On Earth as It Is on Television

On Earth as It Is on Television

by Emily Jane
On Earth as It Is on Television

On Earth as It Is on Television

by Emily Jane


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In Emily Jane’s rollicking debut, when spaceships arrive and then depart suddenly without a word, the certainty that we are not alone in the universe turns to intense uncertainty as to our place within it.

“Weird and sweet … like a 2020s White Noise: loud and colorful Americana with a sprinkle of apocalyptic doom.”—Edgar Cantero

“Heartfelt, witty, and secretly romantic … a delightful and poignant story about what it is to be human, and what we owe each other.” —Christina Lauren

Since long before the spaceships’ fleeting presence, Blaine has been content to go along with the whims of his supermom wife and half-feral, television-addicted children. But when the kids blithely ponder skinning people to see if they’re aliens, and his wife drags them all on a surprise road trip to Disney World, even steady Blaine begins to crack.

Half a continent away, Heather floats in a Malibu pool and watches the massive ships hover overhead. Maybe her life is finally going to start. For her, the arrival heralds a quest to understand herself, her accomplished (and oh-so-annoying) stepfamily, and why she feels so alone in a universe teeming with life.

Suddenly conscious and alert after twenty catatonic years, Oliver struggles to piece together his fragmented, disco-infused memories and make sense of his desire to follow a strange cat on a westward journey.

Embracing the strangeness that is life in the twenty-first century, On Earth as It Is on Television is a rollicking, heartfelt tale of first contact that practically leaps off the planet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781368101202
Publisher: Disney Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/07/2024
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 121,962
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Emily Jane is the USA Today bestselling author of On Earth as it Is on Television. She grew up in Boise, Boulder, and San Francisco. She earned her BA in psychology from the University of San Francisco and her JD from UC Law San Francisco. She lives on an urban farm in Cincinnati with her husband, Steve; their two children; their cats, Scully and Ripley; and their husky, Nymeria.

Read an Excerpt


The Husband

WOULD YOU BELIEVE in alien life, if it didn’t come right out and smack you in the ass? Blaine wouldn’t, his wife said. He remembered that later; how she gave a little smack as he walked past, en route to the kitchen to grab that tray of sliders.
He remembered how she had speared each slider with a plastic toothpick molded to the shape of a tiny sword. His wife, who hailed from a land of infinite plastic, Blaine joked. To their guests, he alluded to a vague thrift-store origin: recycled vintage toothpicks, to be washed and reused at the next happy hour. The toothpicks were, in fact, new, but Blaine felt embarrassed by this wanton consumption of disposable plastics. After their guests departed, he collected all the tiny swords and hand-washed them. He suggested to the wife that maybe—maybe—they should gravitate away from plastic and toward more compostable toothpick options. The wife looked slightly hurt. But, Blaine, she said, don’t you love them? They’re so cute!
So where was he when it happened? What did he remember?
He had just eaten lunch: leftover sliders.
The weather had turned unnaturally hot for February. Blaine remembered hot breeze, littered with last year’s dead leaves. The climate change models said southwest Ohio would become southwest Missouri, or Oklahoma, and it hadn’t happened yet, but here was a sneak peek. Blaine ate lunch in the van with the windows down. Blaine’s work partner, Dave, in the passenger seat, chattered about spy drones. Microscopic spy drones that collected data for the deep state, carnal stuff, shower stuff. You ever pick your nose when you think no one’s watching? You slip that salty bit into your mouth? Those drones got that video footage.
Dave was a flat-earther and an RVK adherent. He believed that the tap water was contaminated with slow-release poisons and that Mount Rushmore was a projection designed to conceal a secret military base and that the conspiracy cult figurehead Harvey Kayman had come back from the dead by way of an interdimensional portal. He believed in all of it long before it all happened. He was born believing. He was born with the cord wrapped round his neck, head stuck in the birth canal. The doctors had to cut him out. My kids too, Blaine told him. This was about the only thing they had in common. The C-section. The same employer. The same moment in the van on that hot February day when the radio blared:
Where were you when it happened?
The daughter, Avril: I don’t know, it was weird. Gym class? I kind of blacked out.
The son, Jas: They let us go home early! And we all got to pick extra candy from the points jar and Mom couldn’t come and get me, so I went home with Foster—and we got to play video games all afternoon! Dad!
The dad, Blaine, had parked the van in an industrial lot along the river. Smokestack scenery imprinted his memory. The brick-walled warehouse, the smoke pillars, bare branches stark against the blue sky. The branches would blossom early that year from unnatural February warmth, but the blossoms would freeze up, fall off. He remembered dead brown petals on the cold spring earth. He remembered the river that day, blue as the sky. But it wasn’t. His memory tricked. The river always ran brown.
It had to be, what, a test, right? 
Blaine believed in Occam’s razor. The simplest explanation was the incontrovertible truth. He ripped open a packet. He squirted ketchup on his slider. The wife had a point about the ease of the ketchup packet. 
But landfills, he said. 
But unnecessary packaging. 
The simplest explanation for his reliance on single-serving condi­ments was that the reusable condiment containers had been requisitioned for the kids’ sparkle-slime mixing endeavors and the wife always requested extra ketchup packets with takeout, and there they were in the cupboard, ready to grab when he packed his lunch. 
The wife’s name was Anne; classic yet succinct; a short, definitive name. She was, when he thought about her in the abstract, The Wife. But when she appeared in the flesh, she was Anne; Anne, said in a swooning voice; Anne, who made his heart pound, two kids and a decade-plus later. 
Dave believed that surely the end had come. He turned the radio up, so he could hear it outside the van. He lit a cigarette, a menthol, half genetically engineered tobacco shreds soaked in chemicals, half fiberglass. His eyes gleamed with apocalyptic possibilities. He had a nuclear fallout shelter in his backyard, a stockpile of automatic weapons. Yes, and a crossbow. 

Shouldn’t we all have crossbows, he had said, you know, just in case?


The TONE didn’t just get to the point. It blared through sliders two, three, four, and Blaine ate too fast. He didn’t chew well. He knew in his heart that maybe the explanation wasn’t so simple and it would be awkward to hear it mid-bite, mouth full.
He finished up, got out of the van, stretched his arms up toward that pristine February sky. Score one, global warming. He could get used to this Missouri winter. 
“You check your phone?” Dave asked. Dave had already tried to dive headfirst into the truthy waters of the internet and smashed, instead, into a solid wall of no-service. “Check your phone. Check your phone, dude. You got service?” 
Any good apocalypse naturally began with an abrupt severance of internet service. 
Dave paced, checked, paced, checked, et cetera. He had a theory: flesh-devouring nanotech swarms. Nanites could gobble a whole House of Representatives in, oh, point-two nanoseconds. Dave seemed a little too gleeful, like he already knew, somehow, that the murderous swarms would, for inexplicable reasons, spare him. 
Blaine checked his phone. He had the dread zero bars of no service. News apps, social media, email, even the weather had gotten stuck, twenty minutes in the past, at 11:52 EST on the first day of February, sixty-one degrees Fahrenheit, which, Blaine calculated, was sixteen degrees Celsius. 
Blaine believed in science, and thus the metric system. It was obvi­ously superior. It was how they get you, Dave had said, as if it was superiorly obvious. I pledge allegiance, he said, with his hand on his heart, to inches and miles.
Neither of them had service, but then Blaine got a text from his wife: Are you watching the news?
The wife texted in complete sentences, in case a litigation discov­ery request required the production of text messages that could not be withheld on grounds of privilege, the wife said. But the simplest explanation was that the wife was compulsively anal about written grammar and punctuation. 
Blaine had dumb text fingers. Or, a single texting finger incapable of tapping a simple reply in the time it took his ambidextrous wife to send a four-batch of texts: 

I am freaking out.
If you are not watching the news, you should turn it on right now.
I love you.
Whatever happens, Blaine, I love you.

No, he had not watched the news, and he loved her too, and Do not freak out, he told her, and then he told himself, as he started to freak. Dave climbed into the van, driver’s seat. He tapped the wheel impatiently. Come on, come on, come on. They hadn’t taken water samples yet, Blaine said, and it seemed like a waste to drive all the way out again.
He glanced up at the sky. Somewhere, beyond all that blue, there was life. Myriad life proliferated through the galaxies. It was all very far away. Space was unfathomably vast. A V-flock of black bird shapes flapped past, east to west.
“The wrong direction,” Dave said. “If they were real birds.” But they weren’t. No such thing. The “bird,” according to Dave, was just an aircraft carrier for nano-drones.
Blaine climbed into the van because, seriously, Dave would drive off without him. Dave peeled out of the parking lot. The radio blared its uninformative emergency alert. Blaine’s phone stayed frozen at 11:52 a.m. They turned onto the main road.
“Does the street seem empty? The street seems empty,” Dave declared.
The traffic lights flashed yellow.
Where were you when it happened? 
Halfway to the highway, river on one side, sloped hill on the other colored brown with winter grass, the roadside dappled by Midwest commerce. The Whippety-Dip soft-serve joint. The pony keg. The used car lot guarded by a massive painted puma, festooned by colored plastic flags. The billboards: are you pregnant and scared? (That one was tricksy.) injured? call homerun howie mason! he’ll knock your legal problems out of the park! The billboard lawyer wore a baseball jersey beneath his blazer. He had a baseball bat, a profitable twinkle in his eye. 
Funny, the things that mattered before it happened, and the things that mattered after. 

The van slowed. They coasted to a stop in the shadow of the puma. Dave shook his head, unbelievable. Unbelievable. The message repeated. 

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