by David Woodruff
collection as a whole gives a fascinating look at those defenders of
scientific truth defying religious dogma and superstition, as Galileo
faced back in the 1600s. Admittedly, some of the terrain here can be
difficult to navigate through. Greg Egan's Oracle contains
technical passages that would engage only the most devout of hard
science fiction fans.
one can get beyond some of the dry prose, then the reader will be amply
rewarded. James Tiptree Jr.'s The Man Who Walked Home
offers a compelling look at how a scientific experiment gone wrong
could itself provide the basis for a new religion over time.
Mike Redneck's When
The Old Gods Die pits science against superstition on a
space colony that has been remade in the image of ancient Kenya, a
reviewer's personal favorite is Ursuala K. Le Guin's The Stars Below,
where the protagonist, a man resembling Galileo in many aspects, is on
the run from persecutors and hides with a group of miners.
In Paul Park's The
Last Homosexual, the tools of science fall into the wrong
hands. In a future society, "science" becomes quackery, and is in the
service of corrupt politicians and religious extremists. The latter
make people afraid that almost everything is "catching." What seems to
be catching here is fear and intolerance.
Arthur Clarke's The
Star, a set of facts, that is, the death of a faraway
star, gets a different interpretation. At the end of this little gem,
Clarke poses an idea that the birth of Jesus was really evidence of a
lost civilization searching for survival and finding it here.
can be no reasonable doubt: the ancient mystery is solved at last.
Yet--O God, there were so many stars you could have used.
What was the need to give these people to the fire, that the symbol of
their passing might shine above Bethlehem?
Alan Gardner's Three
the Existence of Snakes in the
Human Bloodstream shows a history from Leeuwenhoek to
Darwin to Joe
McCarthy, where, although the details are changed, the conflict between
science and superstition remains intact.
The following is an exchange between Senator McCarthy and a doctor
accused of inventing a new drug to cure SA or "serpentine analogues in
the bloodstream." Snakes in the blood.
situation?" she demanded. "I am a medical researcher--"
you developed a new drug, haven't you? McCarthy snapped. "A new
drug. That you want to loose on the public. I wonder if the person who
invented heroin called herself a medical researcher, too?"
McCarthy, trisulphozymase is not a narcotic. It is a carefully
"Which encourages miscegenation between Papists and the Redeemed,"
McCarthy finished. "That's what it does, doesn't it , doctor?"
stories in this collection pay tribute to the idea that no matter
how tidy our technological civilization is--it is still a fragile one.
And once broken, all the bigotry and intolerance of the Old World may
sweep over what progress has been made.
Woodruff holds an
MFA in creative writing and is an active member of the Zoetrope writing
community. He has stories and poems in various online and print
bio: Gardner Dozois was the editor of
Asmov's Sceince Fiction Magazne for some twenty years and is currently
the editor of the annual anthology The Year's Best Science Fiction. He
has also won fourteen Hugo Awards and two Nebula Awards for his own
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