I said nothing. Everyone had watched on the news reels as the aliens’ shops landed. The war had been over for months, and people were ready for something new to latch onto. Washington did its best to keep the aliens corralled in embassies, with only the scientists and specialists allowed in, but in the end the aliens’ insistence that they needed to be among the populace in order to properly observe (or, more likely, the military’s concern that imprisonment might lead to an attack with the aliens’ clearly superior technology) led to them being given free range within most major cities. They were polite, courteous, and content to primarily listen and watch.
They could also read minds where they were drunk. How and why they managed to keep that secret for so long was a mystery. Regardless, once out from under the thumb of the diplomats, the aliens began frequenting bars, at which point everything went to hell. An alien sitting next to you was bad enough, but an alien that could read your secrets and broadcast them was more terrifying than any Kraut menace. There were riots.
Instead of imprisoning the aliens, the government use them as an excuse to cave in to the temperance ladies. No booze meant no problem.
This is The Sharing by James L. Sutter from the anthology Broken Time Blues, published in 2011 and which is already considered a classic of dieselpunk fiction. It s indeed a very nice anthology, presenting quite a few outstanding author in a variety of different dieselpunk incarnations.
The Sharing is one of my favourite stories from the anthology, mostly for what you can read here: the idea. I was blown away by the reinvention of the motivation why Prohibition came into being. The story itself is pretty straightforward and simple as far as plot is concerned, but the idea is really genial, in my opinion.
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