Short Reviews – Welcome, Stranger, by Monroe Schere

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Welcome, Stranger by Monroe Schere appeared in the Winter 1954 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine. It can be read here at

Welcome, Stranger is the short, droll chaser Fantastic Story offers for Kuttner’s The Dark World. And it is, well, weird!

Told in first person by a member of an alien bird-dragon race, Welcome, Stranger recalls the disastrous first contact between mankind and the “Meffids.”

Astronauts land. The Meffids tear apart the astronauts, while taking a few prisoner. The last surviving prisoner gets the narrator drunk on his last flask of liquor, and insisting on having the earthman fetch him the rest of their liquor stores back on the ship, the Meffid accidentally lets the prisoner escape.

The earthman takes off in his rocket, blasting the narrating Meffid with a superheated irradiated mist.

At the outset, one could mistake the narrator, about to be eaten by his fellows, at the end of his days, recounting his great deeds to his tribe before the end. Mid-way through, it becomes clear that the narrator is not merely recalling events to his fellows, he’s explaining himself and giving account for his screw-up in letting the prisoner go before he is put to death by his fellows in a most grisly and cannibalistic method.

At the beginning of the tale, the Meffid speaks of his “gleaming body” and how “through [him] the race of Meffids gained undying beauty.” Well, it turns out that rocket irradiated the Meffid, and now he glows. His egg [Meffids are apparently hermaphroditic egg-layers] that he carried at the time glowed, as well, and was stillborn and, as is Meffids’ custom, devoured by its living fellows.

The implication, of course, is that the Meffids are all going to get irradiated and die from eating the Narrators’ flesh. “Egg by shining egg, let our race move onward to more esthetic wonders.” Long life to the Meffids, indeed!

While it’s not my cuppa, Monroe Schere managed to make a radium-panic story pretty funny. Especially amusing was the account of the astronauts attempting the standard-fare sci-fi first contact procedures only to be mocked and gobbled up by space dragons. At the same time, I can see a bit of good-natured self-ribbing of the sort of sci-fi fans who prefer action to accuracy:

“[The earthman] took a piece of branch to represent the gleaming thing, and called it spaysip. It tried to tell me that the spaysip was pushed from the openings it had on one end. It talked a good deal about these push-openings and used words something like adomickfishn and radioackf and…oh, but I bore you with these weird syllables, and you are hungry.”

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