Note: if you haven’t read the original Spar story (which I talk about here), you’re not going to understand much of what follows. That said, you probably won’t understand much of what follows even if you have read it. This is a highly strange story that doesn’t exist in isolation, but when paired with the original Spar it’s funnier than it has any right to be.
After all, this is the first line: In the tiny lifeboat, she and the alien eat bacon endlessly, relentlessly.
While I like bacon as a food, I’m generally growing tired of the meme amongst geeks of “instant hilarity
– just add bacon!” Which is why it really surprised me I enjoyed this story. It essentially takes Spar and replaces all of the sexual content with eating bacon. Here’s one of the sections in its entirety:
For a while, she measures time by number of strips she fries. She estimates she can fry five strips in the nine-inch pan, seven in the larger one. She stops after a time since she keeps losing count because the alien keeps snatching them from the pan.
For me, this joke works. The story was written for a charity anthology ‘Baconthology’, all featuring stories similarly modified. Though I haven’t read any of the others, I find it hard to imagine one more effective than this. For a start, replacing a key component of the story with bacon isn’t random; by targeting the sexual aspects it becomes a bizarre form of self-censorship, playing off on its divisive reputation for disgusting many readers. In some ways it’s a parody of a sanitized story.
Even so, this is ultimately a one-note joke that shouldn’t last long. And it doesn’t. This is another virtue. The original was a spare 2,150 words, and this is just over half the length. It appears, it tells its jokes, and it has the good grace to end before it wears out its welcome.
It’s not an essential classic by any means. But it works well for what it does, and provides an entertainingly dissonant addendum to the original Spar.
Spar (The Bacon Remix) by Kij Johnson
Availability: free online, free audio, print
Word count: 1,200
First published: Baconthology: The Sweet and Savory Science Fiction Anthology, edited by John Ordover, 2013
Where to find it: Clarkesworld #79, April 2013 (available here, audio here)