Sunday, September 04, 2011

Short story from Nature: "Out of the Blue"

by Salman Hameed

The last page of every issue of Nature is devoted to science-fiction short stories. Here is a recent one by a Malaysian medical student, Mohamed Atif Slim. It is not exactly my cup of tea. However, I thought it was interesting that issues of identity - Chinese and Malay/Muslim - play a major role in the story.  This is indeed a reflection of some of the issues confronting contemporary Malaysia. Interesting stuff.

Here is the beginning of Out of the Blue by Mohamed Atif Slim:

Reality Check.
“Yargh-thr! You Chinese?” The ten-eyed Gorgon stared at me, drunk.
“No, I'm Malay.”
“Wussat?” His spittle flew like rockets.
“Human subclass.”
“Human? You sure you're not Chinese?”
Goo oozed from one corner of his mouth. I gave him a sympathetic look. This is why I don't drink. “You should go home. Wife might be worried.”

I left the bar by the back door. On a crowded night like this, usually, if one alien picks on you, the rest will too. Lone human in the bar, let's ask him if he speaks Chinese and eats carrots, if he can get us bootleg ethanol. But I guess I can't blame them — the Chinese were the first humans to venture out to space since First Contact, after all. Still, you'd think the rest of the Universe would grow out of stereotyping minorities — I don't think I've ever met a carrot-eating Chinese in my whole life.
Outside the bar, it was quieter. The Chicken Nebula — named after an extinct legendary beast from Old Earth, I was told — shone like a parade of angel starships in the blue interstellar sky.
I pulled out my banjo, leaned against the dingy wall of the building, and started plucking a few chords.
That was when Shankarlati appeared.
Read the full story here.


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