Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Sun and I, by K. J. Parker

The World Fantasy Awards are out, and K.J. Parker has a nominated story, The Sun and I.  It's an interesting take on founding a religion, starting out like L. Ron Hubbard and ending like Ludwig Feuerbach,

Our protagonist, Esp, is one of five college students gone dissolute, begging for money and running small con games together.  They seem bound only by their failure to make anything of their privileged backgrounds.  Esp has the brilliant idea of founding a religion, and discovers some skills as a preacher.  They end up with momentum through some fortuitous predictions and  breaks, and as time and success roll on they start taking themselves seriously.  I'll save the really fun reveal, but it is safe to say that they grow into their roles in mostly good ways, even without wanting to.

It's all told in fine and competent fashion.  I really enjoy K. J. Parker as an author, and think she is destined for fine things.  This story should be a contender for an award, but it's missing elements I am finding in common in the other nominated stories:
  1. LGBT characters, love or sex
  2. Indications of racial diversity
It is a commentary on western and middle eastern culture's attraction to big religion that has been done before.  The setting is vaguely southern European but made up, and reads in such a way that one presumes the characters are white.  So in the end I don't think it will get traction--there's a pretty open field of social commentary in sexual and racial diversity being explored for the first time, so a more throwback tale, even a good one, isn't going to make it on the strength of social observation.  But do read it anyway.  Four stars from me.

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