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Stories in which the Alien is the Native and the Native the Naïve

Alien Stories

by E.C. Osondu

BOA Editions, Ltd. (2021)

Stories in which the Alien is the Native and the Native the Naïve

There is a strange and wonderful kind of purity and contradiction to the stories of E.C. Osondu found in his new book Alien Stories. Among the contradictions is the fact these “alien” stories are deeply human. They are also absurdly funny without perversity. And the aliens in these stories are only thinly disguised immigrants in a nation too often hateful and hostile to people coming from other lands.

In “How to Raise an Alien Baby,” Osondu implies but never directly states the dangers in wanting obedience in a child. This rich story is also a comment on the ridiculousness of suburban American life with their “large, well-manicured lawns” maintained for the purpose of providing the perfect landing site for alien mother ships: “So yes, on the subject of lawns: keep it freshly mown with well-trimmed edges so that when the mother ship arrives—silently in the night, when your neighbors come out of their houses, wearing robes and shoddy slippers…You will not be ashamed by the photographs in the newspapers.” There is a directness without cruelty about Osondu pointing out the many absurdities of American life.

The word “alien” works on multiple levels in this collection as Osondu never shies away from directly referencing actual interplanetary aliens while we are always thinking about the ways in which immigrants feel like aliens in this country. One of the starkest is the initially benign sounding story "Feast" in which children are "acting the way children are wont to act," before everything turns on its head, and an "alien" is hanged. The manner in which the children feast and then sleep soundly after the brutal hanging draws on the entire history of race in America, its slave-owning past, its brutal tactics to subjugate a race of people, and the subtlety is not entirely subtle: "Would it be a black, white, red, or purple hood? All the rumors at school saying that the alien would not be hooded anymore?"

“Memory Store” is a beautiful story in which sweet memories of the protagonist’s mother country are sold to survive then buy a huge television to fit into American life.

The science fiction aspect of the Memory Store feels as natural in this story as the donut shop with its array of different donuts. Of course, America, in which everything is for sale, would have a store which bought and sold our memories! And with television shows like “Survivor,” why wouldn’t American soon have “alien enactors” with the protagonist’s duty and sole purpose in the story “Alien Enactors” be to “enact Africa for guests.”

This Nigerian-born author’s surprising and original fiction, like the very best, reveals truth better than a catalogue of data, and his eye on America is one turned to reveal both wonder and dismay.


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