Monday, June 13, 2011

That Leviathan Whom Thou Hast Made: Best Novelette?

This is a story about mormon space whales who live in the middle of the sun. It's clearly either a big winner or a big loser. And by “space whales,” I mean “swales,” which is the actual, incredibly creative term for these alien beings.

A human congregational leader moves to this base in the center of the sun (not my ideal prowling grounds, but whatever), where he has to get to know this new congregation that's about 33% alien space whale. He has to reconcile his understanding of Mormon doctrine with the reality of an alien species that has three different genders instead of two, and basically has its own millenia-old God that created them all – who's actually physically there, bossing all the swales around. This enormous alien space whale is creatively named Leviathan.

The branch president, the main character, goes to confront Leviathan and tell him to keep the swales from raping his congregation (which is apparently “totally cool, brah” in swale culture). Scriptural comparisons abound, skeptical characters skepticize (skepticulate?), space whales wave tendrils of light – all essential elements of a successful novelette, I suppose.

It's a fairly non-invasive primer of some basic Mormon beliefs, but this story is less about Mormonism and a lot more about having faith in an all-powerful God in the face of an all-powerful alien space whale.

I find that science fiction is actually more likely to deal with the concepts of faith and God than most other genres, despite the fact that it's got the word “science” right there in its title. It's probably because faith and science are kind of locked in a relationship (whatever you believe that relationship to be), whereas you're not very likely to have your heroine considering the implications of faith while heaving her bosom into her time-travelling caveman lover's embrace.

I'm all about stories that deal with issues of faith, doubt, religion, science, and space whale reproduction. This is probably why I enjoyed the TV series Lost so much. These stories start off with science, and end up pointing to or looking at God, with the optional detour down Space Whale Avenue. “Leviathan” takes that detour, and we are all the better for it.

(Oh, yeah. ZERO ROBOTS.)

Read Eric James Stone's novelette online here.


Eric James Stone said...

I don't normally argue with a review, but I must point out that since the shuttle's computer was doing the piloting for them, it was, in essence, a robot shuttle.

There is also an "autodoc" that gives the main characters injections to treat their radiation burns near the end of the story.

I believe that warrants an upgrade to a TWO ROBOTS rating.

Carl Duzett said...

And I don't normally argue with a Nebula-award-winning writer. Unfortunately you're correct, and I'll have to issue a Full Retraction and Apology soon. (Count your lucky stars, though, because I've never lost an argument with a Nebula-award-winning writer before.)

Eric James Stone said...

I will have my accountant do an inventory of my lucky stars.