Because I’ve been asked about the process by which I’ve been selecting stories for the Random Review series, I thought I’d take a moment to explain how the stories are selected.
I have a database of approximately 42,000 short stories that I own sorted by story title. When it comes time for me to select a story to review as part of this series, I role several dice (mostly ten sided) to determine which story should be read. I cross reference the numbers that come up on the die with the database to see what story I’ll be reviewing. This week, I rolled 11,028 which turned out to be Mario Milosevic’s short story “Faith.”
One of the things I’m hoping to get out of this series, from a personal point of view, is to discover authors and short stories that I’ve owned and have never read. Of course, I’m also hoping to share those discoveries, good or bad, with the readers of Black Gate.
Mario Milosevic’s short story “Faith” was published on Daily Science Fiction on November 1, 2010. It would eventually be reprinted in the anthology Not Just Rockets and Robots, which collected the short fiction published during the first year Daily Science Fiction was on-line.
The story is told from the point of view of a man who is undergoing an interrogation. The details of the questioning are not directly provided and everything about the events that preceded the interview and the background to the world Milosevic builds up at second hand.
The narrator tells the story of the death of Alpha, an alien who has attached itself to the narrator. Based on what is said, the tribunal the narrator is sitting before is of the same race as Alpha and knows the alien’s background better than the narrator who lived with the alien for several months. This means the unnamed narrator is, of necessity, unreliable. He doesn’t have the full picture and can only share his limited understanding of the situation.
What he is able to relate is that Alpha provided him with a small vial of liquid that, if opened, would spread vapors around the entire world to “cure” humanity of religion. Although the narrator claims not to be particularly religious, the release of the vapor had an effect on him and he was seized with the certainty that Alpha was dangerous and had to be dealt with.
The story strongly links faith and religion, which is to be expected. It also seems to tie morality to religion, implying that faith and the belief in a religious system is the only things that checks humanity’s baser instincts. As soon as those are removed, the narrator kills Alpha, although he does so because when any faith he has in a religion is removed, it is replaced by a faith that what Alpha has caused him to do is evil and dangerous, although like the release of the curses from Pandora’s box, the anti-faith vapor he has released can no longer be contained, at least not from what Milosevic’s story says.
The story only runs to just over 2,200 words, which is one of its weaknesses. Because of the narrative device MIlosevic has selected, he is limited in what he can share with the reader as well as the exploration of the ramifications. Lengthening the work and perhaps sharing another point of view, perhaps that of his wife, who the reader is informed is undergoing a similar interview, would permit Milosevic to further explore what the release of the vapor means for humanity, or at least those in its immediate vicinity.
Steven H Silver is a nineteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW, NESFA Press, and ZNB. His most recent anthology is Alternate Peace and his novel After Hastings was published in 2020. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.