhelming and their value of our individual lives so negligible, that anyone making even the slightest token resistance was simply vaporized, without malice, the way one might swat an annoying fly and then forget about it seconds later.

  22. Leper says:

    I really liked the concept of the atypical alien invasion presented as intergalactic colonialism transmitted through a pyramid scheme. It’s nice to have aliens with plans for the human race other than endless slavery, extinction or consumption, although its possible that there may not be the somewhat happy conclusion that the main character expects.

  23. Russ Matthews says:

    I have to say this story hit me really hard. It’s much more like what I believe such an event would be like, too.

    Excellent story, the reading moved me… and in the end, I have to admit my eyes got wet.

    Very powerful.

  24. Vaporlock says:

    Great, thoughtful story.

    Some things can not be resisted. Read about the Arawak resistance to Columbus and Spain’s armies…

    Other points:
    -Obviously “Alien” leaders would not be available for assassination (eg Iraq and Bush).

    -Sci-Fi can be Anti something by showing the Pro side. That is the benefits of fiction.

  25. Thunderflower Jones says:

    I’m definitely in the pro camp, and really wished all the way through that there were more. I want to see the progress of this dominance, integration, and eventual equality. I want to see 5000 years later. I want to know how the humans that are partners in the syndicate view their predecessors choices. I want more of this universe.

    @cant believe:
    It’s absolutely not pro-colonialism, it’s about people rationalizing their choices in the most logical way they can.

  26. [...] subject area. This situation is captured perfectly in the opening scene in Merrie Haskell’s Almanac for Alien Invaders, wherein a group of drunken academics, discussing a world crisis about which they too know nothing, [...]