Title: “46 Directions, None of Them North”
Author: Deborah Coates
Source: Asimov’s Science Fiction (March 2006)
I liked this story. First of all, it is a story published in a science fiction magazine that really doesn’t have anything to do with science fiction. Instead, it is a somewhat touching story of a 16 year old girl who attempts to understand her relationship with her divorced parents. Our unnamed narrator (the 16 year old girl) believes that she is receiving text messages from aliens who are planning to land in Alaska on the summer solstice and who have requested her presence at the time of the landing. She is very much into this idea; her only problem is how to get to Alaska–which involves convincing her parents to let her go.
The story is both funny and touching without being too mushy or melodramatic. The story is written in the first person, from the point of view of our 16 year old narrator–and sounds just how one might imagine a sixteen year old sounding in this day and age. From the beginning, it is clear that she doesn’t get along with her mother; that they just don’t understand one another (at one point she screams, “I hate you!”). But by the end of the story, they have reconciled and have decided to go to Alaska together to see what is really there. One must be a pretty good writer to develop a smooth character arc such as that one in under 4,000 words.
There are a few gimicks used throughout the story, all of which add to the story and make it more interesting. For instance, the narrative passages are intersperced wth lists like: “Four reasons I know that aliens are totally landing this summer”. They help the provide transitions between the narrative passages, as well as add humor to the story.
All-in-all, I had no idea what to expect when I started reading the story and once I started it, I enjoyed it enough that I didn’t want to put the story down. I gave it 4-stars.