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War of the Worlds: Final Take

Bruce McAllister's short fiction has appeared over the years in SFF&H magazines, theme anthologies, and "year's best" volumes; and won or been shortlisted for awards like the National Endowment for the Arts, the Hugo, the Nebula, Locus, the Shirley Jackson, and others. His novels include Humanity Prime, Dream Baby and The Village Sang to the Sea: A Memoir of Magic

The Martians come back. This time they've had their shots. They trash a dozen big cities and, just to keep things even, a lot of useless English countryside. What brings them down isn't cruise missiles, armed drones or tactical single-K nuclear devices (such weapons leave unsightly marks on their machines, but these can be polished out). What does it is the torrent of email spam offering solutions to erectile dysfunction and tinnitus received by the Martian mothership's server, and then, to add insult to injury, the crude ransomware installed in the ship's system by four middle-aged Bulgarian hackers because a Martian functionary, totally unaccustomed to the notion of backup, opens an attachment that doesn't look at all deceitful.
The hackers now have the Martians' list of one thousand other worlds worth invading, which has taken them a painstaking millennium to compile, and the hackers want 14 trillion dollars US in bitcoin to give it back. Martian currency or Antarrean slaves will not be accepted. "This is going to take time," the Martians say, and the invasion hits pause while they start trading with various Earth entities to come up with the money. It's very slow work because of trade agreements, incorporation laws, currency fixation formulae, risk-mitigation binding, and other regulated interactions we Earthlings are quite proud of. In the end, the Martians just throw up their tentacles and leave, as they should.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 10th, 2022


Author Comments

A lot of my fiction is pretty serious, and writing something lighter is always a needed break. "Bathos" (descent from the grad to the mundane) is a favorite kind of humor, and daily human life, not to mention popular culture, offers all the opportunities we need for that.

- Bruce McAllister
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