The chosen people are going where they've never gone before. Two new anthologies, Jews Vs. Zombiesand Jews Vs. Aliens, feature an all-star group of writers, explaining just what happens when Judaism confronts the unimaginable. To celebrate, we've got an exclusive excerpt: A brand new story by Naomi Alderman!
The two " Jews Vs." anthologies are edited by Lavie Tidhar and Rebecca Levene, and "irreverently explore the links between speculative fiction and Judaism." They're being published as e-book originals on March 19, and limited-edition paperbacks will come out afterwards.
Here are the table of contents for both books:
"Rise" - Rena Rossner
"The Scapegoat Factory" - Ofir Touche Gafla
"Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith" - Shimon Adaf
"Ten for Sodom" - Daniel Polansky
"The Friday People" - Sarah Lotz
"Tactrate Metim 28A" - Benjamin Rosenbaum
"Wiseman's Terror Tales" - Anna Tambour
"Zayinim" - Adam Roberts
"Antaius Floating in the Heavens Among the Stars" - Andrea Phillips
"On the Matter of Meroz" - Roseanne Rabinowitz
"Alien Thoughts" - Eric Kaplan
"The Reluctant Jew" - Rachel Swirsky
"To Serve... Breakfast" - Jay Caselberg
"The Farm" - Elana Gomel
"Don't Blink" - Gon Ben Ari
"Nameless and Shameless" - Lois H. Gresh
"The Ghetto" - Matthue Roth
"Excision" - Naomi Alderman
And here's that story from Jews Vs. Aliens by Alderman, the Orange Prize-winning author!
Transcript from In The Spirit,
a light-hearted weekly vidcast across the five systems on matters of faith, cultural spiritual practice, ancestor worship and the Quantum Gods.
Starts at 0012:38:92 of the programme.
…and on that subject, we're joined today from the gas planet Procyon 12 by an entity who's made quite the journey in spiritual outlook. N'kk'd>>f – I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly?
Not bad. Human tongues can't really manage the >>.
I'm embarrassed now I hear you pronounce it! Great! So, why don't you tell us what made you decide to convert to the Earth religion of 'Judaism'?
I've always been a searcher, I suppose. The values of Judaism appealed to me: a lot of emphasis is placed on the family. The peoples of Procyon 12 have rather complex families – each grouping contains four genders – so I was pleased to find a system of thought that put the family at the centre. And of course there was a more serious –
Right, right, amazing. Now my notes tell me that the leaders of this religion, the 'rabbis', tried to put you off?
That's right, Dirk. Judaism isn't a proselytising religion. They turned me away three times, according to their custom.
I'd think you might want to be put off, given that you have to have… is this right… they cut a bit off your sex organ when you join? That's a bit harsh, isn't it?
Ah, of course, yes, the circumcision process was quite problematic! I am of a gender unknown among humans. I have a protuberance with which I can begin the process of mate-impregnation, but when the act is complete the member breaks off and remains with my partner. A new member then grows within 72 hours. Well, it was faster when I was younger.
Yes, it was quite the conundrum for the rabbis! The sign is of a permanent covenant – but my sexual organs are extremely impermanent!
Sounds like a… puzzler?
Yes indeed. Well put. In the end, after some Talmudic discourse, it was decided that I could cut a permanent notch in my… ah, it is hard to describe in human terms. It is the frilly flesh-part which stands up on the back of my head when I am ready to mate.
Right! And are any of your other partners interested in joining you on your spiritual quest?
Not mine, no. Several friends have expressed an interest, but I believe I'm the first person on my planet to take the plunge, as it were.
To have the snip.
Now, fitting a bi-gendered religion to a people with four genders. Tricky at all? I understand that the people of Procyon 12 fall into, basically, for the viewers, two different kinds of bloke and two different kinds of woman.
No, it would not be correct to call them two forms of male and two female, no. It is complex. These terms do not have the meaning for us that they have for you.
What would you call them, then?
The closest form is… you might call them right and left and up and down. And centre.
Right and left and up and down and centre, yes.
I thought you said there were four.
Yes. There are four.
So what's… centre?
Ah. We hope for their return.
We don't have much time, I'm afraid, N'kk'd>>f, so I'm going to ask you to tell me more – but briefly, if you could?
It is a matter of some shame to my people.
I'm sorry to hear that. But, briefly…
To create new life, four partners are needed. The first impregnates the second. The second hosts the foetus for three months before passing it on to the third, who adds certain DNA modifiers. The third hosts for another 21 days before passing to the fourth, who provides the amniotic sac and swaps in some RNA. After 36 days, the amniotic sac must be passed back to the first impregnator, who hosts the foetus to term – another eight months.
Fascinating. And complicated! Must take a lot of commitment.
This is why we place such emphasis on family.
And the… fifth gender?
We destroyed them.
They were not necessary to the process.
The rhetoric was that they were parasites. Their role was only to add certain DNA switching chemicals at the fifth and twenty-sixth week. They never hosted the foetus. It is history for us now. A politico-philosophical movement among my people300 years ago declared them… lesser beings.
They contributed nothing, you see.
I'm being told we have to –
They were only a small fraction of us. Fewer than one per cent of births would belong to this fifth gender. We hunted them down. Where they were sheltered, we rooted them out. We knew them by the unusual colour of their eyes. By the lower tone of their voices. It took 100 years. And only then did we know that without their DNA-switching properties there would never be another of them.
And you –
It's not that they had a special power, or some innate ability. But we destroyed part of our own people. The body will never be whole again. There has been a great deal of regret among us for what we have done.
That's fascinating and tragic. Thank you, N'kk'd>>f, for –
This was what I saw among the Jewish people, you understand.
We have to –
I was only a youngster, 300 years ago. I didn't know what I was doing. But I suppose I… I suppose I've been searching for someone to forgive me.
Cut to commercial.