“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.