January 2 is the day every year. So invite your favorite bug-eyed monster to stop in and raise a toast to our favorite genre.
I’m going to tell some stories from my own trilogy, starting with this post. My heroine, Selena M, is a well-known singer who lives on the coast north of San Francisco. When an alien spaceship crashes on her back hillside, she decides to nurse the sole survivor back to health, rather than notify the authorities, as any good citizen would do. Turns out the alien is also a singer, and they learn to communicate by singing. This is a light-hearted story told by a sassy narrator with a quirky sense of humor.
I also want to put in a word for one of my favorite authors, Eric Michael Craig. He calls his “Wings of Earth” eight-book series a space opera—a term I’ve never liked. To me, it’s just a rip-roaring good tale. Combines excellent character development, believable (even if impossible) technology, and fast-paced story line. I highly recommend it. Click on the cover for a link to Book 1, Echoes of Starlight.
Here’s how Selena and the alien first met in Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard.
“It took me a minute to sort out what was live being and what was instrument or uniform. I noted a breathing orifice at the base of what looked like a neck. Its skin was mottled gray—dark with lighter gray splotches. Skin looked loose and saggy, like a puppy about to grow.
It opened an eye, looked at me. Then a second eye on a stalk. They were truly like the eyes of an octopus. The eyes regarded me. Solemnly? With terror? With malevolence? How the hell would I know?
When I think back on this event, what I did was incredibly foolhardy. Outside of this thing’s conscious intentions, who knows what kind of disease I could have caught from it. Or unleashed on humanity. But I didn’t even think of all that. Here I was, in the presence of a being not from Earth, which had arrived via some kind of vessel, apparently a spaceship. It was hurt; it needed my help.
So there I was, going through every cliché of old science fiction movies—gesturing friendship, “I’m a friend, peace, I mean you no harm.” Since it probably didn’t speak English, I spoke slowly and loudly, as if it were a foreigner. I waved and pointed. But what do gestures mean? I might as well have flipped it the finger. It twittered in response, an incredibly sad song, a bit like a mourning dove. The sound broke my heart.
I did have the presence of mind to look around, to see if it had any Godzilla-type allies. But no. This compartment was quite small. There was one other similar chair or harness, but the other apparatus was empty.
I went over to this being and tried to communicate through gestures that I would be willing to help it down and out of the harness and put it on the floor, or whatever was beneath my feet here. I gestured, kind of removing straps and harnesses and lowering it gently downward. It responded by repeating “Ooww, oooww, oooww.” Did that mean yes, please; don’t touch me, you brute; or I’m hungry and you look really tasty?
Being a softhearted idiot, I went for the first option. I described through gestures what I was going to do, one move at a time, and then I did it. The strap release was not difficult at all. I figured I’d probably release the straps and whatever the thing was would fall to the floor and kill itself. So I stood beneath it to brace the fall, then carefully loosened one clasp at a time. It watched what I was doing, and pointed out with one of its little finger-like pseudopods which strap to do next.
When I had finally released it from all the straps, the alien fell on me. It was as heavy as a dead pony. The poor creature looked up at me, raised two pseudopods, two stubby tentacles, waved them in an intricate pattern, and crooned in a way that looked just like the pattern it was signing—if you can understand that.
The alien said words to me, which naturally I could not understand. But they were recognizable as words, not moans or croons. I looked at it blankly. It picked up instantly that I didn’t understand, and reverted to croons and gestures. English and French, baby, that is all I understand—I’m weak on Martian.
* * *
I looked around. The enormity of what was happening hit me. My knees buckled. Here I was communicating with an alien being, an entity from a different planet. Maybe a different solar system (most likely). Crashed. At my mercy (hopefully).
No canteen, but I had my cell phone, right in my jacket pocket. Should I call NASA? The tabloids? The sheriff? The government? My lawyer? My publicist? Holy shit! I could be famous. Or eaten. Or be the person who brought the plague to Earth.
I looked at this poor thing huddled on the floor at my feet, whimpering for water. I could flick it the sweat off my brow. Snatches of sci-fi movies flashed through my mind. Government scientists carving up alien beings to learn the secrets of their metabolism. In the end, the aliens were always killed. They were either hostile or misunderstood.
Then there was the genre of alien abductions. People snatched off the face of the Earth by flying saucers; weird sexual experiments took place. And then returned to Earth to tell an unbelieving reporter from Newsweek.
Well, this one had apparently flown in too low, and kaboom! So sexual experiments were out of the question for the time being. But what should I do? What should I do right now? If you wanted to inform the U.S. government or the United Nations that an alien had just crashed on your property, who should you call? INS? It was Sunday—they wouldn’t be there anyway.
* * *
I lay there in the dark talking to her. I asked her questions. Where are you from? Why did you come here? What happened? What was your life like? How old are you? I got no response of course. Wasn’t sure she was still alive.
I told her my entire life story. I confessed many things that I’d never revealed to anyone else—including myself.
How I was strong and self-assured on the outside, but inside, not so much. How I’d come to the road less traveled, but had stayed on the freeway.
How I had dumped the only guy I’d ever truly loved because of my stupid music career, and all my tours. How I often studied myself in the mirror, standing sideways, wondering if I should bother trying to keep myself slim and in shape, or whether I should let it all go and enjoy my cheeseburgers. How I knew I could never go for Clay, even though I knew he had a big crush on me, and he’d be a damn good catch for an aging chick like me.
How I’d never even tried to publish the songs that were the most important to me because I didn’t think they were marketable, and instead churned out all these maudlin ballads. Which of course made me a shitload of money, and allowed me to buy my dream property here on the coast, psychically as far as possible from Laa Land. But which left me with this empty hole here near the core of my being.
I began to hum this one melody I’d written years before, and had never performed in public. It was my internal anthem—the music for my secret self.
My alien companion, lying in the dark covered by a horse blanket, in a tiny squeaky voice, hummed along with me.