I’m of many minds about Steven Millhauser’s story The Invasion from Outer Space, which appears in this week’s New Yorker.
I was really happy that The New Yorker ran such a short short story. The New Yorker isn’t nearly fond enough of them, though I understand that isn’t their thing and I don’t read it expecting to find them. These days, sadly, I read The New Yorker and expect to not to finish their fiction. Not sure how or when that happened, but it certainly has. (Claudia Roth Pierpont’s recent piece on James Baldwin was great, though)
Then I realized that maybe they had to run such a short piece because no one’s can pay for ads anymore. I got depressed, because I felt like my triumph had been snatched away, and because I was yet again reminded that nowhere will trick me or offer false comfort about the state of the economy. Then I got really depressed because all I want in life is less, or no, advertising, and it’s finally happened, and I can’t celebrate.
But then I became happy again because The New Yorker had published science fiction, and that genre doesn’t get enough love from more traditional literary circles (Lethem’s sci-fi piece from a while back made similarly fuzzy).
And then I got sad, or just really befuddled, because though I enjoyed The Invasion, I didn’t think it world to inspire a desire for more stories this length (1,500 words!). I felt like I had happily hitched a ride with it and then it dropped me off way before my stop, like in the middle of nowhere (maybe in a “field of wheat”). All I could think was, “What the hell kind of ending is this, besides abrupt and unsatisfying?” I don’t need stories to be neatly tied up, but I do need something, anything.