Monday, March 21, 2011

God in the Sky

Short Story by An Owomoyela

Katri is a rational, agnostic or atheistic scientist in a world going crazy. A huge light has appeared in the night sky, almost as big as the moon. And it seems to be growing. People are worried it will fill the night sky in two years or so if it keeps growing at the current rate. So of course people immediately rush out to swarm stores for canned goods, bottled water, and generators. The world starts tearing itself apart for really no good reason. A mayor in Texas declares the light to be God, and suddenly newspapers pile on and the whole world heads that much further toward preparing for the rapture and other illogical assumptions.

This drives Katri nuts, and what makes the story great is that rather than focussing on the world's craziness, Owomoyela focusses on how Katri's life is affected. Her frustration and exasperation as her grandfather seems to be converting to Islam and he father runs off to Africa to find his ex-wife before the world ends. Her feelings of abandonment and isolation, both emotionally and as the Only Sane Man, are made worse when her girlfriend interrupts her complaining to announce that she's leaving to go home to family in Tennessee. Little things like the tone-deaf and poorly timed way the girlfriend announces her plans, and halfheartedly offers to stay ring particularly true and make Owomoyela's story seem like something that could happen tomorrow, and could happen to me. Her writing is excellent throughout.

The isolation is downright tragic, but the story ends on a rational, reasonably happy note, better than either of the two endings I'd have guessed from the first few pages. I love that the nature and origin of the object isn't explained, it's left with the assumption that science will continue to work, as it always has worked, and the world will use whatever excuse it can to act crazy. Katri comes to accept that certain people will always use anything to make a God that can fill in the gaps, no matter how many things science illuminates. The wisest character of all is the old Egyptian grandfather.

A very good story, philosophically, and artistically.

4 Space Gods out of 5.

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