Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Thomas Pierce's "This Is and Alert" was originally published in the March 30, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.
Click for a larger image.

Click for a larger image.

I’ve enjoyed all of the fiction pieces Pierce has published in The New Yorker over the past few years, but I keep waiting for Pierce to “break through,” meaning I hope for more than an enjoyable, entertaining, thoughtful piece: he has something great in the works. I’ve finished reading “This Is an Alert” now, and it hits the same sweet spot without quite being that masterpiece I’m anticipating. I will get my thoughts up soon.

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By |2015-04-15T15:24:58-04:00March 23rd, 2015|Categories: New Yorker Fiction, Thomas Pierce|Tags: |10 Comments


  1. Nguy?n Huy Hoàng March 23, 2015 at 5:53 am

    This beautiful story annoyed me with its creepy headsocks and monotonous, patternless alerts which are echoing in my mind ever since. If you have not read it yet, you might want to be annoyed soon.

  2. Adrienne March 24, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I have not read any Thomas Pierce stories before this one, and while this is not a masterpiece of literary fiction, it is an engaging, interesting, and entertaining story.

    I enjoy the simplicity of it… Pierce takes for granted that we are familiar with the “Alert” and its attending required behaviors, just as George Saunders wrote as if we knew what “Semplica Girls” were. I was drawn into a story that I might have groaned at having to read if written in another style.

    I also enjoyed the ending that left me hanging. Sometimes cliff-hangers drive me batty, but this one worked within the whole framework of the storyline and its style.

    I’ll look forward to reading another one of his tales.

  3. Paul Machlis March 27, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Lately I’ve found little of the fiction in the New Yorker to be interesting or enjoyable. This story was a refreshing exception for me — vivid writing, quick-paced, successful in describing the nebulous war above in very few words, and good at showing the interesting dynamics between the six family members. There is indeed ambiguity throughout the tale and at the end regarding the alerts and the significance of the object in the swimming pool, just as we are currently unsure about so much of what the news and our governments tell us about the world we live in. Overall, for me it was a compelling and thought-provoking story.

  4. Brandon Taylor March 29, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    This story must have gone over my head, because I found little to enjoy here. The drones and alerts seemed interesting, but they didn’t really become very meaningful, did they? Underneath it all, this was just another morality tale of the dangers of a mundane life. I get it. Oftentimes, the war at home is more insidious and corrosive than the war going on literally above our heads, but this story just didn’t ever come to life for me. The writing was quick, but lacked any real emotional heft or depth. Clean enough tale, just one lacking inventiveness or a spark of life.

  5. Sean H March 31, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    How do you write a story about how irritating modern life is (and how much worse it could potentially get in the future) without becoming irritating or annoying as a story? I was with this one until the end, which felt like a bit of a missed opportunity to truly engage with the consequences of human actions and how they/we affect our environments. There is a bit of a parallel between the dog and the wounded drone but for me there should have been deeper and more volatile repercussions. I preferred “Ba Baboon,” published in The New Yorker a year ago, but Pierce displays some good writing chops here as well. That said, I don’t know if the narrator’s “voice” was sufficiently feminine, it sounded more like a gay man at times. Also, the tone wavered a bit between serious and satirical, which is not inherently a flaw but I’m just not sure that when you couple that with the narrator’s gender if you don’t feel a bit like the author might not have complete “control” over the piece (to use a bit of workshop speak), whereas in the previous piece I mentioned I felt a much more legitimate and consistent authority and an unwavering authorial command over his material.

  6. ethanbaobarker April 1, 2015 at 1:59 am

    so where’s betsy?
    also, I think sean shares some of my feelings. Though I wish I could distinguish between a woman and a gay man, I agree that the feminine voice in this one didn’t come through as much. In his interview Pierce says the story came from the image of a man drinking tea, and the narrator then would be his SO. Maybe he go too attached to that. When I realized the narrator was female, I did not look at the name of the author. I think I would have enjoyed the story less if I had known the writer was a man; I am always skeptical of the cross gender narrative. But in this case, the gender of the narrator didn’t seem quite as pertinent as it could have been, which was disappointing for me overall, I suppose. Not because I like reading stories about women or gender per se, but because a story that engages with the characters at a more deeply personal level (as I felt bababoon did) interests me more than one like this, which seems more like a social critique of society rather than a critique of these characters in particular. That said, I am here to see what I was missing, to read more deeply into how this story IS in fact specific to the characters. I guess I feel I am missing something; I didn’t read the story that closely. I look forward to betsy or trevors posts.

  7. Poor Yorick April 1, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    I remain lost with respect to the point of this piece, having failed to learn anything significant about the family members or the nature of this mid-apocolyptic world in which they live, where, thankfully, a WT sensibility seems to have survived at least in certain circles. With that said, thumbs up on the writing.
    I did wonder if this was meant to be an alternate history of some sort with its non-secularity and the comparison of the drone to the canisters previously used in the pneumatic tubes at drive-thru banks (whoosh! miss that sound). But still, point?

  8. Dan April 6, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    This piece seemed like Saunders-light. It recited all the usual Saunders tropes of the vaguely unsettled, other-controlled future populated by neologism-spouting families. But for me, it lacked the critical Saunders heart.

  9. Ken April 17, 2015 at 2:12 am

    I had really liked his earlier story, Bababoon, but this seemed very derivative of so many other fictions about dystopian near-futures where most things have remained the same, but one major change has occurred. Well written and constructed, but missing something. I don’t think the open ending works here.

  10. Trevor Berrett April 17, 2015 at 10:31 am

    I see it the way you do, Ken — which has made it difficult to go back to and write up concrete thoughts for the post above!

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