Drifting signifiers of sounds and shapes attach to words and attach to meanings. There is a gap between one person’s schema of meaning and another’s. Inside this gap, weird fiction nestles down and wrestles with confusion. In the case of Desirina Boskovitch’s novella about alien conquest of the earth, that gap is explored directly with the rememory of language, image, self.
In the future, aliens arrived, of some sort, and conquered this earth completely and suddenly. Harvesters rolled across the ground, like fax machines that destroy the original copy. Inside the towering home of the senders of these harvesters, children are kept alive and experimented upon by unknown, unknowable masters. It’s a bleak text, indeed, and the close perspective inside the narrator, Lolo, makes it even bleaker. She has been taken apart and put back together so many times she struggles to hold onto her sense of self. Along with her close friend, Gor, she struggles to remember what it is she has lost, even as indifferent alien forces prod and poke and challenge her in ways that make no sense to the victims of these experiments.
She searches for her sister, Tess. The first place she has to search is her own mind. Because to find a sister, first she must remember a sister. Then, she can find her sister in the alien construct that contains them all.
One way of approaching this text is to see it from the side of the “Caretakers” or “Harvesters” or “Voice” that form a kind of symbiotic being that controls and manipulates the children inside the living/pseudo-living structure that imprisons them. To us, who see things from the side of the children, it is a horrifying nightmare of imprisonment and torture. But, to the alien entity that performs this task, it seems to be a form of mercy, but one so alien to our concept of it that we see it as a horror story. The aliens, however, in their worldview, are helping us. They have a reason to be doing what they are doing, even if it is impossible for us to understand it. The text challenges us to think about that encounter with the unknowable, that landscape of consciousness so alien to our own that we cannot even view it as an animal. The presence that permeates the labyrinth and controls the children is a monster because we do not share it’s perspective.
It echoes, as well, rapture narratives, and challenges us to see the motivations of an all-powerful deity from the lens of the monstrous, where ideas about what a god or gods may want or desire from us has very little to do with what we want or desire from them.
I recommend this book highly to fans of New Weird Fiction, particularly readers of Michael Cisco, who will find familiar themes of language confusion and the grotesque.