Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Tie Goes to the Runner by Russell Nichols.
Fiction Friday: Tie Goes to the Runner
I like baseball. I like aliens, too. I also like aliens playing baseball. That’s today’s story. I’m talking about Tie Goes to the Runner, by Russell Nichols, as featured in Lightspeed Magazine, previously in the Night Lights anthology. You can find it here. If you’re familiar with the classic film “The Sandlot” (”You’re killing me, Smalls!”) it’s like that, but with an alien.
So, let’s begin.
Baseball, But With Aliens
The story explains how a ordinary sandlot turned insane when an alien decided to visit. After watching them play, the alien decided to have at the bat, only to find that this guy doesn’t play like a human, but is good enough to cause the biggest argument in their history.
This story doesn’t need to do a lot to be interesting. It’s got a colorful cast, a good backstory, and a unique enough premise that pays homage to the Great American Pastime. I enjoyed seeing the group banter about aliens and also that they had nicknames like PBP (Play-by-Play). The alien’s curiosity is innocent yet leaves you wondering how it’ll react to an unknown species, at least to him, playing sports.
I love seeing alien creatures enjoying our culture, trying to understand everything we do. While it’s never explained where he came from or why he was even here (assuming it is an alien, or maybe a mutated lab experiment), the creature is interesting enough that its mere presence is enough to make readers wonder what it’s going to do if it does play baseball. Will he launch it into space? Will it knock a satellite out of orbit? Will he call his buddies to annihilate Earth if he lost to earthlings? Who knows?
It does a lot to keep me interested, but its hook is that the narrator is retelling a story that changed his life forever, about how an argument about an alien playing baseball tore the sandlot asunder from that day forward. It’s such a simple concept that brings absurdity to an old classic plot of kids playing on a baseball field.
The Alien Itself
While I did enjoy the alien itself, I felt it could have done a bit more. I wasn’t expecting it to just dance and do a musical number, but I kind of expected it to be a little more curious. Maybe clap for them or even give it the impression of analysis so it can play baseball. Maybe it could have taken the plot from before and be so freakishly powerful that it really did force a satellite out of orbit.
Granted, it doesn’t have to be that dark, but I felt the alien could have been a bigger presence in the plot. As far as I found, nothing suggested that it came from outer space. It could have easily have been a lab experiment (perhaps it escaped from Area 51 and made a super long trek. That’s a hell of a ride, though).
Something like that would have made a bigger impact than anything. The idea of life outside of our world is still an unknown. Sure there’s the possibility for life to exist, but as far as actual lifeforms, none exist so far. So something like this would be a literal life-changing event not just for these kids, but the entire existence of humanity.
Sure they’re surprised and genuinely think it’s an alien, and they do react accordingly, but for whatever reason, having this alien somehow felt out of place in an innocent baseball story that could have taken a more natural turn and still would have been entertaining. I’m all for the ordinary becoming extraordinary, but sometimes being a little too extraordinary can alter a mood so much.
Imagine writing a simple romance novel where instead of the love interest being a normal man, he’s a tentacle-faced alien from Planet Borg (Totally made that up. Yes, you’re welcome to use the idea). Would it make sense to alter it so much when a simpler story can easily work?
I’ve had this problem in my own writing as well. Sometimes, I would go a little too far into humorous and strange when sometimes, staying within the realms of reality is what makes stories like this great. And this is a good story. It’s humorous, goofy, and has a wonderful cast, but…I don’t know, it’s just a personal quirk, really.
Don’t have a lot to say on it, other than it was a silly, yet good story. If you can accept an alien playing baseball like it’s no big deal, then you’ll like this one. It also depends on how far you’re willing to let the oddity meter go. Give this one a try, and let me know what you think. Do you like the idea of aliens playing baseball? Perhaps one day, it might exist.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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My Japanese Mythology-inspired short story, Do Not Stare Into The Eyes Of A Kitsune, is finally available. You can buy it on Amazon or wherever ebooks are sold. Help a debut author make his debut worth it.
I announced other works, including a kaiju-themed “mini-novel” (which you can learn about here) and a short story anthology in the near future. This is only the beginning for me and I have more to share.