In Schuyler Hernstrom’s “The Movements of the Ige”, we are introduced to an alien species reminiscent of feathered serpents fighting and dying underneath their world’s sun in a mating ritual, For the sterile males, the highest goal is to die, making the most beautiful death throes before their bodies feed the creatures who are later fed to the Ige females’ eggs. Ritual constrains the bloodshed to one day a year, and the chief of the Ar tribe, Kor, now seeks his death before his god-sun after three years of battle. But a strange sight in the heavens interrupts the battle, and neither the Ar nor their enemies wish to fight and die.
I am tempted to leave the summary finished here so none of the surprises of “The Movements of the Ige” have been revealed. Unfortunately, that would give a false impression of the story. At this point, it could be easily be mistaken for a typical fantasy, albeit one leaning more towards the strange ecologies of Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive instead of the more familiar realms of Middle Earth, Westeros, or the Land of the Wheel of Time. But the sign in the heavens is a landing spaceship, presumed to be human as the description of the egg-like ship and the single large bronze eye of its occupants are strongly evocative of the Apollo moon missions.
“The Movements of the Ige” is actually a first contact story from the perspective of the aliens, drawn from sword and planet tropes instead of science fiction. Kor does not worship the newcomers as gods, nor are there ham-handed replays of the Conquistators landing in America. Instead, his actions are driven by his worship of the god-sun and the importance of the killing day. It’s almost as if the story is a refutation of the hoary trope that native tribes would worship starfarers as gods. Kor does indeed find the death before the god-sun he seeks, but I will leave how for readers to discover.
Of the four shorter stories in Thune’s Vision, “The Movements of the Ige” is my favorite. Not only was I impressed by the strangeness of the life-cycle of the Ige, Kor is alien without devolving into a Star Trek rubber nosed human clone. That alienness resonated with me in a way that the other stories did not. Furthermore, “The Movements of the Ige” is an examination of the science fiction standard of first contact, but, by examining it through the lens of heroic fantasy, it breathes new life into that moldy oldie. Proper pulp entertainment, this story is, and a worthy addition to the field.