Strange Horizons, September 12, 2011

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Strange Horizons, September 12, 2011

“Messengers from the Stars Will Come to Help Us Overcome the Obstacles That Hold Us Back From Achieving Our True Potential.” by Grady Hendrix

Reviewed by Richard E.D. Jones

As humans, we’re always looking for someone or something more powerful than ourselves, who will come and set things right for us. That someone or something could be God, or it could be Gaea or it could even be something along the lines of a UFO.

In “Messengers from the Stars Will Come to Help Us Overcome the Obstacles That Hold Us Back From Achieving Our True Potential,” author Grady Hendrix wonders whether the attentions of such a being would be a good thing or a bad thing.

At the beginning of the story, we slowly learn that Voyager Sraosha is a willing member of the Transhuman Project. Oddly, in a science fiction story, the Transhuman Project is not attempting to scientifically generate a Vinge-ian Singularity. It’s a cult. And it’s also the day that the members of the cult are going to Discard their bodies, Upload to the stars and achieve Contact with True Souls in the shape of UFOs. The problem comes when Voyager Sraosha discovers she doesn’t want to die.

Using a wonderful voice for Voyager Sraosha, Hendrix matter-of-factly lays out the cult’s plans for each other. It’s a tribute to Hendrix’s writing craft that I could believe very easily in how Voyager Sraosha would discard her old name, and move from her hard life as a stripper into the very different life in the Transhuman Project.

At the last minute, though, it is the former stripper named Shannon who speaks up and refuses to go along with Voyager Sraosha’s plans. Whether Shannon or Sraosha prevails, the question facing her is one of salvation. Can it only be achieved through the intervention of a powerful outside force? Can salvation come about through necessity? Either way, it’s a peculiar form of salvation.

Hendrix does a great job selling this story. He weaves a powerfully compelling vision that enables readers to enter the world of the Transhuman Project and completely understand why – inside that world – it makes sense.

I’m not sure you could call this science fiction by any strict definition of the term, but I can tell you it’s another fun, eminently readable story from September 12ths Strange Horizons. Go check it out.