I love short stories and loved Robert Silverberg’s Alien Archives: Eighteen Stories of Extraterrestrial Encounters. Who doesn’t love aliens? I volunteer my unused computer capacity to SETI @ Home, the distributed computing initiative to process signals from space to see if there is any pattern that indicates intelligent life is out there. I assume there is and that we will never encounter them, but I am happy to read about the alien encounters in science fiction.
Each of the stories is introduced by Silverberg and that is, in many ways, the most fascinating element of the book. Silverberg is a professional, someone who did the work of being a working writer for his lifetime, producing short stories for magazines and anthologies along with his several novels. His introductions explain so much about that professional work, writing a story inspired by a picture, writing another for a magazine and getting it rejected and offering it elsewhere, pulling a short story out of a novel and combining short stories to create a novel. It is a fascinating look behind the curtain.
One of my favorites is “Bride 91” that not only introduces us to an alien creature but a very different concept of marriage. “Alaree” not only gave us a unique alien, but a unique understanding of the individual and the group. In “Sunrise on Mercury” the alien is an unseen presense, a consciousness who tries its best to help, even when it seems unhelpful. “The Silent Colony” frankly blew my mind and I can’t ruin it for you, but that last paragraph is a shocker. “En Route to Earth” cracked me up because of course, if we have interspace travel, we are going to have intergalactic stewards
“The Way to Spook City” seems plausible, I mean if having aliens interested in us is plausible. “Beauty in the Night” is fascinating. The aliens are mostly an unseen presence while the real story is a very common one. “To the Dark Star” is another that tells us more about humanity than aliens. It is not pretty.
I love short stories and enjoy science fiction so of course I found a lot to love in AlienArchives. It took quite a while to read because I would read a story, then read a book, read a story and read another book. I didn’t want the stories to run together in my head by reading one after another.
Silverberg is an economical writer. He doesn’t spend paragraphs setting a scene, he puts you right into the story with the action already moving. He knows you will figure it out. He doesn’t explain unless he has to, for example, the concept of marriage in “Bride 91.” He assumes his readers are smart and an infer and read between the lines. I love that and it makes for dynamic, fascinating short stories from one of the most imaginative people alive.
I received an e-galley of AlienArchives from the publisher through Edelweiss.