Infinitely improbably, two spacecraft collide in deep space. A human survivor is picked from the wreckage and rescued by a tiny alien lifeboat crewed by a creature that never explains itself, never offers context, never attempts to make sense of itself to its new companion. Instead, as the in-your-face opening line of Kij Johnson's astonishing short story, "Spar", says, they "fuck endlessly, relentlessly."
And that's pretty much what happens for two thousand words. The woman, widowed by the collision, is entirely invaded by this creature of non-human origin that could be sentient, but might not be. All she knows is that, no matter how gentle or violent, how exhausting or exhilarating, they fuck until they stop.
There's more to "Spar" than that. Johnson, who has been on a real tear writing some incredible short stories of late (her "The Cat Who Walked A Thousand Miles" for Tor.com
already is one of the year's best fantasies – a testament to her versatility) has created a short slap in the face with enough story, enough character to make you think long after the closing words are gone.
Published in the October issue of Clarkesworld
, “Spar” is easily one of the best stories the online magazine has published and is part of an excellent third anniversary issue (see also Gord Sellar’s story, of which more another time). “Spar” is the kind of dangerous vision we don't see often enough in science fiction and is a real highlight of the year.