Kelly Ann Jacobson


ISBN 978-1-60489-363-2



In this Cloud Atlas-style speculative novel, humans are the alien invaders. The reader learns through many documents—police reports, legal depositions, speech transcripts, and diary entries—that a human company named HealthCorp has attempted to enslave two alien species: the Laffians stranded on a planet-wide ocean and the feline HoFe living on a bed of hofellium. Now, those same aliens have come to Earth in the hopes of using the planet to safely repopulate.  A Finalist for the New Orleans Press Lab Prize and Longlist Selectee for the Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction, this new novel by award-winning author Kelly Ann Jacobson asks the question of whether these three groups can reconcile on Earth without killing each other first—and whether they should.


About the Author:

Dr. Kelly Ann Jacobson is the author or editor of many published books, including her contest-winning chapbook An Inventory of Abandoned Things (Split/Lip Press), her award-winning young adult novel Tink and Wendy (Three Rooms Press), and her new young adult novel Robin and Her Misfits (Three Rooms Press). Kelly received her PhD in fiction from Florida State University and teaches creative writing full time as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Lynchburg and as an instructor for Southern New Hampshire University's online MFA and Johns Hopkins University's MA in Writing. Kelly’s short works have been published in such places as Best Small FictionsBoulevardSouthern Humanities Review, Daily Science Fiction, and Gargoyle.

Kirkus Review:


“Archival fragments, testimonials, and ephemera tell the story of space-traveling humans discovering two alien races in dire straits and how the multiple species enter into bitter conflict while sharing Earth."

“In this SF novel, Jacobson uses an epistolary style to describe—via ingredients in some kind of multimedia “virtual exhibit”—a fateful clash of Earth and alien cultures. In the mid-22nd century, after humanity attains technology to explore millions of galaxies, Earth explorers stumble across the Laffians, tall humanoids in need of a helping hand. They escaped the tectonic destruction of their home world to settle the only other planet they could find supporting life, which they dubbed Adalaffa. But Adalaffa is a globe completely covered in ocean, and the refugees have to unhappily adopt a floating subsistence existence off the ubiquitous (and carnivorous) seaweed. With superior star-mapping, Earth’s emissaries promise the Laffians a better planet—but only in exchange for the aliens meeting impossible harvest quotas of precious Adalaffian flora. The flora turns out to have restorative properties for Earth’s badly damaged biosphere. Ultimately, the Laffians figure out they are getting the raw end of the deal and rebel. This leads to the Laffians meeting (and becoming allies with) the HoFe, another species victimized by Homo sapiens. The HoFe are tree-dwelling feline creatures with a strong warrior heritage—and a doomed home planet for which time is running out. Can the three races possibly share an abundant Earth in peace, acceptance, and respect? In a narrative woven from bits and pieces of correspondence, diaries, official reports, and even a sort of movie script excerpt, the plot is fragmentary and a bit sketchy in aspects—asking readers to swallow that the distressed, less advanced Laffians and HoFe could suddenly mount an effective Earth conquest (even granted that all of the planet seems ground under the high heel of one bitchy but strategically vulnerable corporate-monopoly CEO). That being a given, the two alien species, charitable and ethical despite their grievances, attempt a cooperative existence and try to blend together into an established society. But the author’s intriguing point of view is similar to that in the Walter Tevis classic The Man Who Fell to Earth. Humanity’s pathologies, such as religious extremism, xenophobia, racism, sexism, consumerism, and capitalism, turn out to be, as with H.G. Wells’ microbes, the subtle threats that undermine and daunt the interplanetary visitors, no matter their thoroughly benign intentions. Previous books by Jacobson took a strong LGBTQ+ orientation, and indeed here, as in Ursula Le Guin’s landmark The Left Hand of Darkness, the aliens are ambisexual, flipping from male to female as mating conditions dictate. While it’s not a prominent theme, a significant subplot deals with the first domestic coupling of a Laffian and a human (“It was our court case that made marriage between our species legal”). And, as with all things where humanity is concerned, complications ensue in this absorbing story.

 “Humanity does not play well with others in this untraditional and engrossing SF tale.”


Excerpt from Book:

Curator’s Note


When I was first asked to compile the evidence of the Special Committee’s investigation for a virtual exhibit, I was hesitant. I am, after all, a member of one of the concerned parties, and though I was born on HoFe, Earth has become my true home. I started a pollution cleanup business here; I was elected to the Council of Elders here. I have neighbors, and friends, and colleagues here. How could I accurately reflect their struggle to pick which species would stay on Earth?

As I began the process of curating this exhibit, however, the selection and ordering of evidence occurred quite naturally. Partially this was helped by the number of documents thrown out due to their falsification—mostly on the humans’ side—and partially by my determination to create, for each viewer, the experience of seeing both sides as equally valid. As I read these interrogations and articles and pronouncements, I did not envy the Special Council, and I understood why they deliberated for so long. In fact, I came to believe that neither side deserved to stay—that we should all be swallowed up by an earthquake and leave this planet to its more innocent creatures—and my pessimism earned me the Council nickname Jaded Joh. Perhaps you’ve seen the t-shirts on my constituents.

Anyway, a decision was made, and this exhibit is one old HoFeLaffian’s attempt to reproduce the series of deliberations that occurred in the closed chambers of the Special Council. There will be others, I’m sure. Still, I hope that this official site helps give some context to the Council’s decision, and that it brings its viewers some peace.

Long Laffa,

Joh the Elder



Official Order for the Formation of the Special Council

September 1, 2130


This is a sad day—a day that we, the members of the Council of HoFeLaffian Elders, had hoped would never come. We had hoped that peace would prevail—that laffa, which has come to be synonymous with your word life, would prevail—but the evidence speaks to the contrary. Everywhere, fires are burning. Everywhere, HoFeLaffians are dying. Everywhere, humans mourn at the graves of their lost loved ones and plan their revenge. Speeches are made; attacks are planned. We go on, and the battle goes on, and peace seems like an impossibility.

Since the beginning, there has been an ongoing call by HoFeLaffian politicians to make a firm decision about the matter of the HoFeLaffian occupation of Earth and its repercussions for the human occupants, especially in light of the humans’ behavior since our arrival. Human interest groups have also expressed concern about the violation of HoFeLaffian beliefs by their new leaders, and about the HoFeLaffian rights to Earth in general.

We had hoped for peace—yet perhaps we were naïve. Because of our hesitation, chaos reigned. Because of our hesitation, laffa was lost. 

A decision must now be made.

Yet we cannot be hasty. This is a complex matter, and one that requires intense study and deliberation. Thus, as of today, September 1, 2130, a Special Council of HoFeLaffian Elders has been created to gather evidence and hear testimony in this matter. Both sides—the HoFeLaffians and the Humans—will also submit evidence through a team of five representatives chosen by popular election. We want your voices heard. 

By the end of this investigation, we will decide, by viewing key documents and hearing from witnesses who experienced different parts of our history, whether the HoFeLaffians or Humans will leave Earth for good.

You can read more as this investigation unfolds by going to www.HFLvHUMANS.gov.



Transcript of the “Humans for Humans” Speech Delivered by Pastor Felix Canter

October 15, 2127


I want to begin today with a quote from Matthew, chapter 24, verses four through six: “Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.’”

Let me tell you, people of God: We have been deceived.

You see, the HoFeLaffians are the pivotal deceivers. They came in their stolen spaceship and then waged and won a war we never knew we were fighting. By the time we figured it out, we had already given these deceivers everything: our homes, our jobs, and even our humanity. Why? Because these foreign adversaries convinced us to feel bad for them? Oh, how terrible, that HealthCorp found their wasting planets and gave them a way off of them—through fair labor, by the way, as is noted in HealthCorp’s public records. How tragic.

It is not our fault that the HoFeLaffians decided to take a shortcut.

We should not pay the price for their idleness.

Yet we do pay the price, every day. Our people have become servants to these deceivers; the ones that refuse to bend the knee and beg on the streets for a few quarters. Yes, that’s right, the best of us go hungry at night, and in the winter, we huddle around a fire and warm our hands and pray to God to deliver us from these cruel masters.

But do not be alarmed.

The end is still to come.

Those of you who know your Bible verses know what comes next in Matthew: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Birth pains, because with every act of uprising, we come closer to rebirth.

Birth pains, because soon we will be free.

Some of you already know what I’m talking about.

Some of you wait for nightfall and steal back what was stolen. Guns. Homes. You strike at these deceivers and reveal their lies, especially their claim that they believe in life—what they call laffa—more than anything.

What about our lives?

Thus we will bring the earthquake of our fury upon these creatures, and we will take back the kingdom that is ours. As Samuel says, “the Lord will not abandon his people.” We have not been abandoned, my fellow humans, for God is with us, and he will make sure we triumph over the plague of HoFeLaffian rule. We need merely to rise up, and we will be guided to victory.

So I, Pastor Felix Canter, say to the HoFeLaffians who are on their way to arrest me: “Let my people go.” Let us go, you so-called life-loving, honorable beasts, for these are the signs of the end of times—of your times—and with your annihilation, we will be reborn.




Stand down; we are in control. I repeat, stand down; we are in control. Preserve laffa. Preserve laffa!


From the Diary of Sonamin, Entry #455

Planet: Laffa

Discovered and Translated by Emily Marger


A few days ago the mansel trees put out their fat white buds and blossomed, and this morning I pulled my first mansel from its thorn cover like a baby’s wet head guided out of its mother. Ten pounds, I thought, shifting the weight between my palms. Ten quillins, to trade for ten seed bags—or perhaps a sefer like Tamalin’s to add fresh milk to my table.

“Look at this,” I said to Tamalin when I passed their door. They whistled at the mansel in my satchel.

“At least nine quillins,” they said.

“Ten,” I corrected.

“Like it matters,” they said, as though a quillin couldn’t make the difference between a row of tomato plants or an empty garden edge.

Then I noticed they were dressed in the blue uniform of the Laffian Space Program. “Going to work?” I asked.

“Obviously,” they said, pushing their shoulders back.

When Tamalin first got the uniform, they had complained about the color. Aren’t we already blue enough? they grumbled as they spun around for the benefit of nosy neighbors. That’s the point, I countered, resisting the urge to plaster my laffaberry jam and toast onto their chest. The uniform is a symbol of our people—the first thing a discovered species might see upon arrival. Tamalin had laughed me away, but I noticed they never mentioned the generic color again.

“And where is your work, again?” I asked. “The mud pits?”

“You know very well.” Tamalin stepped out of their cottage to kick up dust and rocks in my direction.

“Watch out, or I’ll kick back and ruin your perfect little uniform.”

Tamalin retreated into the darkness of their cottage, and I kept walking. Is a perfect LSP entrance exam score and special notice of the General really cause for such arrogance? Then again, I suppose I would feel the same if I was singled out as a genius from a planet of herders and farmers.


Yet I couldn’t quite accept it. I missed the old Tamalin—the one who had invited me, an orphan, into their pack of siblings. The one who threw me into the lake, and snuck me into their room to play flack-flack, and never told anyone about the time they found me sleeping on my mother’s grave well after her funeral season ended. 

I missed my friend.

And soon enough, they might couple and change again, this time into birth parent or parent mate with a new body and a new life…

Or maybe not.

After all, Tamalin seemed incapable for caring for anyone but themselves.

After I got home, I bedded the mansel in a baby basket and shook the pollen off my picking coat. The right arm had a bloodstain on the shoulder, and sure enough, I inspected the skin beneath to find the wound weeping white puss like streaks of storm clouds against a blue sky. Quick, Sonamin, I thought, realizing too late that my eyesight was darkening into an early evening haze. The poultice was across the room. I took one heavy step, and a second, and then my knees bent and felled me like a diseased mansel tree.

This is how I die, I noted with ambivalence, the poison having already numbed any regret emitting from my medial orbitofrontal cortex. With egotistical Tamalin as the last face I will ever see.

No. I forced my mind back, to a memory of lying in bed with my mother’s hair brushing against my cheeks as she leaned down to kiss me. She smelled like laffaberries and the slightly sulfurous scent that always lingered on the other side of the mountain. The braid of red string she dyed with the berries and now wore around her head came closer and filled my vision like a sunset on the horizon. Funny, that little act of vanity to distinguish her from the other pickers—from the other Laffian adults in general—which did not at all fit in with her idea of a harmonious Laffa. She was complicated, my mother. I loved her.

And I love Tamalin.

I shook my head, but my vision of them would not clear. Focus on the laffaberry smell, I told myself, or on the red braid. Focus on the way she used to whisper Long laffa, flower of my heart, and how even after she left the room, I heard her echo until I fell asleep.


The real Tamalin stood over me.

“Where’s the poultice?” Tamalin yelled at me, though their voice was a weak echo by the time I processed the words. “Where, for laffa’s sake? Can you hear me?”

“Yellow. Basket.”

Tamalin disappeared and then appeared again with the basket, made by their mother for mine the year before she died, with the titanium box with my precious items—the poultice, my mother’s wedding necklace, and this diary—inside. They poured powder into their hand and spit, and then used a finger to mix the two together. “Brace yourself,” they said, and rubbed the mixture onto my wound.

Fire on my shoulder. I screamed.

“Be brave, my friend,” Tamalin said, and they took my hand in theirs. I was so surprised I forgot all about the pain.

“Are we still friends, Tamalin?” I asked.

They dropped my hand. “Of course we are.”

The burning subsided into a dull ache. Mansel poison works that way—either kills you quickly, or, if you treat the wound in time, leaves your system in minutes. When I could prop my body up with my arm, Tamalin helped me crawl to a low stool at the foot of my mother’s chair. By the time I sat up, I felt entirely cured.

“Thanks for saving me.”

“Why do you still pick mansel fruit, anyway?” they asked as they pulled the green blanket on the chair over my shoulders. “You could be more than just a farmer.”

“Oh, Tamalin, you understand nothing.” I took the edges of the blanket and wrapped myself up. “It’s the farmers who are the lucky ones.”

I thought they would leave then, but they sat in the other chair and asked, “What do you mean?”

“Do you have any idea how beautiful an orchard of mansel trees is in the early morning, when the leaves mirror the sun and the fruits pulse like large hearts in their thorny chests? There is no better example of laffa.”

Tamalin shrugged off my romantic description. They had no interest in either laffa the concept or Laffa the planet—their mind was on the stars. “I have to get to my training class,” they said. Apparently, the conversation was over.

“Wait.” I stood up on unsteady legs and found my balance. “I wanted to show you something.” I dug in my picking coat pocket for the falana flower I’d picked that morning. Its bright orange petals were a little wrinkled, but the beauty was still evident. A sweet honey smell filled the small room.

“A flower? You wanted to show me a flower?”

“It’s a falana flower,” I said, smoothing the petals.

“Sorry, Sonamin, but I’m really late, and I don’t have time to—”

“A lava flower.” I passed them the stem. “I’ve never even seen one, just heard stories about them from my grandmother. They only grow in volcanic soil, and only at unpredictable times. I thought that maybe you could mention to General—.”

“I’m really late, Sonamin.” Tamalin tossed the flower onto the table. “Tell me tonight, okay?”

“Okay,” I said to their back. So much for friends.

The truth is that I’ve noticed a lot of weird things lately, like the early harvest of mansel fruit, and the odd herding of the usually solitary wild sefers on the mountain. Their hair is balding in patches, and their beards are thin and stringy. There is also the birdcall, which is notable in its absence. Not once have I woken this week to their pleasant chirping. And now that I think about it, the man who sells taniroak eggs at the bend mentioned resorting to jarred product because the taniroaks had not spawned in three days. (Reminder to my future self: taniroak eggs taste like algae, and not in a good way.)   

That’s why I wanted to write down some notes today, though I got sidetracked by my story about Tamalin, as always. I can’t shake this weird feeling I have…

But maybe it’s nothing.


Sorry, I dropped my train of thought. My extra quill was jumping a little on the desk, and it distracted me. I wonder if a herd of sefer is coming down the road. Anyway, I was saying—

There was a loud sound just now. I wonder if it’s a landslide? I’m going to put this diary back—

Oh, dear laffa.