When Harry Malan’s work transferred him to Sol Station deep inside the sun’s core, he didn’t expect to become a Mormon branch president over more than a hundred alien converts to the faith. The Swales, ancient sun-dwelling beings with their own history and culture, travel the universe by naturally teleporting between stars.
When Harry learns that one of the members of his congregation has been raped, he determines to take it up with the chief Swale. But at several thousand meters long and more than a hundred millenia old, the chief is revered by the Swales as a god incarnate. To make matters worse, the only other eligible female on the station is an atheist xenoanthropologist determined to stop Harry from “polluting” the Swale culture.
In an alien society millions of years older than humanity, where gods were dwelling among mortals long before the birth of Jesus Christ, is there a place for those who convert to any of the human faiths?
This story was awesome, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a practicing Mormon. The story concept was brilliant, the alien world was fascinating, and the issues raised were dealt with in a very balanced way. This is a must read for any Latter-day Saint science fiction writer–or for aspiring writers of any religious faith, for that matter. In fact, Eric James Stone has it available right now on his website for free–so check it out!
My only issue was that the story didn’t feel fleshed out enough. The Swales were so fascinating, I wanted to spend more time with them–I wanted to explore their culture, learn more about their history and evolution, etc. I also wished there were more detailed descriptions to make me feel like I was there.
I think that has more to do with the shortcomings of the medium than anything else, though. The piece is an 8,000 word short story / novelette, so there isn’t a whole lot of room to flesh things out. Still, the world is so fascinating, can you blame me for wanting more?
All things considered, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou has Made” definitely deserves the Nebula Award which it won earlier this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins a Hugo as well. It represents a significant milestone in LDS literature, and is an excellent mainstream piece as well. Whether you’re Mormon, Christian, Muslim, or whatever, if you’re a religiously devout writer of science fiction, this is a must-read. And even if you’re not, it’s still a great story. Highly recommended.