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Tear Tracks by Malka Older

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"Tear Tracks" is a 2015 science fiction short story by Malka Older. It is about the first contact between humans and an alien species with some very human-like qualities.

Non-Spoiler Summary

blood tears by Keres Jasminka, CC 2.0 License

Flur is a woman who is about to make history. She, along with her crew mate Tsongwa, is one of the lucky two humans who will meet with the recently discovered alien species: the Cyclopes. Both humans have undergone rigorous training to be part of this team, and the time has come where they will finally meet the aliens and try to set up a framework of understanding. After landing on the aliens’ strange, beautiful fluid-like planet they are ushered into the meeting chamber while the slow process of coming to an agreement begins. The humans’ time is limited, and as they try to make the negotiations move more swiftly, Flur is exposed to the alien’s exotic culture – where she comes to learn that they value something which she has in spades!

My Two Cents

  • Story: 5 stars – I am a sucker for first contact stories – and I found this one to have a few, nice unique elements in it. Plus, I just loved the aliens’ relaxed pace!
  • Writing: 4 stars – There were a couple of places where the rythym of the story seemed a bit off-kilter… but overall it was told very well.
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars – I enjoyed both the pacing and the unique ideas in this story. I felt the meeting ended a bit abruptly, and I found myself wishing that more of the alien culture would have been revealed.

Where To Find Tear Tracks

  • This short story first appeared online at in October 2015 – where you can still read it for free.

Craving More SF Stories Like This One?

If you enjoyed "Tear Tracks" then you may also like "Mail Order" by Martin Ivison – about a group of explorers that land on an alien planet with the intention of establishing first contact, but end up getting sidetracked!