It is not often that an anthology has me thinking positively about it before I even read the first story. But that was the case with Little Green Men—Attack!, a new humorous science fiction anthology edited by Robin Wayne Bailey & Bryan Thomas Schmidt. The editors managed this by dedicating the book to Fredric Brown, Robert Sheckley and William Tenn, and then by giving them high praise in the introduction. It tells me that the editors are fans, are familiar with the masters, and have high standards. Now what I want to know, Mr. Bailey & Mr. Gunn (who has a story in the anthology), is why none of those three are in the SF Hall of Fame? You got some splainin’ to do. But I digress…
Before you set your expectations too high, keep in mind that it would be unreasonable to expect all the stories in this anthology to be in the Brown/Sheckley/Tenn class. There is no shortage of heavyweight pros among the contributing authors, and the storytelling skill displayed is consistently high, but the level of humor varies. Nevertheless, I do recommend the anthology to SF humor enthusiasts. It contains several gems, and even some of the less funny ones were quite entertaining.
Little Green Men—Attack! contains nineteen stories in all, one of which is a reprint, while the remainder are original to the anthology. As is my custom, I will do my best to keep the following short descriptions relatively spoiler free.
“The Little Green Men Take Their Hideous Vengeance, Sort Of” by Mike Resnick – Intentional or not, the story opens with what I took to be a nod to Fredric Brown’s Martians, Go Home. Little green men show up at a man’s door out for revenge. They seek a pulp SF writer named Neilsen who they claim has made them a laughingstock with his unflattering depictions of LGMs. Resnick delivers with some very funny dialog.
“Little (Green) Women” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – A high schooler grudgingly writes an Honors English essay on Little Women, a book she despises. In it, she describes an unusual encounter of the little green kind. The narrative voice is enjoyably full of sass.
“Good Neighbor Policy” by Dantzel Cherry – LGMs are out of their depth as they attempt to conquer earth. Beginning with an unsatisfactory encounter with penguins in the Antarctic, they hope for better luck in Texas.
“Stuck in Buenos Aires with Bob Dylan on My Mind” by Ken Scholes – A ship’s amorous indiscretions get it and its pilot stuck on earth, where the pilot tries to sing his way out of the predicament.
“Rule the World” by Jody Lynn Nye – Cute LGMs have taken the world and social media by storm, making them an even bigger trend than genetically enhanced psychic cats. The cats are not pleased.
“School Colors” by Seanan McGuire – A champion cheerleading squad, the Johnson’s Crossing Fighting Pumpkins, must defend their cheerleading prowess against unusual green challengers. A little too teen oriented for my tastes, but then I am a (relatively) old man.
“Meet the Landlord” by Martin L. Shoemaker – Human colonies have already been on Mars for thirty years when an LGM appears demanding back rent to the tune of nearly three trillion dollars. It is up to the Governor’s “fixer” to resolve the issue.
“Big White Men—Attack!” by Steven H Silver – An LGM perspective on Buzz Aldrin & Neil Armstrong’s visit to the moon. Funny, creative and one of my favorites in the anthology. A must read.
“The Green, Green Men of Home” by Selina Rosen – A local bumpkin overhears two college educated tractor salesmen arguing about the existence of aliens. He tells them a tale of his own encounter with LGMs. Probably the most gruesome story in the book.
“A Fine Night for Tea and Bludgeoning” by Beth L. Cato – A fiercely independent Victorian woman who enjoys violent roller derby is pestered by a man with an unusual green skin color. I must confess to laughing at the awful rhymes.
“The Game-a-holic’s Guide to Life, Love, and Ruling the World” by Peter J. Wacks & Josh Vogt – A man is having what he thinks are hallucinations while he is at a meeting for recovering game addicts. Everything he sees is gamified. Plenty of laughs for gamers and people who know gamers.
“Day of the Bookworm” by Allen M. Steele – Aliens land and invade the Boston Public Library. Eighteen hours later, two librarians exit the building and are interrogated by military and government officials. Another one of my favorites in the anthology. Not the funniest, but one of the best stories.
“A Greener Future” by Elizabeth Moon – Short green men, known as the Leaping Leprechauns, preform on television and in advertisements, garnering a large fan following. One couple enters a contest to win a trip to meet them in person out near the Jovian colonies.
“A Cuppa, Cuppa Burnin’ Love” by Esther M. Friesner – A pair of friends have their morning coffee ritual disrupted by the closing of their favorite coffee place. This is the only story in the anthology that does not involve space aliens (it is fantasy). It does, however, offer a very funny take on progressive hipster culture.
“Little Green Guys” by K. C. Ball – A bartender in Albuquerque relates a tale told to him by a Runyonesque thief called In-And-Out Wachowski who claims to have been hired for a job by the Roswell aliens.
“The March of the Little Green Men” by James E. Gunn – Polite aliens are denied permission to land at Reagan Airport in Washington, so they land in the parking lot. A fun take on the expectations people have of benevolent aliens.
“First Million Contacts” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Alex Shvartsman – The director of the FBI’s Kansas City field office thinks an LGM at the grocery store is a publicity stunt. That is until it stretches its neck and French kisses a stock clerk. Aliens are popping up all over the planet, touching, kissing and probing people at random.
“Hannibal’s Elephants” by Robert Silverberg – Aliens invade New York’s Central Park. The aliens provide the enormous elephant-like creatures. Humans provide the humor. This is the only reprint in the anthology, originally published in 1988.
“The Fine Art of Politics” by Robin Wayne Bailey – Two flying saucers come to Earth, boil all the whales (the most intelligent creatures on the planet), and set out to conquer humanity with junk food, sex toys and lies. The story is packed full of political satire and humorous cultural references.
Little Green Men—Attack! offers the reader a satisfying variety of humor styles and creative approaches to the theme. Science fiction fans in general, and humorous SF fans in particular, should find enough here to make this a worthwhile addition to your reading list. Little Green Men—Attack! is available in trade paper and digital formats from Baen Books.