Ear­li­er this week, Lavie Tid­har wrote about his fix­a­tion on his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and being com­pared to Philip K. Dick. He has been blog­ging here all week for JBC and MJL.

Michael Wein­grad made some­thing of a splash last year in writ­ing Why There is no Jew­ish Nar­nia” at the Jew­ish Review of Books. Of course, Wein­grad mis­un­der­stands Nar­nia. To explain the sev­en nov­els suc­cinct­ly, let us refer to the fol­low­ing equation:

Jesus was Jew­ish (there­fore) Aslan was Jew­ish (there­fore) Nar­nia = Jew­ish Autonomous Oblast (and) The White Witch = Christianity/​Rome. QED.

But before you give me the com­bined Nobel Prize for Physics and Lit­er­a­ture, let’s think about that seem­ing para­dox. The fields of both sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy are filled with Jew­ish writ­ers, from Isaac Asi­mov (can you get more Jew­ish than that?) to, erm, William Shat­ner. (Yes, he wrote Tek­War! No, the Fed­er­a­tion is not proud). Why, then, do so few genre works deal with Jew­ish uni­vers­es? Where are the vam­pires who laugh at a cru­ci­fix, the Space Navy with Stars of David proud­ly paint­ed on the hull of the ships? Imag­ine the end­ing for 2001: A Space Odyssey: My God! It’s full of Jews!” 

Or the Jew­ish immi­grants pass­ing en masse through the wardrobe to get to the safe-haven of Nar­nia, kick­ing some holy lion butt in the process. No?


Yes and no.

Joel Rosenberg’s nov­el Not For Glo­ry (1988) fea­tures a galac­tic corps of Israeli mer­ce­nar­ies from the plan­et of Met­za­da (no, real­ly, it does!). And one of the most obscure of sci­ence fiction’s Jew­ish mas­ter­pieces (its only one?) is the unjust­ly neglect­ed The Tsad­dik of the Sev­en Won­ders, by Isidore Haiblum, con­cern­ing the com­ic adven­tures of two galac­tic oper­a­tors trapped in Jew­ish his­to­ry, and turn­ing to the epony­mous Tsad­dik (and his trav­el maven Green­berg) for help. If Rosenberg’s nov­el is, how shall we say, not so great, Tsad­dik is a true clas­sic, one I return to with joy every time (appro­pri­ate­ly enough, I have both the Eng­lish and Hebrew edi­tions, both long out of print).

Israel is enjoy­ing some­thing of an awak­en­ing in terms of Jew­ish fan­ta­sy and sci­ence fic­tion. Recent­ly it has pro­duced the first true mas­ter­piece of Israeli SF – the nov­el Kfor by Shi­mon Adaf. It is an aston­ish­ing nov­el, fol­low­ing the lives of sev­er­al char­ac­ters in the Jew­ish city/​country of Tel Aviv in five hun­dred years’ time, and com­bin­ing sci­ence fic­tion, detec­tive fic­tion, poet­ry and absolute­ly won­der­ful, heart-break­ing­ly beau­ti­ful writ­ing. It is unlike­ly to ever be translated.

Anoth­er nov­el by Adaf, how­ev­er – the mas­sive Sun­burnt Faces – will be pub­lished in Eng­lish next year by PS Pub­lish­ing in the UK, the same small pub­lish­er that had tak­en such a chance on my own Osama. Small pub­lish­ers can afford to take risks larg­er ones can’t, and to me this is noth­ing less than an event, an oppor­tu­ni­ty for a new audi­ence to appre­ci­ate, for the first time, Adaf’s unique talent.

Do we need Nar­nia? This is what we ask our­selves after a cou­ple of pints at the pub. What’s the real estate val­ue on Cair Par­avel? And just which law firm rep­re­sents the White Witch’s inter­est? We pic­ture Mau­rice Levy from The Wire as he defends yet anoth­er faun or cen­taur caught in the dead­ly world of illic­it Turk­ish Delight wholesaling.

Let them have their Nar­nia, I say. We have the Tsad­dik of the Sev­en Won­ders, and we now have Shi­mon Adaf.

And we’ll always have Shat­ner.

Lavie Tid­hars most recent nov­el is Osama (PS Pub­lish­ing). It has been com­pared to Philip K. Dick’s sem­i­nal work,The Man in the High Cas­tle by both the Guardian and the Finan­cial Times. His oth­er works include steam­punk tril­o­gy The Book­manCam­era Obscu­ra and the forth­com­ing The Great Game, all three from Angry Robot Books, the novel­la Jesus & The Eight­fold Path (Immer­sion Press), and the ground-break­ing Jew­ish fan­ta­sy col­lec­tion Hebrew­Punk. He grew up on a kib­butz in Israel and has since lived in South Africa, the UK, Van­u­atu and Laos. He cur­rent­ly lives in Lon­don, and tweets too much.

Lavie Tid­har (A Man Lies Dream­ingUnholy Land) is an acclaimed author of lit­er­a­ture, sci­ence fic­tion, fan­ta­sy, graph­ic nov­els, and mid­dle grade fic­tion. Tid­har received the Camp­bell and Neukom Lit­er­ary awards for his break­out nov­el Cen­tral Sta­tion, which has been trans­lat­ed into more than ten lan­guages. He has also received the British Sci­ence Fic­tion, British Fan­ta­sy, and World Fan­ta­sy Awards. Tid­har’s recent books include the Arthuri­an satire By Force Alone, and the series Adler. He is a book colum­nist for the Wash­ing­ton Post, and recent­ly edit­ed the Best of World SF anthol­o­gy. Tid­har has lived all over the world, includ­ing Israel, Van­u­atu, Laos, and South Africa, and he cur­rent­ly resides with his fam­i­ly in London.