The February 9-and-16 issue of THE NEW YORKER has published an SF story. Or what it thinks is an SF story.
In the past THE NEW YORKER has actually published some very fine SF, including stories by Ursula LeGuin. However, "The Invasion From Outer Space," by Steven Millhauser, is not among them. Before I describe the story, some caveats:
I am not among those who automatically hate any SF written by authors not in our little club. I liked THE HANDMAID'S TALE, think some of Fay Weldon's satires are a hoot, and don't even blame Cormac McCarthy for all the attention he got for THE ROAD, a novel on a topic that SF writers have done earlier and better. My reaction to "The Invasion from Outer Space" is not sour grapes.
Second, I understand that the story is not mimetic SF, but rather a subgenre that uses the tropes of SF in a non-realistic way to make a point. I have written stories like that myself ("People Like Us") and consider it a legitimate form of speculative fiction. And I got the point of this story: that when we expect drama and excitement, we're much more likely to get the mundane. The world ends not with a bang but a whimper. Got it.
That said, this is a boring story. The "invasion" is endless gold-colored dust, organic and replicating, that will eventually smother us all. Meanwhile, people, although disappointed ("We had wanted terror and ecstasy"), just go on with their lives, sweeping the streets free of yellow dust, dusting window ledges, hosing off porches. The reaction is muted ("It's really quite peaceful, in its way") as humanity is extinguished.
So what? I didn't believe this scenario at all, in human terms. Even as metaphor, it's simplistic and boring. I don't expect NEW YORKER readers to appreciate Charles Stross, but a little imagination does seem called for when you're considering invasions from space. What was the fiction editor thinking?