Thursday, 15 August 2013

Peek! I See You!

OK. It is after midnight and I am about turn in. I have just found another Poul Anderson short story that I have had on the shelf and have never read before: "Peek! I See You!" in Homeward And Beyond (New York, 1976). It is thirty six pages long so it will have to be read tomorrow at the earliest.

I have partly been put off by the title and partly confused it with another story that ends with a similar phrase, I think. I thought at first sight that it was about a Catholic priest. Why? Because it begins:

"The father of Sean F. X. Lindquist..." (p. 38)

Further, the printing convention of the volume is that the opening two or three words of a story are capitalized. Thus:

"THE FATHER of Sean F. X. Lindquist..."

So I at first noticed the word "FATHER" followed by the personal name Sean and the initials F. X. This in turn made me think of another Anderson story about a Catholic priest. But by at last paying attention to the sentence, I noticed the crucial word "...of..." I have definitely not read this one before.

It is a First Contact story (i. e., first contact with extraterrestrials). It is also humorous or at least flippant in approach. The opening section is narrated from the viewpoint of the aviator Sean who sees "'...a sho-nuff flying saucer...'" (p. 40), although the omniscient narrator then informs us that Sean was out of touch and that "...the riddle had in fact already been answered." (ibid.) So maybe this is not a First Contact story?

Some flippancy is visible even in Sean's initials: S. F. X.

The second section jumps to a galactic point of view with a tramp hypership and its disreputable cargoes. So I do not expect to read any serious speculative fiction but Anderson's individual introduction to the story indicates that it will address the question of who on Earth visitors from an advanced extraterrestrial civilization would want to meet first.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I've greatly enjoyed the times I read "Peek, I See you!". Don't let the title and the comedy in the story put you off too quickly. Poul Anderson also makes serious points underneath the humor. One being that we musntn't be so awe struck by First Contact with non human rational beings that we forget how easily they might be no better than us, merely more advanced in technology.