SCI FICTION, October 06, 2004

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"Ruby, in the Storm" by A.M. Dellamonica

A.M. Dellamonica's novelette, "Ruby, in the Storm," is set in the future on an Earth where alien refugees and humans coexist in less-than-harmonious peace. Human "Purists" oppose the ever-increasing alien population, worried that humanity's myriad cultures and qualities will diminish and fade against superior technology and alien progress. Some factions are even incensed at the help aliens have rendered to unifying the  planet in peace, conquer world hunger, and achieve scientific advancement, deeming it as cheating humanity of its rightful triumphs. Sort of the "Prime Directive" a la Star Trek, but in reverse.

Dellamonica's aliens, or perhaps simply her portrayal of them, are enchanting.  It's hard to feel suspicious or fearful of such flights of whimsy as pink and white, cooing nodules with penchants for chewing gum, or an oversized, blue-green, giant Shar-Pei, even if the Shar-Pei proselytizes an alien religion during office hours.  There's much cuteness and a high humor quotient seeped in this tale, a good counterbalance to the weighty issue it explores. In the author's hands, it is also a skillful appeal for tolerance. How can you not side with the aliens and their human sympathizers when the aliens are charming and loveable?

Paradoxically, because these aliens are so delightful, there's a slightly sledgehammer feel to the story's execution. "Ruby, in the Storm" examines multi-cultural issues and xenophobia.  What is the price of diversity and empathy?  At its core, it questions how much we can push aside our own mistrust-of-other in favor of a more civilized, enlightened universe-view. But while Dellamonica presents an amusing future outlook and brings up thoughtful issues, how can there be any real rumination when the aliens are so damn spiffy?  Then again, there's a good deal of hatred and intolerance, human-to-human, in the here and now, and we're all so damn spiffy too. I guess that would be the point . . .