“Seat of Judgment,” Lester del Rey, 1957

“Seat of Judgment,” Lester del Rey, 1957 — Eli Judson, an official from Earth, visits Sáyon, a planet of “marsupial” aliens ruled by a religious matriarchy.  Judson is answering the distress call of the temple priestess, who is struggling to maintain order over an excited populace.  According to local legend, at various points in time, “human” gods, usually virgin goddesses, appear among the people, to heal the sick and redress wrongs.  Such a god claims to have appeared now, but it is a male god, as the first of such gods was rumored to have been.  The official warns the priestess to avoid violence and, at first, she seems to play by his rules.  But since “real” humans have arrived, she intends to force them to denounce the “human” prophet as one of their own rather than a “transformed” member of her own race.  She tries to bribe Judson (Judas?), but he refuses.  However, once he observes that the prophet has red hair, he feels confident that the prophet could only have come from Earth, and he pronounces him human.  The priestess slips him a package with payment.

Judson flashes back to thirty years ago, when he’d encountered a real virgin goddess and her elderly mentor.  At first the goddess was flat-chested and green-tinged, like others of her kind. But in her innocence and curiosity, she grew breasts for him and changed her skin color.  He let her borrow a copy of the Bible from him, again to satisfy her curiosity.  He spent one night debauching her.  When afterward she lost her powers, he felt a little smug; this special “woman” was no better than he now and he’d de-fanged her disruptive cult.  A true cad, and his mission accomplished, he then left the planet as quickly as possible.  However, before he could leave, her mentor threw his Bible at him and he caught it, despite his worry that it contained a tracking device.  But he searched the Bible and found nothing out of order, not even a message.

In present time, he now realizes that the goddess did leave him a message in the Bible: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Her power was not taken away, after all.  She had a son, and her son will be another Christ, destined to create chaos in Earth’s imperial empire.

Comments: Themes of religion, gender, imperialism, order/chaos, primitive/civilized.  Read in Infinity One.

Author: Wikipedia: “Lester del Rey (June 2, 1915 – May 10, 1993) was an American science fiction author and editor. Del Rey was the author of many of the Winston Science Fiction juvenile SF series, and the editor at Del Rey Books, the fantasy and science fiction branch of Ballantine Books, along with his fourth wife Judy-Lynn del Rey.”

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About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, gender, love/family/children, masculinity, matriarchy, primitive/civilized, religion/soul/spirituality, sex/reproduction/sterility, the body, the Other, tourists, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Seat of Judgment,” Lester del Rey, 1957

  1. Pingback: Day Of The Giants by Lester del Rey (Airmont SF5 – 1976) | Vintage (and not so vintage) Paperbacks

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