How I Proposed to My Wife

by John Scalzi

Cover image

Publisher: Subterranean
Copyright: 2007
ISBN: 1-59606-480-3
Format: Kindle
Pages: 25

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How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story is really a novelette, which I would normally give a paragraph review in a larger collection. But it was independently published and is independently purchasable, so it gets its own page. I read this as part of the Subterranean Scalzi Super Bundle, which collects a bunch of Scalzi's independently-published short fiction. It was originally a chapbook that accompanied Subterranean #4.

Those familiar with Scalzi's other work should expect something more like Agent to the Stars than the Old Man's War series. The first-person protagonist is a new writer for New World Man — think the sort of glossy magazine you see in supermarket racks. Every issue, they do an alien story; this issue, they decide to do an article on alien courtship and, of course, assign the new writer to it.

Most of the story is a mildly entertaining series of arranged dates in which Charlie has somewhat awkward conversations with various aliens about how their date protocols work, and then ends up in situations that are sexual to the aliens but mostly just bizarre and embarassing. If you've read any other Scalzi humor, you know what to expect: good-natured, light, mild parody with a touch of slapstick.

There is, of course, a twist that gets the story to the point foreshadowed in the title. I didn't find it particularly believable, but you don't read this story for its complex and realistic world-building. The ending joke, which is back onto the firmer ground of purely human romantic conventions, is probably the funniest moment in the story.

If you like Scalzi's humor, you probably won't regret spending the $1 that the story currently costs on Amazon. (You can also still get it on a shareware basis direct from Scalzi, but given that the minimum useful donation is 30 cents, it's probably easier to just buy from Amazon unless you don't want Amazon's format or DRM.) On the other hand, you probably also won't regret forgetting this story exists and going on with the rest of your life.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2013-01-19

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21