Fiction by Abra Staffin-Wiebe
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Published in Unlikely Story's The Journal of Unlikely Academia
(Warning! Contains spoilers!)
The story as published felt complete closing with May's acceptance, but the characters do continue on beyond the bounds of this story.
About the Story
When I first came up with "And Other Definitions of Family" (written with the truly unfortunate working title of "Alien/Whore/Mother"), I had not yet had children of my own. After I had been through pregnancy and labor, I went back to do a rewrite. I don't recall exactly how long I spent laughing. I had some rewrites to do, all right. Even though I hadn't gone into huge amounts of detail, a few of the details I had put in were just not right.
Some things haven't changed, though.
In my imagining of the distant future, Reader's Digest still exists. And they have a humor section called "Aliens Do the Damnedest Things."
Unfortunately, story readers don't have this context and so would find a line like, "So write Reader's Digest," to be incredibly anachronistic. And they're right, because the story doesn't have space for the explanation, which would ruin the joke anyway. So I had to take the line out. But! Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
There were a few other things that I didn't have enough space to keep in the story, either. Before Red2 showed up to hire May, she had just finished another job and returned to her quarters.
May jotted down a few notes on the Tekaw mating ritual and then jumped in the shower to wash the slime from her field research out of her hip-length black hair. The water allowance on Nueva Nova station was pitiful, but she'd pulled a few tentacles (and other body parts) to get her quarters a hotel-level allotment.
Originally, May and Red2's initial encounter was even more confrontational.
After her shower, she pulled on a Bluehand-woven robe and plugged the Tekaw pay chit into the wall banker and watched fee and tip--minus station tax--be tallied to her account.
Fierce satisfaction filled her as she saw her balance tick higher. She had enough saved that she would never be poor again in her life, even if she quit working immediately. She wouldn't; she liked her research and she liked her fattening bank account. Still, she called Ali's and ordered her favorite halal pizza to celebrate.
Know that there are some acts that the human body is not capable of without breaking, and I have several hidden security cameras and a direct link to station security." She waved the alarm buzzer. "I will call them if you do not immediately respond if I tell you to stop something."
Red2's cheek spines fluffed and then smoothed. "I will generously overlook your belief that a Bitocktee could find a human female interesting in that way. If I wished, I could break your cameras and block your transmitter easily. But you may rest secure. I have checked with Dr. Brown, and your physiology is sufficiently compatible that no harm will be done to you, though you will need regular hormone and vitamin injections as well as light treatments."
She got caught imagining the very proper Dr. Brown being faced with a question like that, and so it took her a little while to catch up. "Hormone and vitamin injections? What exactly are you interested in having me do?"
Weeks later, May came back to her quarters smiling after the ceremony to name Dives-from-Above Bright1. Stripes of phosphorescent paint glowed on her cheeks, but she didn't hurry to the shower. She had gained a treasure trove of knowledge about the Bitocktee naming ceremony and family structure, but she didn't scribble down notes.
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Other contributors to The Journal of Unlikely Academia have also provided special bonus material!
For "Minotaur: An Analysis of the Species," Sean Robinson gives us an excerpt from Appendix C: Questionnaires.
Learn more about Julia August's prophecies from "Soteriology and Stephen Greenwood" at Stop the Apocalypse, Who's Saving the World, and Tumblrweed Across the End of the Universe.
Author of "The Dauphin's Metaphysics," Eric Schwitzgebel offers more philosophical reflections on the possibility of mind transfer by hypnosis: http://ow.ly/TaUT6. And another story by Eric Schwitzgebel on mind transfer by hypnosis, this time from the perspective of the mnemonist: http://ow.ly/TaYG4.
As an accompaniment to "The Librarian's Dilemma," E. Saxey muses about the destruction of libraries.