Alien life-forms and encounters with extra-terrestrial beings have been an important part of science fiction writing since the inception of the genre. During the pulp fiction era, most aliens were world ravagers and mortal adversaries. Thoughtful alien stories didn’t come into their own until the end of John W. Campbell’s tenure as editor of Astounding Science Fiction. In his famous dictum to his writers, Campbell exhorted them to “Write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.” Campbell’s dictum has some merit, but to be truly believable, an alien culture must exist within a logical and consistent world as “Starship Down” does. The planet’s native population certainly doesn’t think like humans on most matters.
“Starship Down” first appeared in the October 2008 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact where it won an Analytical Laboratory (AnLab) Award. AnLab is the annual readers’ poll to determine the favorite stories, articles, and cover art published each year in Analog Magazine. “Starship Down” was chosen as the best Analog story of 2008.
Tracy Canfield is a computational linguist from Indiana whose fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, including Analog, Strange Horizons, and Fantasy Magazine. In her biography, Tracy notes that she is the voice on the Klingon audio tour at Australia’s Jenolan Caves and CNN called her a “Klingon scholar.” You can read more about Ms. Canfield by visiting her website TracyCanfield.com.
“A bunny tripped by the orchard wall and broke its ankle,” said the visitor. Bunnytongue had no greetings.
“How far away?”
The bunny spoke a single word, which the translator bud in Yee’s ear rendered as “Two to six kilometers.”
“Wait a minute.” Yee grabbed the medkit and pulled on a lightweight mask with a portable aerator that clipped on her belt. The Myosotis atmosphere was breathable enough—a bit high in CO2, a trifle light in O2—but on long brisk walks she preferred to breathe Earthmix. The mask was comfortable. With the temperature and humidity regulation, she’d forget she was wearing it.
Read the full story in Far Orbit: Speculative Space Adventures