I had one of my bouts of epic insomnia last night, during which I read this collection. This was a mistake, because I think I kept reading in hopes of finding JUST ONE story that was worth my time in this whole godforsaken mess. I eventually quit and left the last story unread because I paged through a bit and determined that God has a speaking role. With the exceptions of various holy scriptures and possibly Faust
, no one is ever allowed to use quoted speech when dealing with the Almighty. Hearsay begets heresy, and bad prose to boot.
Although Richard called this “damning it with faint praise” this morning when I said this to him, most of my early theology came from science fiction. When I went to protest that this wasn't a bad place to get one's theology – Madeleine L'Engle didn't write junk theology – Richard responded with “I grok it.” This makes me totally freak out because I HATE HEINLEIN with a PURPLE PASSION, but point taken. Science fiction, at its best, can explore the Big Ideas in a satisfying ways, precisely because science fiction is about ideas, but it can be seriously embarrassing.
Roughly a third of these stories dealt with the apocalypse in some way, which ticks me off. “The Final Report on the Eden Project” could be summed as OBVIOUS PLOT TWIST MUHAHA MUHAHAHA. Two more deal with which animal will “inherit the earth” after we're rubbed out – I know, don't even get me started about this idea AT ALL, especially because Stephen Jay Gould rightly said that all eras of Earth's history could be described as THE AGE OF BACTERIA. (And, speaking of Gould, it would have been cool for someone to take on the whole “non-overlapping magesteria” thing, but no one did.)
“Created He Them” earns my special wrath though, for positing that FUCKING CATS will hold dominion everywhere once the giant cosmic eraser does us in. Hiss hiss. I bloody well hate all authors' bios where they mention their pets, HATE IT. Can we make a rule where this stops now? What does this have to do with anything? ANYTHING? If faith is the belief we have without any empirical evidence, then I have faith that if I were to die in an apartment alone but for my cat, she would eat my corpse. My dog probably would too, but she would FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. Cats are sociopaths. They steal the breath from babies. They are the familiars of fell beings. Right now, your fuzzy-wuzzy is sizing up the quality of the meat of your thighs. I want nothing to do with a theology that puts those furry bastards at God's right hand.
I'm sure all you cat lovers are sharpening your pitchforks, to which I say, BRING IT ON, MY FRIENDS. Also, no one should take my cat-hate as an excuse to do bad things to small animals. This makes you a sociopath as well, and I have no time for you. The dogs-inherit story, “God, No Matter How You Spell It” is slightly better, but has that inherent mean-spiritedness of some apocalypse-tales – boy, do people love to burn humanity, and blaming that shit on God strikes me as blame-shifting in the worst way. It also hinges on a pun, and I can't decide whether that is a good or bad thing. And the Plot B just doesn't make any sense.
“Int Des 101” is a sight gag that wears thin and goes nowhere. “The Vaunting” has Leprechauns, but not in a good way. (Is there a good way?) “The Year of the Rat” is one of the better ones, and I could probably cough up another star or two if they were all this thoughtful. Same goes for “The Signature of God”, although both of these stories suffer from lecturing and essays about theology. “Made Manifest” didn't suck, and was cat-free, but the take-away message was pat. “Luck Be A Lady” was playful, but I wonder what it was doing in this collection at all.
And, although I'm a little sleepy and all worked up so I'm not going to go back and find all the specific instances of this – can we just call a moratorium on natural theology as well? I've had it with the beauty of the eyeball. No more platypuses either – JUST PUT THEM DOWN AND BACK AWAY. I do not think they are an example of God's sense of humor, because that implies that God is your Uncle Larry who likes to tell obscure WWII era jokes that hinge on puns. Maybe He is, but I hope not. Now that I've slagged on a) this book b) cats c) natural theology d) platypi e) Heinlein and some other stuff, I'm going to go take a nap.