Golems, Jews, zombies: a book I contributed to

JEWS IN POPULAR SCIENCE FICTION: Marginalized in the Mainstream, edited by Valerie Estelle Frankel, is the book that contains my essay on golems in speculative fiction along with a dozen others. Typically for a book like this, some of them didn’t work for me: I’m familiar with debates over Superman as Jewish symbol and couldn’t get into Jewish themes allegedly found in The Last Airbender (the essay on Jewish themes in Tolkien worked better for being conscious it’s an odd thing to look for). Most of them, though, worked very well indeed.

One article, on the Ferengi as “space Jews” argues they do start out as negative Jewish stereotypes but the writing on DS9 makes them more complex and the Jewish elements less stereotypical. A couple of articles look at Jewish characters in comics, concluding that even characters whose Jewish faith initially runs deep get less noticeably Jewish as time passes, and not Jewish at all when they jump to TV. And “Jewish” is often limited to things instantly recognizable to non-Jews, such as menorahs and Hanukkah.

And while I remain a fan of Ragman, one essay makes a good case that his abilities aren’t Jewish — the whole idea of evil souls getting trapped for their sins in the rag suit is much closer to Christian themes.

My favorite article by two teachers showed how they demonstrate to students the way you apply Jewish religious law to new issues. The topic was the zombie apocalypse: given Judaism’s mandate to treat the dead respectfully, is it acceptable to burn or mutilate the living dead? If the zombies are living virus-carriers, is murdering them acceptable? The answers are a)yes, saving the living counts for more; and b)yes, but only if someone’s in imminent danger, not if the zombie is infected but not turned.

My essay’s awesome too, so if you want to pick something up as a gift this month and you know someone who’d be interested, here’s the link.

#SFWApro. Ragman cover by Pat Broderick. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Reading, Writing

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