Invaders is a collection where 22 writers of literature were invited to pen a science fiction short story, the title thus referring, perhaps rather presciently, to the authors themselves. While the core concept of the collection makes for an interesting experiment and is an understandable reaction to the swiftly expanding popularity of sci-fi and its acceptance into the mainstream, there is something fundamentally patronising about it. It seems to imply that genre authors are somehow not ‘proper’ writers, and it falls to the adults of true literature (who have “mandated that pulp fiction must finally grow up,” the blurb reads) to show all these immature nerdy kids how they are supposed to practice their art.
The problem is that literature authors are often unfamiliar with the conventions of sci-fi that its fans know all too well, and so concepts the writers perceive as creative and innovative are little more than variations on established ideas. The more surreal stories of the collection end up being the most satisfying, and interspersing more standard fare merely tinted with genre themes are plots such as a couple inadvertently warping reality every time they have sex (Five Fucks); a fairy tale about the hunger for scientific knowledge (The Squid Who Fell In Love With the Sun); convicted killers used as drug trial guinea pigs for testing an artificial love-inducing chemical (Escape From Spiderhead); and a birdlike alien adopted as the mascot of a baseball team (Reports Concerning the Death of the Seattle Albatross Are Somewhat Exaggerated).
Short stories in science fiction often act as parallels to everyday life and are used as vehicles by the author to make observations about the time and society in which they were written. Ironically, these writers of true literature have largely produced stories that do little more than stop a little while after they begin, frequently with neither anything in the way of an underlying point being made nor inventive notions to capture the imagination, which is why many of us read genre fiction in the first place. If, like the introduction claims, your intention is to make science fiction respectable (ignoring the argument of whether or not that’s even necessary) then you’re probably better leaving it to actual science fiction writers.
INVADERS / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: TACHYON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW