Beyond The Great Divide

Stories written from an alien viewpoint, while long a staple of SF/F, are hard to do well.

They involve a kind of semiotic tightrope–if the language and concepts involved are too alien, the story becomes too hard to decipher to be enjoyable. If, on the other hand, they are too familiar the sense of the alien is lost and with it much of the magic of that particular type of story.

S H Mansouri, in my opinion, nails the balance perfectly in his short story, “Beyond The Great Divide”, published in Cirsova Issue 5.

The narrator, SB-13, is a Slagborn, an insectile humanoid. I actually invented the name “Slagborn” while I was working on the Eldritch Earth setting, but Mansouri fleshed out my bare bones concept. (I mean, seriously, I think I said something along the lines of, “Hey, you know, bug-people are cool. Let’s put some bug-people in there.”)

I had intended them to be a kind of background threat, something to show just how deadly the Eldritch Earth could be. An entry on the Wandering Monster Table, as it were.

Mansouri did the rest and penned a short, violent story that draws the reader into an alien psychology. A commando raid into a human settlement keeps the story focused on the practical demands of combat, but below the action there is a genuinely disturbing undercurrent of strangeness.

Like many alien races in SF, the Slagborn are portrayed as emotionless, driven by cold reason. The cracks in this veneer of pure logic are revealed almost at once, though, with the narrator admitting that some members of its race break under the strain of combat and surrender themselves to the darker passions the rest of them have left behind them.

These mad ones are used as shock troops against their human foes, with sane Slagborn, like the narrator, supervising them. As the story progresses, though, it becomes evident that the line between madness and sanity may not be a great a divide as SB-13 believes.

It’s a disturbing little gem of a story, a psychological horror tale wrapped in the chitinous exoskeleton of a Flash Gordon Insectman.

Highly recommended.

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle.
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, Hard Weird, New Wave, On Writing, pulp revival and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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