By Richard C.
So often the aliens of our sci/fi stories appear with a bang – their big, sinister ships suddenly hovering over our largest cities. Take the cover of movies like District 9 and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, or the plots of books like Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, where the invasion may be as abrupt as it gets. But what about aliens working behind the scenes? How much more menacing when the invasion comes completely unnoticed, or was there any invastion at all?
Imagine an Earth where World War I really was the war to end all wars. Everybody in Cassie Iverson’s world takes this outcome for granted, but she knows, and has paid dearly for the knowledge, that someone has been surreptitiously interfering in human affairs. Cassie tries to live a secret life, but now someone is determined to capture her before she upsets a larger plan. This is a fast moving plot and a great sci/fi contribution to the 100 year anniversary of WWI.
Doris Lessing wrote a sci/fi book? Oh yes indeed, and in it, Johor has been visiting Shikasta in disguise for millennia, trying to steer events to ensure survival for a rather volatile planet. The planet Shikasta’s true identity is the real gem in this creative (though when published much criticized) departure for the Nobel Prize winner author. Written in the form of Johor’s log book, Shikasta is a strange but also satisfying sci/fi experience from an author you may not have been expecting on this or any Science Fiction Friday.
This little known work of Soviet Russian sci/fi turns our “Behind the Scenes” theme on its head. Disguised as a nobleman, and a hard drinking belligerent one at that, Anton is in fact a secret emissary sent from Earth to a far off planet. Anton’s there to stabilize a precarious society, but must complete his mission aloof to budding friendships, apathetic to surprising romance, and under no circumstances to reveal his identity. This and many other works by Arkadiĭ Strugat͡skiĭ have only recently been retranslated into English and would make great additions to your personal sci/fi credentials.