“A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” Roger Zelazny, 1963 – A poet, Gallinger, is given the privilege of viewing and translating the sacred texts of an alien culture. He discovers that their religion is deeply fatalistic. After impregnating a temple priestess, he earns their ire, as they see the pregnancy as sacrilegious, due to its promise of continued life, which contrasts with their belief that their culture will go extinct. Gallinger reads from Ecclesiastes in order to plant doubts and/or inspire, but their beliefs are resilient. Gallinger eventually learns that the priestess seduced him only to fulfill her temple duties, and he becomes suicidal.
Comments: Themes: “Foreignness,” art, communication, problems of translation, and the importance of cultural texts, with references to the Book of Job, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud. Read in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume One.
Author: Wikipedia: “Roger Joseph Zelazny (May 13, 1937 – June 14, 1995) was an American writer of fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels, best known for his The Chronicles of Amber series. He won the Nebula award three times (out of 14 nominations) and the Hugo award six times (also out of 14 nominations), including two Hugos for novels: the serialized novel …And Call Me Conrad (1965; subsequently published under the title This Immortal, 1966) and then the novel Lord of Light (1967)…The ostracod Sclerocypris zelaznyi was named after him….In the fall of 1955, he began attending Western Reserve University and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1959. He was accepted to Columbia University in New York and specialized in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, graduating with an M.A. in 1962. His M.A. thesis was entitled Two traditions and Cyril Tourneur: an examination of morality and humor comedy conventions in The Revenger’s Tragedy…Aside from working with mythological themes, the most common recurring motif of Zelazny’s is the “absent father” (or father-figure). The tension between the ancient and the modern, surreal and familiar was what drove most of his work.”