“Stranger Station,” Damon Knight, 1956

“Stranger Station,” Damon Knight, 1956 – Paul Wesson is stationed on Stranger Station, which will be visited by an overwhelmingly alien consciousness. His only companion is the robot (female) Aunt Jane. His purpose is to establish contact with the alien, in the interest of picking up a longevity serum that the aliens have offered to humanity as a gift.  He tries to endure the saturating presence of the alien mind–and the degradation of his ability to communicate with other humans that results from this communion–but he begins to fixate on what he calls Wesson’s Law: “When two alien cultures meet, the stronger must transform the weaker with love or hate.” He comes to suspect that the aliens, having determined that humanity will one day be a space-faring race, are attempting to “adapt” humanity to the aliens in advance, perhaps over the course of centuries. Humans will have been conquered–not by hate, but by love–and Wesson decides that he will use hate to resist.

Comments: Themes of First Contact, the Other, emotions, economics, life extension.  Read in The Best of the Best, ed. Merril.  Marcus Pan describes the story: “Stranger Station is a hard SF piece with theological and philosophical depths. What happens when two alien races, both of which are a blasphemy of vision to the other, see for the first time their likenesses?”  A more detailed analysis is available in Voices for the Future: Essays on Major Science Fiction Writers: Volume 3, by Thomas D. Clareson.  Finally, the imagery of a remote station which two alien races must visit at an appointed time anticipates the opening sequence of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series.

Author: Wikipedia: “Damon Francis Knight (September 19, 1922 – April 15, 2002) was an American science fiction author, editor, critic and fan. His forte was short stories and he is widely acknowledged as having been a master of the genre.”


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, agency/will/freedom, automata/robots, communication, death/immortality, difference/tolerance, economics, emotions/intimacy/empathy, evolution, language/libraries, post/colonialism, religion/soul/spirituality, the Other. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Stranger Station,” Damon Knight, 1956

  1. Michael South says:

    Your summary is kind of a spoiler of the entire story. Not sure if that’s what you intended, but you are kind of giving away the twist.

    • jennre says:

      You raise an interesting issue and one that came up when I first created the blog. Initially, there was a general “spoiler alert” warning at the top of the first page. However, this drew some criticism from at least one scholar. The issue being that–at least according to a recent essay in The New Yorker (?)–sophisticated literature doesn’t “require” spoiler alerts. Whether one knows the ending or not, the pleasure is supposed to be derived from the experience of reading the text. I pushed back on this at first. Doesn’t this exclude genre literature, as quite a bit of it relies on suspense or twists of perception/logic? Ultimately, I decided to take out the spoiler warning. I believe most if not all of these texts stand on their own, despite foreknowledge of the “twists” they might possess. And, since this is a literary criticism/scholarly research site, the point is to present these texts to scholars as items of study, not as pure entertainment. Further, for some scholars the ending is a source of interest in itself–how genre stories resolve themselves, what statement (if any) the conclusion makes, whether it’s left open-ended or “wrapped up” neatly. Since this blog attempts to draw a particular audience to stories they might not realize are quite so interesting, this additional information seemed too important to leave out.

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