Live! From Planet Earth
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by George Alec Effinger
Category: Science Fiction
Description: George Alec Effinger was a true master of satirical Science Fiction. Before his death in 2002, he gained the highest esteem amongst his peers for his pitch-perfect stylistic mimicry and his great insight into the human condition. Despite a life filled with chronic illness and pain, Effinger was a prolific novelist and short story writer, earning multiple Nebula and Hugo Award nominations. LIVE! FROM PLANET EARTH represents a very special look at the many works of this unique genius. These 22 short pieces have been specifically selected and introduced by his fellow writers and editors, from Michael Bishop to Jack Dann, Mike Resnick to Neil Gaiman. Each writes about his or her memories of Effinger and his legacy. Included are "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything" in which Earth is visited by benevolent aliens who happen to have annoying opinions about everything. "Everything but Honor" goes along as a black physicist time-travels to 1860 to murder a Civil War general. Also included here are Effinger's O.Niemand stories, which perfectly mimic the styles of Steinbeck, Hemingway and Twain. The results are a tour de force sure to please existing fans and make new fans of anyone who reads them.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: March 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [591 KB]
Reading time: 385-540 min.
The Aliens Who Know, I Mean, Everything
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I WAS SITTING AT MY DESK, READING A REPORT on the brown pelican situation, when the secretary of state burst in. "Mr. President," he said, his eyes wide, "the aliens are here!" Just like that. "The aliens are here!" As if I had any idea of what to do about them.
"I see," I said. I learned early in my first term that "I see" was one of the safest and most useful comments I could possibly make in any situation. When I said, "I see," it indicated that I had digested the news and was waiting intelligently and calmly for further data. That knocked the ball back into my advisors' court. I looked at the secretary of state expectantly. I was all prepared with my next utterance, in the event that he had nothing further to add. My next utterance would be "Well?" That would indicate that I was on top of the problem, but that I couldn't be expected to make an executive decision without sufficient information, and that he should have known better than to burst into the Oval Office unless he had that information. That's why we had protocol; that's why we had proper channels; that's why I had advisors. The voters out there didn't want me to make decisions without sufficient information. If the secretary didn't have anything more to tell me, he shouldn't have burst in, in the first place. I looked at him awhile longer. "Well?" I asked at last.
"That's about all we have at the moment," he said uncomfortably. I looked at him sternly for a few seconds, scoring a couple of points while he stood there all flustered. I turned back to the pelican report, dismissing him. I certainly wasn't going to get all flustered. I could think of only one president in recent memory who was ever flustered in office, and we all know what happened to him. As the secretary of state closed the door to my office behind him, I smiled. The aliens were probably going to be a bitch of a problem eventually, but it wasn't my problem yet. I had a little time.
But I found that I couldn't really keep my mind on the pelican question. Even the president of the United States has some imagination, and if the secretary of state was correct, I was going to have to confront these aliens pretty damn soon. I'd read stories about aliens when I was a kid, I'd seen all sorts of aliens in movies and television, but these were the first aliens who'd actually stopped by for a chat. Well, I wasn't going to be the first American president to make a fool of himself in front of visitors from another world. I was going to be briefed. I telephoned the secretary of defense. "We must have some contingency plans drawn up for this," I told him. "We have plans for every other possible situation." This was true; the Defense Department has scenarios for such bizarre events as the rise of an imperialist fascist regime in Liechtenstein or the spontaneous depletion of all the world's selenium.
"Just a second, Mr. President," said the secretary. I could hear him muttering to someone else. I held the phone and stared out the window. There were crowds of people running around hysterically out there. Probably because of the aliens. "Mr. President?" came the voice of the secretary of defense. "I have one of the aliens here, and he suggests that we use the same plan that President Eisenhower used."
I closed my eyes and sighed. I hated it when they said stuff like that. I wanted information, and they told me these things knowing that I would have to ask four or five more questions just to understand the answer to the first one. 'You have an alien with you?" I said, in a pleasant enough voice.
"Yes, sir. They prefer not to be called 'aliens.' He tells me he's a nup. That's their word for 'man,' in the sense of 'human being.' The plural is 'nuhp.' "
"Thank you, Luis. Tell me, why do you have an al--Why do you have a nup and I don't?"
Luis muttered the question to his nup. "He says it's because they wanted to go through proper channels. They learned all about that from President Eisenhower."
"Very good, Luis." This was going to take all day, I could see that; and I had a photo session with Mick Jagger's granddaughter. "My second question, Luis, is what the hell does he mean by 'the same plan that President Eisenhower used'?"
Another muffled consultation. "He says that this isn't the first time that the nuhp have landed on Earth. A scout ship with two nuhp aboard landed at Edwards Air Force Base in 1954. The two nuhp met with President Eisenhower. It was apparently a very cordial occasion, and President Eisenhower impressed the nuhp as a warm and sincere old gentleman. They've been planning to return to Earth ever since but they've been very busy, what with one thing and another. President Eisenhower requested that the nuhp not reveal themselves to the people of Earth in general, until our government decided how to control the inevitable hysteria. My guess is that the government never got around to that, and when the nuhp departed, the matter was studied and then shelved. As the years passed, few people were even aware that the first meeting ever occurred. The nuhp have returned now in great numbers, expecting that we'd have prepared the populace by now. It's not their fault that we haven't. They just sort of took it for granted that they'd be welcome."
"Uh huh," I said. That was my usual utterance when I didn't know what the hell else to say. "Assure them that they are, indeed, welcome. I don't suppose the study they did during the Eisenhower administration was ever completed. I don't suppose there really is a plan to break the news to the public."
"Unfortunately, Mr. President, that seems to be the case."
"Uh huh." That's Republicans for you, I thought. "Ask your nup something for me, Luis. Ask him if he knows what they told Eisenhower. They must be full of outer space wisdom. Maybe they have some ideas about how we should deal with this."
There was yet another pause. "Mr. President, he says all they discussed with Mr. Eisenhower was his golf game. They helped to correct his putting stroke. But they are definitely full of wisdom. They know all sorts of things. My nup -- that is, his name is Hurv-- anyway, he says that they'd be happy to give you some advice."
"Tell him that I'm grateful, Luis. Can they have someone meet with me in, say, half an hour?"
"There are three nuhp on their way to the Oval Office at this moment. One of them is the leader of their expedition, and one of the others is the commander of their mother ship."
"Mother ship?" I asked.
"You haven't seen it? It's tethered on the Mall. They're real sorry about what they did to the Washington Monument. They say they can take care of it tomorrow."
I just shuddered and hung up the phone. I called my secretary. "There are going to be three--"
"They're here now, Mr. President."
I sighed. "Send them in." And that's how I met the nuhp. Just as President Eisenhower had.
They were handsome people. Likable, too. They smiled and shook hands and suggested that photographs be taken of the historic moment, so we called in the media; and then I had to sort of wing the most important diplomatic meeting of my entire political career. I welcomed the nuhp to Earth. "Welcome to Earth," I said, "and welcome to the United States."
"Thank you," said the nup I would come to know as Pleen. "We're glad to be here."
"How long do you plan to be with us?" I hated myself when I said that, in front of the Associated Press and the UPI and all the network news people. I sounded like a desk clerk at a Holiday Inn.
"We don't know, exactly," said Pleen. "We don't have to be back to work until a week from Monday."
"Uh huh," I said. Then I just posed for pictures and kept my mouth shut. I wasn't going to say or do another goddamn thing until my advisors showed up and started advising.