Next on the ballot for best short story is Mike Resnick’s “The Homecoming” from Asimov’s. You can find it here. If spoilers bother you, read the story before continuing with this post.
OK. Young man is transformed into insectoid alien creature. Not magically or inexplicably (see Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis“), but through some transformative process that, presumably, is not surgery, because he has metallic silver skin, multifaceted red eyes, stick-like limbs, and a tube-shaped mouth. Philip, we learn, is an exobiologist who undertook the transformation in order to study an alien world. As in “The Metamorphosis,” the family (or at least the father, who provides the story’s viewpoint) reacts with horror and repugnance. Then, estrangement, which has lasted for many years.
The story follows what happens when Philip returns home to visit his mother, who is suffering from dementia. After some bickering, an admonishment from the mother, and a brief description of the alien wonders Philip has seen, father and son are reconciled.
An interesting situation, but, emotionally, I couldn’t follow where this story tried to lead me, into a sympathy with and better understanding of the son. In fact, I started and ended with the same feeling of horror toward a person altering his body into an alien form, and my final thought at the end of the story was directed at the father–Ah, don’t make everything OK just because the story is telling you to! Perhaps the reconciliation was a shade too easy.
Evidently I am not the best person to send on a space exploration, not being up to the sacrifices required. I’ll continue to mull this one over while I turn to story #3 tomorrow.