It’s been a productive couple of winter months. I got over my sickness (contracted from my daughters), finished the academic year (classes end in mid-January here), brought a group of students on a study abroad trip to Hawaii, and completed editing my long-awaited novelette/novella, Adam’s Stepsons.
Long-awaited in the sense that the nucleus of the story was written in 1994. So if anybody complains, “This has been done before,” you can tell them, “Yeah, but he did it first.”
Clones are nothing new in science fiction. In fact, the idea of creating human-like beings dates back literally thousands of years. The concept of the golem influenced ideas in Adam’s Stepsons; golems have been made famous in popular culture through D&D and fantasy games, but originally stem from Jewish mysticism.
The Talmud states that Adam himself was a golem at first – an soulless “husk” incapable of speech. The Book of Creation (Sefer Yetzirah) of the Middle Ages was said to give instructions on how to create golems, although there is no evidence that anybody actually managed to do so. However, some orthodox Jews still believe that a golem was created (and may still be present) in Prague. Other stories say a golem was also created in a synagogue in eastern Poland. A similar story claims a golem was attempted in Lithuania but stopped unfinished.
In all these stories, the creation of a golem is linked with language; using one of the Names of God (shem) on a piece of paper in its mouth or writing “truth” (emet) on its head. Hubris, or pride, and the perils of stealing the power of creation from God are constant themes in golem stories. Golems remain popular in modern works of science fiction and fantasy; Frankenstein is perhaps the best known example, but Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and Marge Piercy’s He, She, and It have more recently starred golems. Golems have even helped the Cubs win the World Series! (Well, not that they needed it in 2016, but before that…)
In Adam’s Stepsons, I combined the concept of the golem with possibilities of scientific cloning, couched in two frameworks: one from Biblical sources (Cain, Abel, and Seth) and one from Nordic/Germanic traditions (uncle/nephew relationship, revenge). Throw in a dysfunctional military theocracy desperate to avoid losing a costly war, and the stage is set for explosive personal tragedy.
More in future posts on more of the background of characters in the story: Dr. Johann Heimann, General Marquez, Dr. Tanja Beider, and Seth/Number Six.