Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"This Quiet Dust" by Karl Bunker :: Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week

I've turned over the next bracket of the Battle of the Books to Amy, which gives me time to do some other posts, starting with a few story recommendations. My first Story Recommendation of the Week in far too long is for "This Quiet Dust" by Karl Bunker, from the January/February 2014 issue of Analog.

One thing I generally find unsatisfying about alien stories (including my own) is that the aliens aren't truly alien. I suspect if we ever do encounter an alien intelligence, it will be so strange that we could easily fail to notice it's alive, let alone sentient. That's exactly what happens in "This Quiet Dust," in which an exploration vessel launched from Earth touches down on an alien planet, inhabited by an intelligence nearly too alien even to recognize.

This is an Analog story, so the tale focuses on how the aliens work, with not a whole lot of time spent on the human characters. But Bunker's eccentric, poetry-quoting main character Henrick is likeable enough, and the way he irritates fellow crewmembers makes for entertaining reading. More importantly, Bunker's aliens are fascinating, and their interactions with Henrick, both onstage and implied offstage, are very nicely handled in such a short piece.

Karl Bunker is a fellow Writers of the Future winner (Vol. 23), and has since appeared in Asimov's, F&SF, and Interzone. When you can sell to each of the top print magazines in the field, you're clearly doing something right. Incidentally, the January/February 2014 issue of Analog is a solid one, containing strong work by my friend Marie DesJardin, Thoraiya Dyer, Christie Yant, Richard A. Lovett, and others. It seems editor Trevor Quachri is doing an able job taking over for Stanley Schmidt.

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