A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs

A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs by Cora BuhlertHumanity thought they were alone in the universe. They were wrong.

When aliens attack Hyams II, a small mining colony on the galactic rim, all that stands between the attackers and the terrified civilian population are a handful of underpaid and underequipped security guards.

However, two of those guards, Cally and Matt, use all their skills and their knowledge of the colony’s layout to fight back and hold the invaders at bay. And in the process, they also manage to uncover the biggest secret of all: Why are the aliens attacking human outposts in the first place?

This is a short science fiction story of 6500 words or approximately 25 print pages.

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More information:

  • A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs is a short story of 6500 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • This story was written as part of the 2017 July short story challenge. The idea was to write a short story per day in July 2017.
  • The inspiration for this story was a discussion at KBoards about the fact that the space opera and military SF subgenre bestseller lists at Amazon were (and continue to be) dominated by very samey books about manly space marines fighting evil aliens intent on exterminating and/or enslaving humanity. In the course of that discussion, someone said, “Well, who doesn’t love the description of alien blood splattering across a bulkhead?” and I thought, “Uhm, me.”
  • So I decided to give it a try and write a “humans fight aliens and are grossly outgunned and outnumbered” science fiction story. And yes, alien blood actually does splatter onto a bulkhead in this story.
  • Coincidentally, this also makes A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs my first attempt at writing to market and trying to give the voracious space opera and military SF audience at Amazon what it apparently wants. Though in the end, my protagonists Matt and Cally are not manly space marines, but two underpaid and underequipped security guards in a small mining colony.
  • What is more, A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs is also the closest I’ve ever come to having aliens who are evil because they are evil. Now my science fiction stories rarely feature aliens, because aliens are so rarely handled well that I’d rather not have them. Besides, I find that a fully human universe can be just as intriguing. When I do have aliens, they’re either used for parody as e.g. in Bug-Eyed Monsters and the Women Who Love Them, or largely kept off screen like the never seen saucermen from The Day the Saucers Came… A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs, however, is the first time I have portrayed aliens mostly as evil for the sake of being evil and an enemy that it’s okay to shoot. Though we do find out about their (rather prosaic) motivation for attacking human outposts at the end.
  • Doctor Sternhagen, who appears at the very end, was named for actress Frances Sternhagen, who plays the doctor in the 1981 science fiction movie Outland, which is basically High Noon set on a mining colony on Io.
  • Coincidentally, Hyams II, the outpost where A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs is set, is named after Peter Hyams, director and screenwriter of Outland.
  • A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs does not fit into any of my existing space opera universes such as the In Love and War series or the Shattered Empire series. Instead, it’s a true standalone, though I might revisit this universe or even these characters in the future.
  • The cover is stock art by Luca Oleastri.