What is Eve? by Will McIntosh
appears in the April 2018 issue of Lightspeed Magazine.And before I go farther, spoiler warning: I’m probably going to spoil one reveal or another because A) I *do* want to talk about the story and B) as a person not bothered much by spoilers I sometimes don’t realize I’m spoiling despite my best intentions.
YE BE WARNED.
Now: Lightspeed puts the word count in the header of each story. I like knowing how long of a story I’m getting into, but a mere word count does not tell all. What is Eve? is advertised as being 10,160 words but I’m having a hard time believing it because I read the thing so fast it felt like 3,000.
This story is a smooth read. Smooth like a bobsled chute. It’s straightforward but not overly predictable. It doesn’t present deep complexity with tons of subplot and twisty turns, but the twists and reveals that are there are effective at building the story, advancing it, and keeping it interesting.
It’s an alien story and a first contact story — old ground for sci-fi. Old ground we keep writing on, because it’s so rich. As usual with these stories, you’ll find some themes and tropes repeated. The value, now that the 1930s and 40s are behind us, is in the particulars of the story.
This story, trust me, has some good particulars. It carries the strong morals of “don’t be a dick,” “don’t be a cynical realpolitiker,” “maybe try treating others with respect,” and “bullshitters get cut, bitch.”
There’s a nice dose of “do what feels right” and “the authorities are probably full of shit,” which as I’m a moderate cynic and long-disillusioned idealist, strikes a chord in me.
The main characters are a twelve year old scion of, basically, The Man — a kid already maneuvering for a shot at a good college with parental encouragement, and, second, a ticking time bomb of some strange creature that Lightspeed’s artist represented with what I’m pretty sure is a red snapper face looming out of a purple dress.
And I can’t swear the image isn’t the right one given the story. Like many good alien creatures, the alien is more human than she (?) looks.
But then, aren’t we all more human than we look?
…anyway, give this one a read. You won’t regret it.