Sunday, September 23, 2007

Adam-Troy Castro's "Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl's": Description of an enigma

This story starts off very well, but that is just the background. Main story develops the suspense well, but ends with a dull anti-climax.

Full text of this story can be downloaded here.

Story summary.
Story is narrated by Max Fischer, & keeps switching between the time he was 20 & when he is 90. At 20, he spent 3 years on moon when it was beginning to be colonized. At 90, he is there as a visitor when moon is quite well developed for humans.

Story begins with the description of the kind of life these early technicians lead there. That is when we are introduced to the enigma. One fine day, colleagues drag Max a little early from work.

Destination turns out to be something that cannot exist! A very small-town American house on the lunar surface, not covered by any kind of dome or artificial structure, & inhabited by old couple Minne & Earl, & their dog Miles! House occupies an apparently rectangular surface area of several acres, & is bounded by an ordinary looking fence. Outside the fence, you have a harsh airless moon. Inside the fence, you have a very terrestrial environment - lawn, breathable air, birds, ...! If there is a barrier separating this inside from outside, it's completely invisible & imperceptible!

Later in the story, we will learn that the old couple like to entertain human workers on moon, & "have been here since at least Apollo; those photos of them with Armstrong and Aldrin are genuine". They are very friendly, but any questions about their magical habitats or their identity always draws a blank.

Governments on earth have known about them. Visitors to the home have come back with samples of many things, including food & hair samples of hosts; tests back home never find anything out of what would be ordinarily human! Also, their estate is invisible to telescopes on earth! "They haven’t noticeably aged, not even the dog." Also, "they do understand every language we’ve sprung on them, but they give all their answers in Midwestern-American English."

At a stage, a colleague summarizes the various theories about what the visitors might be. Among them,

  1. "This is a first-contact situation. Minnie and Earl, and possibly Miles here, are aliens in disguise, or simulations constructed by aliens." They are believed to be not hostile, because "Anybody capable of pulling this off must have resources that could mash us flat in the time it takes to sneeze."
  2. May be they are humans from future with better technology. Or "from an alternate universe".
  3. May be they actually live in small-town US but through a miraculous parallel universe opening, also appear on moon!
Many other theories are advanced. All are rejected. Until eventually the most enlightening is presented: question of who they are or where they come from "doesn’t matter"! I kind of felt cheated with this conclusion.

Second intermingled thread when Max is 90 is of his quest to locate Minnie & Earl. He had lost touch in intervening years, & now no one on moon remembers them - except a few old timers who have also been out of touch. Eventually, a rather lame theory is presented: they have left because humans are now developing moon, & it no longer is pristine. And that they didn't say good bye because they felt neglected!

See also.
  1. Tim Pratt's "Impossible Dreams": A shop from a parallel universe keeps periodically appearing at a certain location in US!
  2. Arthur Clarke's "What Goes Up": An invisible force field barrier is accidentally created enclosing a spherical space in Australia. The space inside is very different from this story, though.
Fact sheet.
Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl's, short story, review
First published: Analog Science Fiction & Fact, June 2001
Rating: B