“Judas Danced,” Brian Aldiss, 1958

“Judas Danced,” Brian Aldiss, 1958 – Alex Abel Crowe, a madman living in a future without text, where the image and history are confused by society’s ability to send humans back in time one week, has watched the crucifixion on timescreen and believes himself to be Christ.  Alex–a wit, a provocateur, and perhaps a bit of a dandy–is an anti-social who repeatedly murders a man named Parowen Scryban.  After the officials restore Parowen to life once again, Alex visits his beleaguered parents and entices his reluctant father to take him to a viewing cafe, where the rich can view ancient history on timescreens.  At the cafe, he watches the watchers.  Myths are now historical, he notes.  Tragedy has become simply a failure to see the future.  He then encounters a group of citizens dancing frenetically–to exorcise their ennui, he explains.

Despite these distractions, his thoughts turn once again to Parowen, his twin brother and a performer who has just danced “as Judas.”  Alex has hopelessly confused his identity with that of his twin and Christ and now Judas: No one believes that is supposed to be his face, Alex’s face–the man “nailed upon the cross”–that Judas is pretending to be him.  He makes another attempt to kill Parowen.  At the conclusion, the authorities threaten to end Alex’s life (without hope of resurrection) but spare him due to his madness.

Comments: Read in SF: Author’s Choice by Harry Harrison. Identity confused with image, interior with exterior.  Themes of myth, religion, (consuming) history, incest, literacy (as displaced by “viewing”), death, art, non-verbal expression (dance), madness, twins.  Followed by Aldiss’s comments on the story; this is the story, he relates, in which he stopped imitating “the sf of the time.”

Author: Wikipedia: “Brian Wilson Aldiss, OBE (born 18 August 1925) is an English author of both general fiction and science fiction. His byline reads either Brian W. Aldiss or simply Brian Aldiss. Greatly influenced by science fiction pioneer H. G. Wells, Aldiss is a vice-president of the international H. G. Wells Society. He is also (with Harry Harrison) co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group. Aldiss was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 2000, and has received two Hugo Awards, one Nebula Award, and one John W. Campbell Memorial Award. His influential works include the short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long”, the basis for the Stanley Kubrick-developed Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”  For an overview of Aldiss’s themes, see Joseph Milicia’s introduction to Starswarm. Gardner Dozois summarizes Aldis’s “old earth” stories in his introduction to The Furthest Horizon.


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, artists/creativity, favorites, identity/authenticity, interior/exterior, love/family/children, myth, photo/film/image, psych/mind/madness, religion/soul/spirituality, simulacra, spectatorship/voyeurism, theatre/performance, time/history/causality, Uncategorized, violence. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to “Judas Danced,” Brian Aldiss, 1958

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    I love your blog. I just read this short story by Aldiss and was trying to figure it out and came across it. I love when Aldiss discusses engaging with the past…. of course, in this case, a world without text. As a historian I find these speculations downright fascinating.

    On a tangential note — I’ve always found Aldiss’ situations where his characters from a sterile future (food pills, prepared food, etc) are confronted and are forced to come to grips with people/planets characterized by extreme corruption and filth very original for 50s writers. The Dark Light-Years is probably the best example — and ‘Carrion Country’ where biologists come across alien centaur creatures that pretend to be rotten to ward of predators. Of course, their grotesque “putrefaction” sends the younger team member into shock….

    • jennre says:

      I also enjoy Aldiss’s work, particularly “Judas Danced” and “A Kind of Artistry.” I’m struck by their raw emotion, lyricism, and competing notes of compassion and condemnation. I’m glad you enjoy the blog, and I look forward to reading “Carrion Country.” Thanks for the recommendation and your comments.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        I have a new favorite Aldiss story — ‘Dumb Show’ (1956) — to quote myself, “A disturbing tale of the effects of a super weapon that causes an entire population to become deaf. An older woman communicates with her three-year-old charge via cards — for example, she “shouts” “DON’T” when the child runs around bashing pots and jumping on the furniture. In the evening the old woman watches silent movies in her living room replete with dialogue intertitles, waiting for another deployment of the sound weapon. But instead a new and terrifying weapon hits — and the three-year-old child literally grows up at an extraordinary rate.”

      • jennre says:

        Ah! Sounds interesting and glad you mentioned this. I’ve been looking for sf about the senses. It sounds as if this one would go well with a re-read of Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds.”

  2. Pingback: Updates: Joachim Boaz’s List of Worthwhile Classic Esoteric/Science Fiction Blogs and Resources | Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

  3. Titus Weekes says:

    Unless there are alternate versions of the story you have the ending backwards. The police intend to execute Alex and go back in time to resurrect him, as before. After an appeal from his father the police inspector agrees to let Alex stay dead this time. But thinking he is Christ, Alex still believes he will be resurrected.

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