Friday, August 7, 2015

"The Visitor" by Karen Myers

It's iffy enough when literature pretends to give us the inner workings of another human being's mind; it should be categorically unacceptable and ludicrous to do the same with the mind of a sentient creature from another world — one that lives a very different life cycle from ours, and under the water at that. And yet sf writers have been doing it (not necessarily with the underwater bit), with...mixed results, at least since A.E. van Vogt in the stories that would be shoved together to make The Voyage of the Space Beagle. Like the van Vogt stories it reminds me of (though there is refreshingly little antagonism or peril here), Myers's story dwells on the right side of the nebulous line separating the appropriate from the in- for me, in a way I can't quite figure out how to explain or defend (but maybe should try to) but which I feel strongly. Taken totally literally — which I'm always screaming sf should be — the very idea that we could "get inside" Felockati's head is ludicrous almost to the point of obscenity, but my countervailing tendency to give sf a lot of leeway in terms of "plausibility" somehow takes priority here. (Note to self: take the time to explore these contradictions at some point.) After all this I realize I've said next to nothing about the story itself; it lives in the realm of sensory and bodily specificity — and difference — that sf is so characteristically concerned with, and is thoughtful and deeply felt while it's at it.

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