Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nebula Award Nominee: "Spar"

Kij Johnson
Clarkesworld: October 2009
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Short Story

It begins, as all stories do, with a single sentence.
In the tiny lifeboat, she and the alien fuck endlessly, relentlessly.

Oh. Well, this clearly isn’t going to be just another story.

Kij Johnson’s “Spar” is a claustrophobic story set in a life capsule, the result of “a mid-space collision between their ship and the alien's, simultaneously a statistical impossibility and a fact.” There is the narrator and there is the alien and there is very little room for anything else. Though there is a prurient nature to the story, and a good deal of uncomfortable and unpleasant alien sex, “Spar” isn’t really about that. It just happens to be included.

“Spar” can be read as a horror story. The sex isn’t the horror, though perhaps it is, as well. Imagine being a survivor of a wreck. You are alone in lifeboat for weeks upon weeks. No human contact and very few possibilities to even move around. All that you have is what is in your mind, and the more time that passes the more even that betrays you. Now, add another creature to this cramped life vessel. An alien, though it could just as well be a plant. There is no communication, no apparent sentience. Only, periodic penetration.

This is a terrifying story. “Spar” is an ugly story. It is also a wonderfully horrifying story. From the first sentence, “Spar” is a very graphic story, but once you get past the obvious graphic-ness, there is a painful story of loss twisted inside.

Excellent story, but many readers may well be turned off by the graphic nature of the content.

The latest issue of Clarkesworld Magazine has an interview with Kij Johnson where she talks a bit more about "Spar" (and some of her other stories)

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