A to Z Reviews: “The Scapegoat Factory,” by Ofir Touche Gafla

A to Z Reviews: “The Scapegoat Factory,” by Ofir Touche Gafla

A to Z Reviews

Over the past several years, I’ve embarked on a series of year-long review cycles at Black Gate. In 2018, I reviewed a story-a-day to coincide with an author whose birthday it was. In 2022, I selected stories completely at random from my collection to review. In both of those cases, the projects served to find forgotten and minor works of science fiction that spanned a range of years. They also served to make me read stories and authors who I haven’t read before, even if they were in my collection.

For this year’s project, I’ve compiled a list of all the stories and novels in my collection. I then identified the first and last works for each letter of the alphabet and over the next twelve months, I’ll be looking at those works of fiction, starting with Vance Aandahl’s “Bad Luck” and ending with David Lee Zweifler’s “Wasted Potential.” Looking at the 52 works (two for each letter), I find that I’ve only reviewed one of the works previously. Interestingly, given the random nature of the works, only three novels made the list, while four anthologies have multiple stories on the list. The works range in publication date from 1911’s “The Hump,” by Fernan Caballero to Zweifler’s story from last year.

Cover by Sarah Anne Langton

“The Scapegoat Factory” was published in Jews vs. Zombies, edited by Lavie Tidhar and Rebecca Levene. In this story, Ofir Touche Gafla follows Solvi Lumsvenson, who died shortly before the beginning of the story. For unknown reasons, Lumsvenson, along with several others, have come back to life as zombies, although they are reasonably benign zombies, without the desire for brains.

Initially, Lumsvenson decides to have fun with his new situation, appearing on talk shows and making things up to amuse himself and gain more media attention. After he sets himself up for death with a successful book, however, he realizes that he needs more, or perhaps less, trying, and failing to kill himself.

Finding himself despairing of any purpose, but unable to die, Lumsvenson learns of the Scapegoat Factory, a place where zombies can essentially plead guilty to unsolved crimes as a way of providing closure to the victims’ families.

It is an interesting idea and Gafla throws it in with several other concepts rather than focusing his attention on the idea of the Scapegoat Factory as the core of the story. Lumsvenson serves his time for the hit-and-run that he didn’t commit, although he has been brainwashed into believing he did, when he learns that his alleged victim wasn’t quite what he was expecting and the world shifted beneath him as much as it had when he awoke from his death.

The story feels a little haphazard, presenting small pieces of Lumsvenson’s afterlife, barely linking them as time passes and he moves from one part of his death to another, from the talk show circuit to taking the blame for Marketa Gloon’s death to learning about her from her daughter. The reader is left with the feeling that there is a deeper, more focused, story about Lumvenson’s afterlife.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a twenty-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 eight 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 six times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.

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K. Jespersen

Added to the TBR. Thanks for reviewing this one.

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