My new short story “Hailing Frequency” was just published (and you can hear or read the whole thing online). It’s a story about an unemployed geeky dude who moved to Chicago for his girlfriend’s job, and then the entire planet got invaded by aliens, and everyone’s trying to live life normally, only he doesn’t have a life to live yet — and, yep, it’s science fiction.*
It also doesn’t have anything to do with Jews.
In this world where Jewish books are valued at a premium and branding books as “Jewish” can make or break a book, advertising your novel or short story or whatever as a Jewish book is pretty valuable. On the other hand, I just finished reading Joseph Kaufman’s
The Legend of Cosmo and the Archangel
, which is written by a self-proclaimed “ultra-Orthodox Jew” and his Judaism is only secondary or tertiary to the book, behind his being a recovering hippie or a rural New Englander.
(On the other hand, a lot of people think my sidecurls look like antennae, which is a pretty good argument for me writing about aliens.)
There’s a huge debate going on in the science fiction world about the split between more literary offerings and more, well, sciencey stories. (For a more in-depth explanation, check out this well-voiced article from the SF periodical Clarkesworld.) Does the television show Lost count as science fiction because there are shady explanations of time travel and otherworldly (or other-reality-ly) dealings? Or does it not, because the focus of the show is on the characters?
I’d submit that it doesn’t really matter. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov‘s most popular book, Rebbe Nachman’s Stories, is all about beggars and princesses and long walks through dangerous realms — and virtually no one in the stories is identified as a Jew. (Keep in mind that Rebbe Nachman is one of the original Hasidic masters, not just some Orthodox dude writing fiction on his Twitter account.) Science fiction doesn’t need to take place on Mars or in the year 2012, and Jewish books, well, don’t need to have JEW printed across the top. (And, conversely, every book with the word “JEW” printed across the top isn’t necessarily Jewish. Or good. But that’s beside the point.)