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The Girl Inside

Passing For Human  (Benaroya Chronicles, volume 1)

By Jody Scott 

14 Nov, 2021

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


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Jody Scott’s 1977 Passing for Human is the first volume in her Benaroya Chronicles. 

Earth is not only located in an unfashionable galactic neighborhood. Its dominant technological species is a swarming mass of easily duped, neurotic flesh-eating monkeys of little interest to the true people of the Milky Way. It is therefore very inconsiderate of Earth to be located near one end of the promising galaxy-spanning Mousehole project. That is not the worst of Earth’s crimes. 

Earth may have a Satan problem. If so, the consequences will be dire. 

With a closet full of convincingly human flesh-suits, each one crafted in the form of a different human celebrity, armed with an encyclopedic understanding of human culture of the sort one can only get from a quick perusal of human television and movies, Rysemian anthropologist Benaroya infiltrates human society. Unclear on the concept of maintaining a low profile, she steals a car, races through the streets and orchestrates a road-rage-fueled drag race that leaves a human dead. Although battered, Benaroya’s Brenda Starr-shaped body survives, and is immediately arrested. 

As much fun as lethal road sports are, they are not the reason Benaroya and her colleagues are on Earth. Backward bushmanworlds are vulnerable to charismatic Scaulzo’s manipulative techniques. Scaulzo, also known as Satan, has seduced world after world across the galaxy. In general, this is bad. However, Earth’s proximity to the Mousehole means that if Earth falls under Scaulzo’s influence, the Mousehole project itself might be endangered. 

If this were not bad enough, Scaulzo has possession of a freeze-ray. The freeze-ray does not affect temperature. Instead, it locks galactics into whatever mortal body they happen to be wearing. If that body should then perish — if, say, someone unloaded the contents of a .45 calibre pistol into it — the person would die along with the body.

There is little hope Earth’s carnivorous monkeys can resist Scaulzo. Thanks to the freeze-ray, even searching for Satan is risky. Indeed, even without Scaulzo’s presence, humans present a potential threat to the galaxy, should they ever develop interstellar flight. 

Happily, there is a simple solution, one galactics have applied to other similarly troublesome species: reduce every human on the planet to a handful of dust. It is a solution that is effective, straightforward, and unless Benaroya can make a convincing case against it, inevitable. 


Is it a good idea for someone with no discernable sense of humour to review a satire? Probably not. 

The DAW edition has an introduction by Barry Malzberg. Later editions appear to omit it, a judicious choice that one can only applaud. 

Benaroya isn’t so much casually homicidal so much as she is an immortal who has never personally experienced an existence in which the obliteration of a body was more than a momentary inconvenience. It’s only well after she causes the death of her first human that it occurs to her to wonder in passing what happens to humans when their bodies die. 

This is rather lamentably reflective of the depth of Benaroya knowledge and curiosity about humans. Having skimmed popular movies and cartoons, and committed the occasional telepathic probe, she is certain she’s an expert on human behavior. Her fellow aliens are not much better, which is why their stealthy infiltration of human society involves disguises that resemble well-known people [1]. The aliens are far more powerful than humans, so their arrogance isn’t going to come back and bite them. Perhaps there is a parallel here with how persons from powerful nations view their neighbors? This is a satire and that is the sort of thing satires do.

It would be wonderful if this were a lost classic now restored to print. No doubt there are avid Jody Scott fans who would insist that it is. For me the satire is overbroad, and the carnage-strewn jokes fall a bit flat. As I said, no discernable sense of humour. 

Benaroya Chronicles is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada) here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: With Richard Nixon replicas serving as (occasionally naked) slaves. Because it was the 1970s and Nixon was inherently funny.