Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores, March 2023
“Presto Change-O” by Warren Brown
Reviewed by David Wesley Hill
When I was young, I enjoyed the slight tongue-in-cheek stories of such Golden Age authors as Robert Sheckley, Clifford Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, and Manly Wade Wellman. I particularly liked the tales in which aliens bent on invading Earth are stymied by ordinary people. Following in this tradition is the new story in the March edition of Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores, “Presto Change-O” by Warren Brown, in which two aged brothers—both toy makers—are playing their usual game of checkers in front of the Arvin Arms apartment hotel when they come under surveillance by a force of alien lizards seeking a planet to colonize. Mistaking the brothers’ demo model of a new toy for a working “fourth-measure matter transmutation” device, Probe Leader Nhyuk orders Cyberneticist Iikmj to create a remote-controlled human shaped drone, a “pseudotype,” and sends the thing to the Arvin Arms to spy on the checkers game and to steal the transmutation technology. Of course, even the best-laid plans often go awry, and they do here. I won’t spoil the story by revealing further details, except to say old Charlie and Ernie may not be quite as down to Earth as they seem…. Fifteen minutes of fun reading. Recommended.