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Stars of David

For those who are interested, the October issue of the San Diego Jewish Journal is running an article on Judaism and science fiction, and I've been quoted a few times.

You can find the article here:



Nice article.
I should also note that shsilver has been quoted as well... :-)
The only thing better than being quoted is being quoted in a really good piece. Congrats!

A different way of looking at things than I do. And told me a lot I didn't know. I had no idea there were so many Jewish writers that I read and enjoyed.

I, personally, believe the author is stretching to Id the themes as Jewish. Many of them are "human" themes, in my opinion.

But then, I was raised athetist and currently don't believe I know enough to say what is really out there, so I have sorta a skewed view when it comes to religion.

I would love to pick your brain about Jewish culture & customs, though, because I literally have almost no idea what they are.

I have found that the best place to start with any questions about Judaism is at http://www.jewfaq.org. It's a really good site, and when people ask me questions I tend to find a good article there, which I just point them at.

Which themes do you see as "human"? It's possible for them to be both humanistic and Jewish. For example, Tikkun Olam ("repairing the world") could be considered something that humans should just do, no matter what. But from the Jewish perspective there is also a religious aspect to it.
Nightfall I see as very human. All cultures have a fear of facing the unknown and learning their place in the greatness of the galaxy.

I don't dispute that one can find religious aspects within that story, or that 3 Laws of Robotics are similiar to the 10 Commandments. I'm just saying that for someone raised outside of the Jewish tradition, those themes don't yell "Jewish" to me. Some savior stories yell out "Christian" to me, and your story "The Great Miracle" did fairly scream "Jewish" (duh, at least I know about the story of the oil and the lights). But I never thought of the 3 Laws of Robotics as akin to the 10 commandments. Nor did I even know that Frankenstein resembled an earlier Jewish tale.

What I have found is when anyone is trying to state that there are themes within literature, they will find them if they look hard enough. I'm sure someone could find religious themes in my work, even though I would never knowingly put that there or see it myself.

As the maintainer of a bibliography of Jewish themed SF, I've struggled with its definition (and produced a paper on it recently for the SFRA Conference which will appear, in altered form in the Encyclopedia of Jewish American History). I would disagree with some of Jeff's selections as being Jewish themed for the ver reason you (Zhaneel) state. In other cases, the themes are fairly obvious. The Jewish myth of the golem goes back several centuries before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. However, whereas both Rabbi Lowe and Victor von Frankenstein created living beings, their purposes were very different and Shelley's monster (not the movie monster) was much more human and intelligent than the golem.
Themes are hard to work with unless they are very blunt. I always disliked English classes that I felt took symbology too far.

Sometimes people are right on the money. I wrote a story in my first year of college that had been banging around in my head since I was 13. Years later someone read it and told me it was about euthanasia. I looked it over, and they were right. I didn't know it when I wrote it, but it was there plain as day. The message mirror my feelings about it and my aunt had just passed away from a long fight with cancer when I was 13. So, it makes sense.

But there are things other people see in stories that I don't. And I'm sure I see reflections in stories that others don't. But I try not to say the author put something somewhere unless it is transparently obvious OR admittedly factually.

Zhaneel (Aka Dawn Burnell)
I think part of what Jeff was looking at was the question of whether an author's Jewishness caused them to consciously or unconsciously put certain themes in the story.

To give one example from my own work, there is nothing overtly Jewish in "TeleAbsence" (story about a black kid who sneaks into a VR school for a better education). However, as I was writing it, I remember keeping in mind that I wanted to demonstrate Tikkun Olam and a love of learning, based upon my own background.

I don't know if Asimov put anything Jewish into his development of the Zeroth Law of Robotics deliberately or unconsciously at all, but it seemed to me the argument could be made. I do know an amusing story about him though. A fellow writer once asked him why he doesn't put Jewish characters in his stories. He leaned over and whispered to her, "They all are."

For the most part, though, when I want to write a Jewish story, I tend to make it explicit (such as "The Great Miracle," which you mentioned).
On the other hand, you make a reference to Jewish Custom in TelePrescene. It wasn't integral to the story, but it was interesting and I knew it was a reflection of the author. If I hadn't known your religious background, I would have probably wondered a little more at why that piece of info was in the story.

And where can I track down TeleAbsence as I haven't read it?

"TeleAbsence" should be readily available in the anthology Wondrous Beginnings (edited by, well, me). Your local bookstore should have it, you you can order it through my website.

Glad I could help with that self-promotion. I'll make sure it gets onto a wishlist/buying list somewhere.

Putting a reference to a Jewish custom in "TelePresence" is something that I did obviously because it was of interest to me. :-)

It reminds me of how I read a few Spider Robinson stories, all of which referred to an incident that had happened in a minor character's life. It was the same incident, and clearly the event had happened for real to someone he knew...

As for tracking down "TeleAbsence," I see Steve has already taken care of promoting it in one venue. :-) It's also available for purchase as an e-book at Fictionwise.com

You & Fictionwise are going to bankrupt me.

Okay, not really since most of the stuff you have there is cheap, but I have to ask permission to put my micropay stuff in there.

Doooooomm.... ;-)


In all seriousness, I am so happy you are readily availible on FictionWise. I love the service and will put it to use when I have published stuff so that readers can find my old work easily. Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting technology.
Another amusing Asimov story, which you reminded me of when you said that anyone can find a theme in literature if they look hard enough:

Asimov once attended a lecture about SF, and in the middle of the talk, the speaker gave an interpretation of "Nightfall." It was completely contrary to anything Asimov meant when he wrote the story. He introduced himself to the speaker afterwards to tell him that he got the interpretation completely wrong. And the speaker replied, "Just because you wrote it, what makes you think you know everything that's in it?"

Somehow, that convinced Asimov that there may be themes in stories he never realized. I know that happens to me; people have pointed out to me after publication that "Kaddish for the Last Survivor" could be viewed as an argument against intermarriage, which was never my intention...
I can see the argument for "Kaddish for the Last Survivor" and the intermarriage thing. I wondered if that's where you were going with it until the very end [chilling, OMG; PS: YAY Fictionwise].

I agree that a reader can get something out of a story that the author never put in. I maintain, however, that the reader should take responsibility and admit their own bias toward interpretation, rather than saying "The author meant..."

One of the commonalities is professors maintain that JRR Tolkien wrote LOTR as a mirror for WWII, while Tolkien maintained all throughout his life that such was not the case. I can see where people get that idea and I think Tolkien was affected by WWII, but I believe the author when he says he didn't intend to write the story that way.

By the way, was there something specific you wanted to know about Judaism? I should have noted that I'd be happy to answer questions, or sift through the Judasim 101 page for the right answer.
Nah, I just like talking religion and learning.

For someone who isn't especially religious herself, I do enjoy learning about other people's views.

OTOH, something that has struck me is that you and gnomi seem to "need" to be offline an awful lot recently. Are those holidays? Or normal Shabbat [Saturday sunset to ??? Sunday] rules? [and here I make some horrible gaffe in my knowledge and profoundly apologize in advance].

PS: Sorry for the incredible thread high-jack.

Don't worry about the thread jack; it's actually quite appropriate for the post.

And I see that others have explained our customs. :-) One must keep in mind, though, that different people have different levels of observance. gnomi and I observe two full days of "yom tov" for most major holidays, whereas there are some people who observe only one. And some people on LJ will observe Sukkot and yet still appear on-line; we will be off-line for every yom tov.
Congrats, good publicity! Any info about the Mars novel, or is that still hush-hush?

zhaneel69, normal shabbat starts Friday sunset until full dark Saturday night. The last month is chock full o' holidays. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, all of which have shabbes-like restrictions (Chag) for all or some of the holiday.

Either that, or Michael's spending all his time over at AOL.
See! Horrible Gaffe. What did I tell you.


And I read the FAQ about it and then hung my head in shame for said gaffe. ;-) All well, I'm just an unlearned girl anyhow.

...but ignorance, especially when mixed with curiosity, is eminently curable.
Any info about the Mars novel, or is that still hush-hush?

The Mars novel is the one that never sold, which I must eventually rewrite.
Nice article!

December 2016

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