At the time of writing, Ádám of the SPJ editorial team is on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Yet the primary impressions his sojourn inspires belong not in the realm of theology, but world building. (Admittedly, the two are related.)
To an avid reader of the fantastic, even a cursory intercourse with the State of Israel reveals it as a prime example of applied utopian SF. Aside from its symbols and official historiography, consider the resurrection of arcane Hebrew as the vehicular language of a new society: t’is the stuff that compensatory alternate history is made of.
Take Theodor Herzl’s foundational novel Altneuland, published in 1902, which lays out plans for the future Jewish state, in the guise of programmatic fiction. The title of the book was translated into Hebrew as Tel Aviv. Now guess the name of the country’s largest city today…
Israel’s continued existence and demonstrations of might attest to the power of narratives in shaping social consent. (And yes, except for the man-versus-nature tales of the hard-SF tradition, it is a staple of drama that triumphs often come at someone else’s expense – this is no different in the geopolitics of the Middle East.)
Ask three Israelis and they’ll have four opinions. Yet in spite of ‘sinat chinam’, the eternal curse of discord, this heterodox society that oftentimes intimates a Mediterranean re-imagining of Blade Runner, where college girls in army uniform carrying assault rifles mingle with Haredim and rainbow warriors at retrofuturist malls, has nonetheless managed to forge a sense of identity and purpose.
It even has its own hermetic SF scene in Hebrew, though some gems slipping under the radar may be stumbled across in English, such as It Could Have Been. Safra’s wish-fulfilment fantasy reads like a guided tour of a Jerusalem that is proudly the largest city in the world, where the Second Temple still stands. This 2015 graphic novel is predicated on an alternate history timeline, wherein literally every character we encounter holds fast to a dress code associated with Orthodox Judaism and Israel’s capital is the envy of the globe. No doubt it has the potential to appeal to some readers and upset others. As good speculative fiction should.
So beware, narratives are powerful. Be mindful of what you write. It might spark a cult, inspire riots or, heaven forfend, cause offence. (If so, we’ll publish it.)
In this spirit, the editors wish you an enjoyable read of our autumn crop of world building, speculative philosophy and exotic SF!