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"Small, Wet, With Angry Bipeds": Review from RateThatPlanet.feed.mw

Katrina Smith reads and writes speculative fiction in Bend, OR, surrounded by ponderosa pines and an assortment of entities with varied intelligence. You can find her stories and essays in Metaphorosis Magazine, Synaesthesia, The Butter, and others.

Galaxy: Milky Way
Planet: Earth
Purpose: Exploration
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
This planet had almost no reviews, so here's the one I wish I'd had before I came for a quick weekend. I had a decent time here, but there are some things you should know.
First, the good--I saw hardly any other tourists here, so you'll get a pretty authentic experience. Only one moon, lifeless, but there's plenty of parking. Not a huge fan of the locals but they do make some good food if you're feeling adventurous, and they speak by vibrating noises and clicks out of their mouth holes, which is weird at first but easy enough to decipher after an hour or two of practice. Evolution! Am I right?
There's something wrong with the HVAC--it's either too hot or too cold all the time. Really hard to regulate. I called the closest thing I could find to a repair guy, and he figured out what the problem was, but there's some sort of miscommunication and someone at the head office insists it's not really broken, so we're stuck with it. If you are here for the polar bears, I'd check in with them now rather than later.
Related to the above, something's also wrong with the freezer. It keeps melting ice. Really inconvenient when you want a margarita and the penguins are having issues mating because of it, too.
The night sky is spectacular--you can see the whole galaxy scattered around us from here, from the pink shores of the Garbai Nebula to Zebula V's dying star. My favorite thing is to head into the deep woods or the desert with a nice blanket and a glass of wine and just drink it all in. Be careful if you happen to light a fire pit, though. Due to the HVAC issue, the trees are dry. Once the forest catches, it'll burn for thousands of miles.
There's a mass murder problem, so you might want to avoid public places and any countries the locals feel like targeting, mostly because it's a huge inconvenience to avoid--their projectile weapons aren't going to do much against our physiology, but it's not like we can avoid the traffic and it's just an unpleasant thing to be around. Really ruins the landscape. Anyway, it comes and goes, nothing you can do about it. Thankfully it's kind of like the insect blooms you get on bodies of water in the summer season--it doesn't last long and only surges a few times a decade. Guess this is the price we pay for the amazing views and access to the native wildlife! The entire planet is basically one big safari park with some genocide mixed in.
On the upside, Yellowstone has a really cool geyser, Australia has a really cool reef (the coral isn't dealing with the melting ice well so you should go there ASAP too. The coral bleaches white and gets spiky like the vastus plains of Zebula III so maybe if you're a homesick Zebulon, wait a few decades and come back). When the conditions are right, solar winds from the planet's star ionizes the atmosphere and makes for a really pretty light show. There are tons of mountains to climb and the sky is a very appealing shade of blue. It occasionally rains for months, but only on one side of the planet at a time, so you can avoid it if you don't feel like getting wet. There's also something really special about seeing water fall from the sky, too, if you're from a star system without a lot of standing water. And snow! Snow is frozen water with a really cool crystalline structure! You can find it on the tops of most of Earth's largest mountains. Just avoid the tons of trash and human waste scattered towards the summit. Do not touch the yellow snow.
One thing about this planet--the owner is on some kind of extended sabbatical, or has been for the last few millenia. Nobody is totally sure when they're due back and frankly these bipedal half-intelligent humans that were left here to proliferate have already screwed it so I wouldn't worry too much about anything you damage. But try to treat the place like it's yours, you know? Be kind. Leave the Grand Canyon grand. Keep the fjords fiddly. Try not to start any new world religions. Etc.
And do what you can to clean up a little bit here and there. I know you're on vacation, but if you want to be able to come back here in the future you might spend five minutes and a little elbow grease, apply some particle physics, fix one or two minor environmental disasters when no one is looking. Think about tomorrow a little bit and recycle!
All in all: Small, wet, covered in angry bipeds, but nice views. I'll likely visit again, but not anytime soon.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 29th, 2019

Author Comments

I wrote this story after reading yet another article about how we're destroying the planet. Depressed and panicked, I started thinking about how a beneficial alien might be our only chance... but what if they felt about our Earth the way you might feel about an adequate, if underwhelming, Airbnb? I tried to capture a sense of the features that make our local landscape great and to set it in the context of a wider universe we have yet to encounter.

- Katrina Smith
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