Author(s): Kristen Alvanson; Robin Mackay
Genre-defying fiction that accelerates "cross-cultural dialogue" into a kaleidoscopic rush of sensory estrangements, fairy tales, and alien encounters."We've been told that there's no difference between us and them." On this premise the protagonists of XYZT contrive a device capable of shuttling volunteers back and forth between the United States and Iran, hidden from the watchful eyes of immigration police and state bureaucracies. Each volunteer will have a single opportunity to be received by a local host and to have a brief authentic experience of what it means to live as "them" before being transported back home.Set against the backdrop of escalating hostilities between Iran and the United States, and based on her experiences living in Iran at the end of the first decade of 2000s, Kristen Alvanson's XYZT builds on the idea of a "dialogue between civilizations" only to demonstrate the potentially outlandish ramifications that might result from such a seemingly innocuous idea.As the tests continue and the "dialogue" progresses, the very fabric of reality begins to deteriorate. Ordinary people become entangled in extraordinary situations where the deep state, mythological fauna, and counterfactual universes start to erupt into our world. Terra firma is exposed as an illusion, but far from heralding the bliss of mutual recognition, this final disillusionment may unleash a terrible malediction.An audacious cross-genre experiment, a firsthand memoir of what it means to see what "they" see, and a science-fictional, non-standard engagement with anthropology, XYZT reveals fissures and cracks in what the media calls reality, but which in fact is liable to take on all the unpredictable features of a contemporary fairy tale.