Here are characteristic Emshwillerian themes: alienation, the way a society regards Others. It is a straightforward narrative without hidden hooks – an effective last line. It makes me think that this new SF zine might be staking out YA territory.
Maybe the story wants to be mystifying and unexplained, but for me it all seemed so vague, I couldn’t really engage with it. So I skimmed Installment Eight in the Torque Control short story club.
I couldn’t help thinking of “Out of All Them Bright Stars“, another story about strangers where the narrator is one of the few to reach out. It’s more moving, but perhaps because the narrator is an adult, she is filled with rage and despair at the end. Both stories leave me wishing for an SF story about xenophobia that’s somewhere in between.
Matt Hilliard worries at the ambiguity so more:
My first inclination, reading the story, was that the author was going for a 1930s setting and just made a few mistakes. After finishing it, though, I looked her up and, whoops, she grew up in the Great Depression. I think she knows what it was like. So then I decided she must have been shooting for a modern voice and just not done it very well. Then I wondered if it might be on purpose. Gene Wolfe, although amazingly he is ten years younger than Emshwiller, has recently written several stories and novels set explicitly in the future while using a deliberately old-fashioned voice. There was no similar explicit marking here, though. So at length I’ve decided the ambiguity must have been intentional. The references to tasers on the one hand and Tarzan on the other are too overt. Given the Marietta’s causality concerns, the implication must be that the timeline is already altered from ours (or vice versa, I guess).
And Chad Orzel:
It’s a very nice story, with all the connotations that come with that term, both good and bad: it’s well written, well paced, and has an engaging if weirdly atemporal narrative voice; it’s also very polite and inoffensive, with no real attempt to push the boundaries of, well, much of anything, or do anything novel with the well-worn subject matter. This would fit well into basically any general-interest SF anthology written in the last, say, fifty years. That’s both good and bad, which is probably appropriate given the ambiguity of the ending.