Published in the April 2013 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact.
What happens when first contact with a feather-bedecked alien species kidnaps welfare-recipient Dana Brooks and her children, then subjects them to moderate psychological examination using English learned from TV before benevolently returning them three days later?
There’s no point in warning about spoilers because you already know exactly how it plays out. In fact, Povey inserts the answer directly in the narrative of her story:
“Somebody had watched too much Star Trek.”
The story is told from the eponymous viewpoint of a nondescript detective or government agent of some sort named Charles, to whom Dana reports her abduction. Charles, surprise of surprises, doesn’t believe her story because, “There were, after all, no real aliens,” thinking instead that it was some frat prank.
The problem with this story, however, isn’t its predictability. The problem is that all but one of the story’s characters are completely unaffected by the encounter. Yeah, yeah, one of the kids grows up to graduate from MIT and work at some company that creates spaceships. But we know nothing about this kid, and yet somehow we are supposed to care.
It’s a shame, because so much more could have been done with character development here. When Charles speaks with the alien, he supposes that the kids “probably thought it was a prank” (why, because that’s his own assessment?) or that they believed the abductors really were aliens. If the reader is meant to believe that one of Dana’s children becomes so consumed with passion for space technology that it informs his adult educational and career choices, exploring that moment which sparked such a passion in the kid’s own words would have been a much more compelling way to do it.
There wouldn’t even have been a need to change the viewpoint. Any investigator worth their salt would have questioned the children, after gaining parental consent, if only to see how the kid’s version of the story compared with Dana’s. Having the skeptical inspector question the earnest child would have leant a crisper contrast to the story, and allowed the reader to see the event through the child’s eyes. Unfortunately, Povey didn’t give us that much more compelling view.