This may seem like an odd short story title to end the year on, but I honestly think it’s kind of perfect, and a fantastic thematic story for this, our year of endless trashfire 2020. Originally published in the 2019 September/October Analog, “Molecular Rage” is so very Marie Bilodeau. What do I mean? First, Marie Bilodeau is, as always, this incredible mix of whimsy, chaos, and yet deeply seated emotionally drawn characters, and in “Molecular Rage” we get that—and aliens, too. That’s also very Bilodeau: world-building at the drop of a hat. We meet a fellow (alien fellow) who is part of the scheduling department for a teleportation network on his planet, and he’s late. The thing is? That shouldn’t be possible. Teleportation might have a few hiccoughs every now and then, but the built in safety means any snarls or crossovers just get bounced a bit until there’s room to put things back on track and deliver the person to where they’re going. There is no possibly reason for this alien to be forty-odd minutes late, but he is. And he’s been getting more and more late every week, and he’s sure it’s not just him, but he’s in charge of scheduling, so he gets the blame and gets fired.
Oh, and his home life falls to pieces, too. He’s basically left only with his daughter, an alien who has pheromones that aren’t “right” (queer me loved this character, and this casual aside of an alien being different, kind of misunderstood and sort of left out of the world because she was different and different freaked everyone else right out, and Bilodeau handled the character brilliantly: she knows she’s an outsider, and it’s not like it’s joyful, but she also isn’t trying to change herself). Now without a job, and only his odd offspring for company, our hero decides to figure out what the actual hell is wrong with the teleportation network, and… well. “Wrong” is an understatement.
Ultimately, this story is about someone realizing that the solution for everyone is going to come at a personal cost—sound familiar, 2020?—and making the choice to put themselves in a less-than-ideal position (to say the least) for the greatest good. And after being with this odd alien and his pheromones and his addiction to caffeine pods and his strange offspring? I cared. And thankfully, Bilodeau gives the reader just enough of a denouement to let you know things worked out about as perfectly as they could possibly have done. It’s a brilliant little story, and I freaking loved it.
Also? Reached out to Marie Bilodeau and asked her where this one came from. So, for the last time in 2020, here we go:
A few years ago, I got caught in an amazing traffic jam heading to the grocery store. By the much later than anticipated time we arrived, we’d witnessed many amazingly ridiculous incidents of road rage. While looking at cucumbers, I thought “teleportation would stop road rage.” By the tomatoes, I raised an eyebrow and asked: “but would it?” While selecting bagels, I giggled at the thought of a really pissed off government employee who’s continuously late (I live in a government town so added bonus!) By the time we were paying, the basic concept had forged in my mind, and I discovered Stan the next day, my time engineer hero who’s life crumbles because he just can’t get anywhere on time despite his carefully crafted schedules. I hope you enjoy this journey into the ultimate “road rage.”—Marie Bilodeau