Invasion Of The Martians by Robert Coover, 2016
The magic trick:
Attacking the story with a ferocious writer’s voice from the very start
There’s something altogether too creepy about “Invasion Of The Martians” for my tastes. Creepy isn’t maybe the right word. Sleazy is more accurate. I know that this story is a satire. So yeah, the opening scene in which the senator is enjoying a threesome with two women on his staff is social commentary. But I can’t help but feel as though it reads more like an excuse for an octogenarian to write about sex. Does it say more about our society or the writer himself? I wonder.
Anyway, it’s Robert Coover, so of course it’s all going to be parody and nihilism. Not my favorite these days. I will not sit here and pretend that the writer’s voice isn’t extraordinary at least. From the very first word, he is in total control of every word. He nails his tone and sets about drilling each and every one of his targets for the next five pages. And that’s quite a trick on Coover’s part.
Texans, the Senator declared, are a warm and friendly people, always ready to provide true Southern hospitality, with a Texas twist, to all self-supporting and well-behaved guests—and all the more so to distinguished visitors from outer space. He invited the Martians to a barbecue with live country music at his ranch, and offered stables full of horses and motorcycles for their enjoyment. Together, he said, we can knock out some trade agreements and cultural exchanges of benefit to both our planets and have a grand old time while we’re at it. We’ll go see a rodeo, a Longhorns football game, maybe take in some clay shoots, an old-fashioned chili cook-off, and some stock-car races. Yo! Hot damn! Whaddya say, fellas? Being fluently bilingual, he told them all this in both American and Tex-Mex, but, as it turned out, they didn’t speak any civilized languages, and instead pointed their weapons at him. Couldn’t they have taken a few elementary lessons before dropping in on strangers? They also seemed to have arrived without passports. He explained to them, politely, that there were certain obligatory regulations, and they shot him.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.