The latest New Yorker fiction offering is from a veteran of the magazine, Steven Millhauser. 'The Invasion from Outer Space' is a witty exploration of what occurs when our most deep-seated fears are made manifest, when events of which we have dreamed or which we have only experienced through books and films become reality.
The imagery of 9/11 was so disturbingly familiar from popular culture that it has become difficult to revisit the cliches of the disaster movie, for example, without evoking that day. Millhauser turns this phenomenon on its head by taking as his subject a version of The War of the Worlds in which the long-dreaded alien encounter turns out to be a bit of an anti-climax. The narrator wants 'terror and ecstacy', but all he gets is a coating of yellow dust.
It's a tribute to the author's sensitivity and sense of humour that the story itself doesn't disappoint, and, unlike the extraterrestrial visitation, at just over 1500 words it doesn't outstay its welcome either.
Steven Millhauser's most recent collection is called Dangerous Laughter.