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More Wandering Stars


  More Wandering Stars

  AN ANTHOLOGY OF OUTSTANDING STORIES OF JEWISH FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION

  Edited by Jack Dann

  With an Introduction by Isaac Asimov

  For People of All Faiths, All Backgrounds

  Jewish Lights Publishing

  Woodstock, Vermont

  In memory of Edith N. Dann, who taught me everything important.

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  Contents

  ISAAC ASIMOV

  Introduction The Hebrew Source

  PHYLLIS GOTLIEB

  Tauf Aleph

  BARRY N. MALZBERG

  Leviticus: In the Ark

  HORACE L. GOLD

  Warm, Dark Places

  MEL GILDEN

  A Lamed Wufnik

  BARRY N. MALZBERG

  Isaiah

  HARVEY JACOBS

  Dress Rehearsal

  HUGH NISSENSON

  Forcing the End

  ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

  The Last Demon

  JOE W. HALDEMAN

  The Mazel Tov Revolution

  HOWARD SCHWARTZ

  The Celestial Orchestra

  JACK DANN

  Camps

  HARLAN ELLISON

  Mom

  GARDNER DOZOIS

  Disciples

  About the Editor

  Copyright

  Also Available

  About Jewish Lights

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  INTRODUCTION

  The Hebrew Source

  Isaac Asimov

  Back in 1974, Jack (Yankele) Dann edited a book called Wandering Stars, which was a collection of stories of science fiction and fantasy with Jewish themes.

  When I heard that Yankele had this in his head, I marveled.

  “Where,” I asked myself, “could such stories come from? How many stories with Jewish themes are written in this field? Here am I, a prolific science fiction writer and, by the kindness of the Holy One, a Jewish one, and how many stories have I written on Jewish themes? One, that’s all. One.” (Naturally, that one was eventually included in the collection.)

  “And,” I went on, still talking to myself, “how many other Jewish science fiction and fantasy writers can there be who work with Jewish themes? And except for them, who else? Surely, we can expect no Jewish themes from the goyim.”

  After considering that for a while, I answered myself, “So Yankele is not going to make it.”

  Imagine my surprise, then, when Yankele came up with his collection. Imagine my even bigger surprise when he asked me to do the introduction.

  “Why me?” I asked, plaintively. So he gave me an answer like this— “Shut up and write.” (This my various editors say to me all the time, they should only feel an ache in their bones.)

  I wrote the introduction, which I called “Why me?” and heaved an enormous sigh of relief when I saw Wandering Stars safely published because, I said to myself, “Nu, that used up every good story ever likely to be written on a Jewish theme and I can now forget it.”

  Not well said! Here comes Yankele with another heaping handful of stories, from the Evil One knows where, and guess who has to write the introduction again.

  You’ve hit it.

  So what do I say?

  I’ll tell you. —I don’t know.

  What bothers me is where do the stories come from? Can science fiction be part of Jewish culture? From fantasy we know?

  And as I think of it, it begins to seem to me that it is and we do know. And the source? From where else? From the Hebrew source for everything. —From the Bible.

  We have but to look through the Bible and see for ourselves.

  At the very start, with the first verse, we have, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” or, as Moses our Teacher put it, “B’rayshith buru Elohim ayth hashomayim v’ayth ho’orets.”

  Right there, we’ve got something. We’ve got imagination.

  The legends of other people also describe the creation, but with total lack of imagination. For instance—a god kills a giant monster, tears it in half, makes the sky out of one half, the earth out of the other half, fashions the seas from the monster’s blood, the mountains from his teeth, the trees from his hair, and who knows what else.

  It’s a plain lie, the whole story, and completely implausible. A junior high student wouldn’t believe it; not even one with low marks, God forbid.

  But how does God do it? A question!

  In the third verse, it stands written, “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

  It was clearly the use of advanced science. God obviously has mastery over the laws of nature to an extent we have no conception of and, as Arthur C. Clarke (the Defender of Israel should be good to him) says: “Any science sufficiently advanced beyond ours would seem like magic to us.”

  To a caveman, if you say, “Let there be light,” just as you quietly touch a contact so that suddenly there is light, would not that be to him a powerful magic? He would fall on his face and worship you like a god. Right? Of course, right.

  And if you stop to think of it, what is God but an extraterrestrial? On Earth he certainly doesn’t live. He might if he wanted to, but he existed before there was an Earth. He lives in Heaven, which, as everyone knows and admits, is in outer space somewhere. Probably in hyperspace.

  So you see, out of logical reasoning, we come to the conclusion that the Holy Writings lead the way to science fiction.

  You want more? In chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis, you have the story of Adam and Eve, which, it is clear to anyone, is the first story ever told in good detail of how human beings colonized a new world.

  Adam and Eve even had to fight an alien intelligence—the serpent.

  That the serpent was intelligent leaves no room for doubt, for in chapter 3, verse 1, it stands written, “Now the serpent was more subtil [intelligent] than any beast of the field….”

  Right away, the serpent proves it because in that same verse he speaks. And not just English—but good first-class Hebrew.

  Which in itself is a proof that the serpent was alien. Did you ever hear an Earthly serpent speak? In fact Earthly serpents are stupid. They’re reptiles (and trayf, too—feh!). Believe me, the serpent in the Garden was an alien.

  There’s a theory in the Apocrypha (see Revelation 12:9, 20:2) that the serpent was really Satan the Adversary (may the Lord protect us from him at every step) but if so, what is Satan? Not an alien? Of course an alien.

  You can go on and on. There’s a tantalizing little story in the first four verses of chapter 6 of Genesis which clearly describes not only an extraterrestrial invasion but a little bit of lusting after Earth-women, just the way we used to have it on the covers of the science fiction magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. The Bible doesn’t say whether the extraterrestrial invaders were bug-eyed, but I suspect they were.

  And what about the Flood, in chapters 6 to 9 inclusive? It’s not a story about a world
catastrophe and the survivors? Of course it is!

  And who can do it better even today? The whole world under water! Everybody killed! What a spectacle!

  The Tower of Babel in the 11th chapter? Clearly a sophisticated technological society that proceeds forward without considering environmental and ecological consequences and gets into deep trouble. Very timely!

  Nor is Genesis the only book that represents source material for science fiction and fantasy. In the Book of Exodus, the battle of Moses versus the Egyptian magicians is an example of advanced technological warfare.

  And how about the parting of the Red Sea at the last minute with the hosts of Pharaoh in hot pursuit, and the turning back of the water to drown that host? Is that ingenious or not? You’ve got to give Moses credit. Kimball Kinnison could not have done it better with one of his last-minute inventions.

  The story of Samson is sword-and-sorcery, right? He’s a regular Conan the Cimmerian, right? Samson had the same kind of weakness for ladies who are, you should excuse the expression, plain chippies. And Delilah (the Angel of Death should only take her into the Pit) finally got him. And the real surprise ending? I won’t spoil it for you in case you don’t know, but you’ll find it in Judges 13–16.

  The first chapter of Ezekiel is a nice UFO account with extraterrestrials at the controls. We can still learn from it today.

  If you wish, you can play a game with this anthology (which is so delicious, you could lick your fingers from it), one with fine intellectual content and spiritual usefulness. For each story, see if you can figure out the Biblical references. I’ll start you off. In “Tauf Aleph,” ask yourself who was Og of Bashan (Numbers 21:33–35).

  —Enough, already. The case is convincing. I see now why there are so many Jewish writers of science fiction and fantasy, and why so many Jewish themes are used.

  In fact, it now seems to me that Yankele Dann (the Evil Eye should never come upon him) will come up with a third collection and even a fourth and a fifth.

  And in that case, whom will he ask to write further introductions?

  Don’t ask!

  PHYLLIS GOTLIEB

  Tauf Aleph

  In his fine and reverent book This Is My God, Herman Wouk relates an anecdote about a well-to-do, cultivated Jew who passes two Chasids on Fifth Avenue. The Chasids are dressed in wrinkled black coats and ill-fitting trousers. They both have earlocks, wear black hats, and speak Yiddish. These two men would not have been out of place walking down the crooked streets of an eighteenth-century ghetto in middle Europe. The cultivated, well-dressed Jew, as he passes these awkward ghosts from another century and place, feels nothing but resentment. In his heart he cries out, “I am not one of you! If you are Jews, I am not a Jew!”

  But he knows he is one of them, even though he has not seen the inside of a synagogue in years, even though he would laugh at the idea of being one of “the chosen people.” After all, how could he even begin to follow the six hundred and thirteen commands of the Talmud and still remain in the modern world? Nevertheless, he is a Jew, and the two Chasids who have just passed him on the street are, as Wouk says, “skeletons out of his closet”; they are the ghosts of his background which he cannot put to rest.

  If these three men are of the same stuff, then just what is a Jew? In Wandering Stars, the “prequel” to this volume, I asked: Is Jewishness a mystical experience, a system of laws, a sense of kinship, a religion, or a myth? Perhaps it is any or all of these things. Perhaps it is an indefinable essence….

  In the story that follows, which was written expressly for this volume by Phyllis Gotlieb, we meet Samuel Zohar ben Reuven Begelman, who is the last Jew in the universe … unless you count the walruslike aliens that are native to Begelman’s planet. If science fiction can be called modern mythology, then here is a myth for our time, a parable about the Jew and his history, which asks the age-old question “What is a Jew?” … and perhaps more than that, for as an anonymous author has written, “The Jews are just like everyone else—only more so.”

  *

  SAMUEL ZOHAR BEN REUVEN BEGELMAN lived to a great age in the colony Pardes on Tau Ceti IV and in his last years he sent the same message with his annual request for supplies to Galactic Federation Central: Kindly send one mourner/gravedigger so I can die in peace respectfully.

  And Sol III replied through GalFed Central with the unvarying answer: Regret cannot find one Jew yours faithfully.

  Because there was not one other identifiable Jew in the known universe, for with the opening of space the people had scattered and intermarried, and though their descendants were as numerous, in the fulfillment of God’s promise, as the sands on the shore and the stars in the heavens, there was not one called Jew, nor any other who could speak Hebrew and pray for the dead. The home of the ancestors was emptied: it was now a museum where perfect simulacra performed 7500 years of history in hundreds of languages for tourists from the breadth of the Galaxy.

  In Central, Hrsipliy the Xiploid said to Castro-Ibanez the Solthree, “It is a pity we cannot spare one person to help that poor juddar.” She meant by this term: body/breath/spirit/sonofabitch, being a woman with three tender hearts.

  Castro-Ibanez, who had one kind heart and one hard head, answered, “How can we? He is the last colonist on that world and refuses to be moved; we keep him alive at great expense already.” He considered for some time and added, “I think perhaps we might send him a robot. One that can dig and speak recorded prayers. Not one of the new expensive ones. We ought to have some old machine good enough for last rites.”

  O/G5/842 had been resting in a very dark corner of Stores for 324 years, his four coiled arms retracted and his four hinged ones resting on his four wheeled feet. Two of his arms terminated in huge scoop shovels, for he had been an ore miner, and he was also fitted with treads and sucker-pods. He was very great in size; they made giant machines in those days. New technologies had left him useless; he was not even worthy of being dismantled for parts.

  It happened that this machine was wheeled into the light, scoured of rust, and lubricated. His ore-scoops were replaced with small ones retrieved from Stores and suitable for grave-digging, but in respect to Sam Begelman he was not given a recording: he was rewired and supplemented with an almost new logic and given orders and permission to go and learn. Once he had done so to the best of his judgment he would travel out with Begelman’s supplies and land. This took great expense, but less than an irreplaceable person or a new machine; it fulfilled the Galactic-Colonial contract. O/G would not return, Begelman would rest in peace, no one would recolonize Tau Ceti IV.

  O/G5/842 emerged from his corner. In the Library he caused little more stir than the seven members of the Khagodi embassy (650 kilos apiece) who were searching out a legal point of intra-Galactic law. He was too broad to occupy a cubicle, and let himself be stationed in a basement exhibit room where techs wired him to sensors, sockets, inlets, outlets, screens, and tapes. Current flowed, light came, and he said, LET ME KNOW SAMUEL ZOHAR BEN REUVEN BEGELMAN DOCTOR OF MEDICINE AND WHAT IT MEANS THAT HE IS A JEW.

  He recorded the life of Sam Begelman; he absorbed Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek; he learned Torah, which is Law: day one. He learned Writings, Prophets, and then Mishna, which is the first exegesis of Law: day the second. He learned Talmud (Palestinian and Babylonian), which is the completion of Law, and Tosefta, which are ancillary writings and divergent opinions in Law: day the third. He read thirty-five hundred years of Commentary and Responsa: day the fourth. He learned Syriac, Arabic, Latin, Yiddish, French, English, Italian, Spanish, Dutch. At the point of learning Chinese he experienced, for the first time, a synapse. For the sake of reading marginally relevant writings by fewer than ten Sino-Japanese Judaic poets it was not worth learning their vast languages; this gave him pause: two nanoseconds: day the fifth. Then he plunged, day the sixth, into the literatures written in the languages he had absorbed. Like all machines, he did not sleep, but on the seventh day he unhooked himself from Library e
quipment, gave up his space, and returned to his corner. In this place he turned down all motor and afferent circuits and indexed, concordanced, cross-referenced. He developed synapses exponentially to complete and fulfill his logic. Then he shut it down and knew nothing.

  But Galactic Federation said, O/G5/842, AROUSE YOURSELF AND BOARD THE SHIP Aleksandr Nevskii AT LOADING DOCK 377 BOUND FOR TAU CETI IV.

  At the loading dock, Flight Admissions said, YOUR SPACE HAS BEEN PREEMPTED FOR SHIPMENT 20 TONNES Nutrivol POWDERED DRINKS (39 FLAVORS) TO DESERT WORLDS TAU CETI II AND III.

  O/G knew nothing of such matters and said, I HAVE NOT BEEN INSTRUCTED SO. He called Galactic Federation and said, MOD 0885 THE SPACE ASSIGNED FOR ME IS NOT PERMITTED IT HAS BEEN PREEMPTED BY A BEING CALLED Nutrivol SENDING POWDERED DRINKS TO TAU CETI INNER WORLDS.

  Mod 0885 said, I AM CHECKING. YES. THAT COMPANY WENT INTO RECEIVERSHIP ONE STANDARD YEAR AGO. I SUSPECT SMUGGLING AND BRIBERY. I WILL WARN.

  THE SHIP WILL BE GONE BY THEN MOD 08 WHAT AM I TO DO?

  INVESTIGATE, MOD 842.

  HOW AM I TO DO THAT?

  USE YOUR LOGIC, said Mod 0885 and signed off.

  O/G went to the loading dock and stood in the way. The beings ordering the loading mechs said, “You are blocking this shipment! Get out of the way, you old pile of scrap!”

  O/G said in his speaking voice, “I am not in the way. I am to board ship for Pardes and it is against the law for this cargo to take my place.” He extruded a limb in gesture toward the stacked cartons; but he had forgotten his strength (for he had been an ore miner) and his new scoop smashed five cartons at one blow; the foam packing parted and white crystals poured from the break. O/G regretted this very greatly for one fraction of a second before he remembered how those beings who managed the mines behaved in the freezing darkness of lonely worlds and moons. He extended his chemical sensor and dipping it into the crystal stream said, “Are fruit drinks for desert worlds now made without fructose but with dextroamphetamine sulfate, diacetylmorphine, 2-acetyl-terrahydrocannabinol—”

 
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