Writer of Short Stories & Novels
“Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?”
Nightmare
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“The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Bifrost
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“In Memory of a Summer’s Day”
Mad Hatters and March Hares
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“The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Tor.com
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“Love Engine Optimization”
Lightspeed Magazine 85
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“One Spring in Cherryville”
Available in most ebook formats
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“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
XB-1
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“The Singularity is in Your Hair”
Cyber World
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
科幻世界 (Science Fiction World)
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“The Problem of Meat”
Grendelsong
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“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2016
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“Demon in Aisle 6”
Nightmare Magazine 38
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“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
World Chinese SF Association
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“The Thing in the Refrigerator That Could Stop Time”
Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest
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“Marie and the Mathematicians”
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #26
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“The Writing’s on the Wall”
Farrago's Wainscot #5
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“The Sembla”
A Field Guide to Surreal Botany
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“The Girl in the Basement”
Hatter Bones
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“Saving Diego”
Interzone #221
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“The Spaces Between Things”
Electric Velocipede 17/18
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“The Girl in the Basement”
Apex Magazine, Vol 3, Issue 3
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“The Suffering Gallery”
Beneath Ceaseless Skies - Issue 57
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“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Magazine #42
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“The History Within Us”
The People of the Book
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“The Hands That Feed”
Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories
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“The Bricks of Gelecek”
Naked City
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“The Hands That Feed”
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
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“The Suffering Gallery”
The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year Three
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“The Great Game at the End of the World”
After
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Lightspeed Magazine and io9.com
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“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Year Four
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“The Last Probe”
Launch Pad
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“Pheth’s Aviary”
Beneath Ceaseless Skies - Issue 133
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“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Clarkesworld Magazine #92
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
XB-1 Issue 8/2014
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Космопорт (Kosmoport)
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“The History Within Us”
XB-1 Issue 11/2014
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“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs”
Clarkesworld Magazine #98
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015
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“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
Clarkesworld Magazine
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Jewish Narnia: 5 Fantasy Books with Jewish Themes

Barnes and Noble LogoKing of Shards gets mentioned over at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, along with several other titles, including The People of the Book, edited by Rachel Swirsky & Sean Wallace, which includes my story “The History Within Us.” A few years ago much ballyhoo was made about the fact that there was no Jewish Narnia (which in fact, there was). The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog says,

A few years ago there was an Internet Kerfluffle (IK) over the suggestion that Jewish writers didn’t work in fantasy because Judaism, “is a science fiction religion … collective, technical, and this-worldly.” The elevator pitch was that there was no “Jewish Narnia.” As Internet Kerfluffles are won’t to do, this stirred up a lot of responses. Now safely removed from the explosions in the comments sections, we can safely say there is Jewish fantasy—as well as Jewish sci-fi—and we don’t merely mean novels written by Jewish writers, but rather novels with Jewish themes and drawn from Jewish traditions, the same way many much of fantasy is built upon on Christian themes. Here are five books that make the case.

King of Shards is one of the books listed. Barnes and Noble says of the book,

“With surprising twists and a deep and detailed universe, King of Shards, the first in a trilogy, is likely to be remembered for more than its Jewish roots.”

Also mentioned is The Angel of Losses, by Stephanie Feldman, which I mentioned in one of my 36 Days of Judaic Myth blog posts.

You can read the full article here.

And just a reminder that I’ll be raffling off print ARCs and audiobooks of King of Shards on December 18th. Details here.


36 Days of Judaic Myth: Day 36, The Lamed Vav, The Thirty-Six Hidden Righteous

Today, October 13, is the release day of my debut novel, King of Shards, and for the last thirty six days I have been featuring one new blog entry a day about a different Judaic myth. I hope that along the way these posts have opened your eyes to the rich mythology and beauty in this ancient tradition. It’s been fun and educational for me as well, because in my research I’ve discovered fascinating things I did not previously know. Thank you for sharing this journey of discovery with me! 

Today’s last entry is on The Lamed Vav, The Thirty-Six Hidden Righteous.

Day 36: The Lamed Vav, The Thirty-Six Hidden Righteous

Lamed Vav by Monica Erosa

Lamed Vav by Monica Erosa

In every generation there are thirty-six just men who uphold the world, the Lamed Vav Tzaddikim. Each is blessed to be able to glimpse the Shekhinah, the Divine Presence. And because of their merit, the world continues to exist. If one were to die, another is immediately born to take his place. God permits the world to exist on account of their righteousness. If any one were to cease being righteous, the world would be destroyed. Because in Hebrew the letter ל lamed is thirty and the letter ו vav is six, we call these thirty six hidden saints the Lamed Vav.

Their chief traits are humility, selflessness, and anonymity. They are so anonymous, in fact, that you or I could be a Lamed Vavnik and not know it. The Lamed Vav work ordinary jobs, earning a living by the sweat of their brow as tailors, blacksmiths, shoemakers, and other humble professions. Those who live and work among the Lamed Vav never suspect they walk in the company of a saint. If, by chance, a Lamed Vavnik is exposed, he will fiercely deny it. It is also said that if a Lamed Vavnik discovers his hidden nature as one of them, he will immediately die, and another will be born to take his place.

The Lamed Vav perform small acts of kindness and righteousness that may seem insignificant in the eyes of passers by. But God watches and knows the sum of these small acts serve to uphold the world. Without such acts, the world could not exist. Therefore we call these Lamed Vav the Pillars of Existence. In times of great conflict, the Lamed Vav emerge from their hiding places to use their secret knowledge of kabbalah to avert disaster. After, the Lamed Vav return to their lives of anonymity in a new community.

 

The Myth’s Origins

This myth may originate from Genesis Chapter 18, where Abraham pleads with God not to destroy the righteous along with the wicked in Sodom. “Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep away and not forgive the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?” And then after some more bargaining, Abraham gets God down to ten people. “Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once. Peradventure ten shall be found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake.” So if ten righteous persons could be found in Sodom, God wouldn’t destroy it.

God destroyed the world once, in the Great Flood, to erase its wickedness. So what prevents him from doing it again? The ancient rabbis posited answers: In Genesis Rabah 35:2, it says, “The world possesses not less than thirty men as righteous as Abraham.” But later, in the Talmud, in Tractate Sanhedrin 97b, comes the following passage, “The world must contain not less than thirty-six righteous men in each generation who are vouchsafed the sight of the Shekhinah’s countenance, for it is written, Blessed are all they that wait [lo] for him; the numerical value of ‘lo’ is thirty-six.” In this passage, the Hebrew word “for him” is “lo” which in Hebrew is spelled lamed vav, לו i.e. 36.

The number 36 has a mystical connotation too. In Hebrew, letters are also numbers, and the number eighteen spells out the Hebrew word for life or living, חַי, chai. So twice 18, twice life is 36. This is the most likely reason this number stuck.

Among some versions of the myth, the promised Messiah will be a Lamed Vavnik, who is also known as the Tzadik Hador, the righteous person of this generation. If the world is deemed ready, the Tzadik Hador will emerge as the Messiah.

 

Some Thoughts on the Myth 

Among the many gems, this is my favorite Judaic myth. It posits that anyone you meet might be the one who is responsible for upholding the world, therefore you should treat everyone with the utmost respect. But it also means that you could be one. You might be responsible for upholding the world. And therefore you should strive to be kind and humble and righteous in order that the world continues to exist.

This myth appears in many places throughout literature and pop-culture, but it’s not widely known outside of Jewish circles. Perhaps it’s most well-known usage is in Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, where one character is presumed be the long sought-after Tzadik Hador, the righteous person of his generation who might be the Messiah. But my favorite Lamed Vav story is the novel The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart, about an ancestral line of Lamed Vav (in his novel, the Lamed Vav inherit the role from their fathers). Its steady build climaxes in a powerfully devastating ending during the Holocaust. It’s one of the best and most moving novels I’ve ever read.

I have been so enamored by this myth that I actually wrote a book about it: King of Shards.

In King of Shards, Daniel Fisher is abducted from his wedding by none other than Ashmedai, king of the demons, and is ushered down to the hell world known as Gehinnom (Gehenna). There he learns he is a Lamed Vavnik and that a group of demons have discovered the names of the hidden Lamed Vav and are killing them. The demons hope that by killing the Lamed Vav, the earth will be destroyed, and the abundance and peace that has long been denied them will be theirs at last. In order to stay alive and protect the other Lamed Vav, Daniel must team up with Ashmedai, the demon king, who has be dethroned and cast out of Sheol. Together, saint and demon, must race across the fragment universe of Gehinnom while chased by a fearsome demon army in order to get back to earth and save the Lamed Vav. The only problem is that Ashmedai may not be the most trustworthy of partners. He is a demon after all.

King of Shards incorporates many of the myths discussed here in this blog series, such as The Lamed Vav, Gehenna, SheolThe Shattered Vessels, The Ziz, and many more. And while I reference Jewish mythology often, I never let myself be constrained by it. So while King of Shards is based on Jewish myth, much of the mythology in the book is my own. Often I elaborated and expanded upon extant myths in the same way as Jews have been doing for thousands of years. What I hope I have created is work of adventure fantasy fiction that anyone might enjoy. But you folks who’ve stuck with me for these last thirty six days might get to enjoy the book just a little bit more. 

Thank you so much for sharing this journey of discovery with me! 

King of Shards is out today, and you can get a copy in print, ebook, and audio book. 

 

 


36 Days of Judaic Myth: Day 35, The Feast at the End of Days

To celebrate the October 13th release of my forthcoming debut novel, King of Shards, I will be featuring one new blog entry a day about a different Judaic myth for 36 days. Today’s entry is on The Feast at the End of Days.

Day 35: The Feast at the End of Days

Behemoth and Leviathan by William Blakea=

Behemoth and Leviathan by William Blake

On the day the Messiah will come to redeem humankind all wickedness will vanish like smoke from the face of the earth. That day, God will set a gigantic table inlaid with precious stones and surrounded by rivers of balsam, and there he will invite the greatest scholars and their students from around the world. Jacob, the patriarch, will be called to the table, because his name is Israel, because when the people of Israel suffer, so too does Jacob, the patriarch, because his name is Israel too. At this table, the righteous will feast upon the three beasts, Behemoth, Leviathan, and the Ziz. Some say they will also eat of the Messianic-ox, which dwells in Paradise, waiting for the End of Days, when it will be slaughtered and served at the Messianic banquet. 

God will offer the righteous a choice of three wines, citrus, cider, or grape, from fruits preserved from the six days of creation. It is said that this Messianic wine was only served once, when Jacob had no wine to serve his father Isaac, and so an angel provided him with some. On this day, God will leave his Throne of Glory and sit with all the righteous. With the skin of the Leviathan, God will make a sukkah, and the righteous will dwell there in holiness. The parts of Leviathan that are not eaten will be spread across the walls of Jerusalem, where the city will shine so brightly that the whole world will know its light. 

 

The Myth’s Origins

The book of Isaiah speaks of a great feast at the time of the Messiah’s arrival: “And in this mountain will the Lord of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” And Tractate Baba Bathra 75a of the Babylonian Talmud says, “The Holy One, blessed be He, will in time to come make a banquet for the righteous from the flesh of Leviathan; for it is said: Companions will make a banquet of it.” The same tractate also says, “The Holy One, blessed be He, will in time to come make a tabernacle for the righteous from the skin of Leviathan; for it is said: Canst thou fill tabernacles with his skin.” And again, “The rest of Leviathan will be spread by the Holy One, blessed be He, upon the walls of Jerusalem, and its splendor will shine from one end of the world to the other; as it is said: And nations shall walk at thy light, and kings at the brightness of thy rising.”

It is customary to recite a prayer at the conclusion of Sukkot that speaks of Leviathan: “May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our forefathers, that just as I have fulfilled and dwelt in this sukkah, so may I merit in the coming year to dwell in the sukkah of the skin of Leviathan. Next year in Jerusalem.” At the end of Shavuot, the commemoration of the reception of the Torah, Jews recite the Akdamut prayer, which among others things, states that Leviathan and Behemoth will engage in a fierce battle, but God will slay them both with his mighty sword. 

In some versions of this myth, the Messianic ox and the Behemoth are conflated; they are the same beast, and many depictions of the Behemoth are ox-like. According to the Midrash, the Behemoth can only be killed by the one who created it, i.e. God, and therefore he will slaughter the beast at the end of days. In other tales, Leviathan and Behemoth battle it to the death, killing each other. Since Leviathan, Behemoth and Ziz were often seen as a triad of beasts dominating the Sea, Land, and Sky, they were often grouped together. In scripture, when the Behemoth is mentioned, there is also mention of “wild beasts of the field,” which were interpreted as birds, hence the addition of the Ziz. Thus the feasting of all three at the Messianic banquet represents the complete dominion of God over the earth’s sea, land and sky.

 

Some Thoughts on the Myth 

As I’ve said in previous posts, I love mythical creatures, and here we get a myth that incorporates three of them. At the end of days, the righteous get to feast on these giant beasts. The significance of the feast itself is obvious: it’s a time for rejoicing, and God invites to his table those whom he sees as most worthy of his blessings. Namely, righteous scholars, i.e. those who have devoted their lives to the study of Torah. But why these beasts in particular? I think because these are creatures that represent our fear. Each rules one portion of the earth. The eating of them signifies dominion over them and thus the end of fear. The coming of the Messiah ushers in a new age where terror vanishes. We eat what once frightened us at the table of God. What more do we have to fear after that? But until that time, until the redemption, we must dwell in this earthly realm under the dominion of frightful beasts. Until then, wickedness rules the earth.

I find it fascinating that among the orthodox, prayers mentioning Leviathan and Behemoth are common. These mythical sea and land beasts, once believed to lurk in deep waters or stalk distant landscapes, are still vibrantly alive in this myth that persists to this day. Eventually, if we lead righteous lives, we will devour our fears at the table of God. What once terrified us will decorate our holiest city, so that its light may shine forth. The monster’s skin will be make into dwellings to protect us. It’s a powerful message of transformation of terror into peace. It’s no wonder this myth has persisted for so long.

Also, I’m kind of hungry now.

 

Tomorrow’s Myth: The Lamed Vav, The Thirty-Six Hidden Righteous