translated by Sue Burke, Ines Galiano, Monica Louzon, Steve Redwood, and James Womack
first English edition: Nevsky Books, 2018
new English edition: Calque Press, 2023
grab a copy here or through your local independent bookstore or library
I first read Alphaland a few years ago and loved the stories’ creeping horror and dark mystery [see my review on Skiffy and Fanty here]. How excited was I, then, when I learned that the collection had been reissued with an introduction and more stories?! So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on “Embracing the Movement,” “Lamia,” and “Dump.”
“Embracing the Movement” (tr. Sue Burke): The narrative voice of this story is the story. Told from the point of view of a powerful, dynamic, swarm-based, and very self-satisfied alien intelligence, “Embracing the Movement” is about contact with a single human astronaut traveling through space. Here, the alien talks to/at the human, questioning how it could have the temerity to venture out into space with only a crummy ship and flimsy suit. The alien goes on at length about how its swarm functions, all of the many civilizations it has seen (and destroyed), and how utterly baffled it is by the human’s lack of response to its “unfurling” (it’s attempt to communicate). Proud, sanctimonious, and frustrated, this alien voice ultimately decides that the human must be dealt with…
“Lamia” (tr. Monica Louzon): Based on the Greek myth about a female or hermaphroditic demon who devoured children and seduced men, this story provokes horror and disgust, even as it is told in a smooth, almost caressing narrative voice. Lamia explains how she was transformed from a shepherd girl into a terrifying creature who preys on mothers and babies in her attempt to find the man who did this to her. The fact that Lamia speaks directly to the reader for much of the story only adds to the sense of unease.
“Dump” (tr. Steve Redwood): Naima lives in a sea of trash, scavenging, with the other “Rats,” in order to survive. When she finds a working laptop on one of the garbage mountains, Naima brings it to one of the bosses, who in turn sends Naima with one of his assistants to a bazaar to sell it. The thing is, Naima has another intelligence living within her and taking over her consciousness whenever it feels it is necessary. This unknown consciousness may be human or alien, but the question is why did it choose Naima to inhabit? Also, to what end?