Jews vs Aliens (Vol­ume 1)

Lavie Tid­har and Rebec­ca Lev­ene, eds.
  • Review
By – August 18, 2017

Two com­pan­ion col­lec­tions of short sto­ries edit­ed by Lavie Tid­har and Rebec­ca Lev­ene explore inter­ac­tions or col­li­sions between Jews and aliens and Jews and zom­bies, respec­tive­ly. The edi­tors invit­ed accom­plished sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers to sub­mit new sto­ries relat­ed to the open-end­ed themes. Inclu­sion of Jews (or Judaism), aliens and/​or zom­bies were the only expec­ta­tions. As a result, the sto­ries vary wide­ly in sub­ject mat­ter, acces­si­bil­i­ty, and tone.

Sci­ence fic­tion is an extreme­ly broad genre, as bound­less as the heav­ens, and these sto­ries are like dis­parate stars, plan­ets, and oth­er galac­tic bod­ies, dis­tinct and diverse. This is both a pos­i­tive and a neg­a­tive. Sci­ence fic­tion read­ers have their own the­mat­ic pref­er­ences, span­ning mil­i­tary sci­ence fic­tion, alter­nate his­to­ry, alien world-build­ing, tech­no­log­ic hard-sci­ence fic­tion and oth­er cat­e­gories along the spec­trum. While these antholo­gies include some­thing to fit the taste of most SF read­ers, the jux­ta­po­si­tion of top­ics and style can be a bit jarring.

Jews and Aliens opens win­ning­ly with Antaius Float­ing in the Heav­ens Among the Stars” by Andrea Phillips. This is an epis­to­lary tale of an alien resort, the galaxy’s pre­miere spot for lux­u­ri­ous accom­mo­da­tions, with views of the burn­ing heart of the galaxy and fine inter-galac­tic cui­sine. A des­ti­na­tion Jew­ish wed­ding is planned for the resort, with expec­ta­tions of kashrus and frum” deco­rum. Need­less to say, the aliens oper­at­ing the resort find these expec­ta­tions entire­ly too alien when the foot meets the wine­glass. The wed­ding is a com­i­cal dis­as­ter lead­ing to very unhap­py in-laws and fun­ny but stereo­typ­i­cal Jew­ish-fam­i­ly retribution.

Some of the sto­ries that attempt to link events from the Bible or oth­er Jew­ish teach­ings to alien vis­i­ta­tions or visions over time and space are less suc­cess­ful. The con­cepts are extreme­ly cre­ative, but the plots and nar­ra­tives can be opaque. Name­less and Shame­less” by Lois H. Gresh in the Aliens vol­ume is a bright entry in this cat­e­go­ry. It is not that much of a men­tal leap to think of the denizens of Sodom as malev­o­lent aliens from a dis­tant planet.

Jews and Zom­bies includes many sto­ries with clear expo­si­tion and easy incor­po­ra­tion of Jew­ish con­tent. The Scape­goat Fac­to­ry” by Ofir Touche Gafla imag­ines a fac­to­ry that uses the undead to take the blame for unsolved crimes. The fac­to­ry prefers to hire Jew­ish zom­bies, per­haps for their long expe­ri­ence as scape­goats. In Zayin­im” by Adam Roberts, the zom­bies were unin­ten­tion­al­ly cre­at­ed through a Nazi-devel­oped serum meant to gen­er­ate immor­tal super­men. Jews were denied the serum as unwor­thy and thus are the only non-zom­bie survivors.

Sci­ence fic­tion has been called the lit­er­a­ture of the oth­er”. These com­pact antholo­gies con­front Jews, the his­tor­i­cal oth­er, with aliens and zom­bies, the real oth­er not of our world. The jux­ta­po­si­tions are inter­est­ing and enjoy­able. Note that all mon­ey earned from the sale of these books will be donat­ed to charity.

Addi­tion­al Titles Fea­tured in Review

Inger Saphire-Bern­stein is a health pol­i­cy pro­fes­sion­al with exten­sive expe­ri­ence across mul­ti­ple health care deliv­ery set­tings and the insur­ance indus­try. She has pub­lished a num­ber of arti­cles and papers in the health pol­i­cy field.

Discussion Questions