“All Of Us Can Almost…” by Carol Emshwiller: A Digital Domains Review

Copyright © 2010 by Ellen Datlow. Cover design by Stephen H. Segal.

“All of Us Can Almost…” is a short story by Carol Emshwiller that was published on SCIFICTION on November 17, 2004.

Onto the review!

The Story: Dem Birds, Dem Birds!

So there are these birds–I mean, these “avian-like creatures”–and they coexist with these other “ground dwellers” who think the bird people can fly.  But they can’t, though they’ve got an impressive wingspan.

So there’s this female bird-person who’s trying to pacify this little ground dweller and letting him think she can fly and give him a ride on her back because, hey, it means the little guy is so eager to get her all the food she could want.

So the female and her friend do take flight, except the “flight” is more of a cliff dive to escape this one lustful male bird-person, which ends surprisingly well for the female and her ground-dwelling friend, but not so well for the idiot male, who gets his legs broken in the act of pursuing them.

I realize that this sounds like a bizarre story and not too interesting.  Well, you’d be half-right.  It’s bizarre, but a strange treat for the courageous reader.

The Cast: Our Feathered Friends On The Center Stage

There are three characters worth speaking of: the female avian who narrates, the enthusiastic ground dweller who reads like a spastic six-year-old kid, and the male avian who can’t take a hint and must satisfy his “need” on the female, which is actually a pretty normal animal behavior when you think about it.

The Setting: Gonna Have To Get Back To You On That…

The story is about ten pages long, so there’s not a whole lot of action, but a healthy amount of description.  Of course, the whole point of this story is to tell the reader how things look from the point of view of a bird.  And since a bird’s language isn’t too comprehensible to human beings, it’s upgraded to the words of a bird-like person.  So things are described as part of the natural world, with relations between the avians and the ground dwellers who live among mountains and forests and rivers, without any hint of civilization.

When I was in the middle of reading this story, I was convinced that it might have been a story about dinosaurs and primitive simians, since the former are the ancestors of birds (few of whom could fly) and the ground dwellers are described as agile, fast-talking, and featuring paws.  However, I don’t know that it was supposed to read that way, but that was the impression I got as I kept reading.

Final Verdict: Now Hear The Word Of The… Bird!

While I might poke fun at how strange this story is, I have to admit that it’s kind of fun in and of itself.  Carol Emshwiller does actually try to write from the perspective of an avian, which would come off as different from that of a mammal due to biology and other environmental factors.  It’s all too easy for many authors to get caught up in their own human perspective, so it’s a nice breath of fresh air to get a story extrapolated from the view of another race, be it real or fictional.

Rhapsodist’s Note: One year ago today, I wrote and published my first post as “The Rhapsodist” on this site.  It’s been an interesting year for me and I hope to have a few more writing reviews and finding new books, movies, and shows to enjoy.  Thanks to all my readers and comment-contributors for your time and your input.  You are all my reasons for continuing with this site.

Bibliography: Emshwiller, Carol.  “All of Us Can Almost…”  Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction & Fantasy.  Edited by Ellen Datlow.  Prime Books, 2010.

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