Monday, August 28, 2023

As long time EoZ fans know, I am a fan of science fiction - mostly short stories.  

Sometimes I stumble onto a story with Jewish themes, such as the examples linked to above.

While some of them have been decent, I always yearned for science fiction not only with Jewish characters and some Yiddish sprinkled in, but science fiction that had Orthodox Jewish characters or where halacha (Jewish law) plays a role. I always toyed with writing a story about a self-aware robot working for a religious Jewish family who wants to be treated as a human - counted in a minyan, able to build a sukkah, able to write a mezuzah or Sefer Torah. 

This new collection of stories, edited by noted SF writer Michael Burstein, gives me multiple stories that fit what I always wanted to see. 

As with all anthologies, the quality is uneven. But many of these stories are good enough to be included in collections of the best SF of the year. 

Notably, the lion's share of stories - and of the great stories - are written by women. 

Some highlights:

Samantha Katz's Shema has a plot that is not to my liking - the last Jew alive - but Katz is an enormously talented writer for a 16 year old high school student. Jordan King-LaCroix's The Last Chosen explores a similar theme, with a slightly more optimistic ending.

Mission Divergence, by E. M. Ben Shaul, has a very promising setup - a brilliant scientist in Israel finishing up the design of a space laser to protect the country. Unfortunately, the author is not at all familiar with how modern weaponry is designed, and the plot falls flat. It could have been so much better. 
Esther Friesner's Rachel Nussbaum Saves the World is an amusing zombie story where a Jewish mother comes up with a very Jewish solution to the menace.

Well known author Harry Turtledove's  One Must Imagine describes a future where Jews are still being pestered to convert to other religions.

Baby Golem, by Barbara Krasnoff, is an amusing story of a non-religious spacefaring woman who is nagged by gentiles to build a golem - so she does, sort of, with entertaining consequences.

Leah Cypress' Frummer House is a laugh-out-loud funny story about smart homes that suddenly enforce a higher level of religiosity on their Jewish residents than they are comfortable with. It is so steeped in frumkeit that it has its own glossary so everyone else could understand it.  For religious Jews who would get the references, the book is worth it for this story alone. 

Politics also comes into some stories. Initial Engagement by Steven H. Silver is about a future where many Israelis split with the religious Jews who have taken over Israel and they move to "Yehudah," the Jewish autonomous oblast of Birobidzhan. Yehuda and Israel do not have diplomatic relations but two of their female ice fencing stars are slated to meet in a sporting competition in Budapest - scheduled for a Shabbat. The story's use of a future world to help us understand  our world is the epitome of what SF should be.

As would be expected, there are a couple of stories of aliens who consider themselves Jewish and an AI that wants to convert, plus one about a physicist who discovers proof of God's existence and whose life is in danger as a result. The latter premise could easily be the basis of a book.

The longest, and best, story in the collection is Moon Melody, by SM Rosenberg, about a young religious Jewish woman who is a telepath who becomes friends with a young non-Jewish man who is a telekinetic empath.. It is outstanding in how it explores the moral issues of their awesome powers and her reluctance to use hers. Judaism isn't a plot device here but it is a major part of the fabric of the story. (It is refreshing to see a story about a deep friendship between a Jewish woman and a non-Jewish man that does not turn romantic.)  I would be surprised and disappointed if Moon Melody is not included in the "Best of the Year" anthologies for 2023.

Altogether, it is a really good collection of stories, with a higher percentage of stories that I enjoy than most anthologies I have read (and I've read a  a lot of them.) 

There have been other Jewish science fiction anthologies - notably the two Wandering Stars collections edited by Jack Dann, who wrote the forward to this volume, and a couple of SF collections from Israeli writers named Zion's Fiction - but this is to my mind by far the best, the most professional, and the most Jewish of all of them. 

Buy the EoZ book, PROTOCOLS: Exposing Modern Antisemitism  today at Amazon!

Or order from your favorite bookseller, using ISBN 9798985708424. 

Read all about it here!




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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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