Listen Up: "All the painted stars"

"All the Painted Stars" is a sweet little first contact story from the point of view of an alien who comes from an ancient, spacefaring species. The narrator has its own niche in the scheme of things and does not understand the concept of adapting to new circumstances. Life and job mean the same thing to it. The Humans have been put in charge of an ancient ship, the Legacy, left for them by a species now extinct. The database is out of date and they need help.

The theme of this story is adaptability in the face of change, a need to choose life over despair. The plot, though, works because of the nature of the protagonist and the nature of the Humans around it. Even though the tentacled narrator has been trained as a law enforcer, and is very much like a soldier in its tactics, when called upon to help it does so. There are other ways it could have responded, and then the story would have been very different. Probably what interested the author was the spirit of cooperation that Humans can call upon, and that even a single life, and individual, is, for Humans at least, a group effort.

"All the Painted Stars" by Gwendolyn Clare
in Clarkesworld Magazine
Text here
Audio here