"A Coffee Cup/Alien Invasion Story" by Douglas Lain
In the aptly titled, "A Coffee Cup/Alien Invasion Story," Douglas Lain provides the reader with a snapshot of the lives of Alex and Shelly. They are a young married couple who contemplate over drinks the "UFOs in the sky over Portland." Beneath the first layer of the story is a monologue by the narrator about the choices he has made, not only in weaving the story, but also in his personal life.
The narrator explains to the reader his template for the story, his research in naming Alex and Shelly, and his plan for their growth. The story unfolds as he predicted, precisely and completely, which felt a bit odd at times, yet it was also comforting. I truly cared for his protagonists and wanted them to succeed. I knew the characters weren't likely to change much, still I was entertained. In the author's own words, the concept "fit somehow."
The first memorable moment in the story occurred when Alex explained a religious epiphany that sprang from a viewing of the HBO logo. The second is in the parallel story, where the narrator recalls a visit "to the Washington Park Zoo [for] a Christmas light display." In both cases, the nuances are subtle and strange, making the story a perfect fit for Strange Horizons.
The illustration by Jeff Foster cleverly blends the zoo visit with the UFOs.