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If the Stars Are Gods
Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund
Lucky Bat Books, 65 pages

If the Stars Are Gods
Gregory Benford
Gregory Benford is a physicist and astronomer at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of a series of hard SF novels, beginning with In the Ocean of Night (1978) and following quickly with works such as Timescape (1980) and the popular Galactic Centre series, including Across the Sea of Suns, Great Sky River (1987), Tides of Light (1989) and Furious Gulf (1994).

Gregory Benford Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Three Stories
SF Site Review: Anomalies
SF Site Review: The Martian Race
SF Site Review: Worlds Vast and Various
SF Site Review: Eater
SF Site Review: Deep Time
SF Site Review: Against Infinity
SF Site Review: Artifact
SF Site Review: Cosm
SF Site Review: Foundation's Fear

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

A classic novella has been reissued as an ebook.

Do you like being duped/tricked by authors who show you that maybe your perspective is wrong? As a lad, reading SF anthologies of wildly different authorial personalities and beliefs, I figured that SF was a group of highly intelligent, highly accepting individuals who understood how to get along, despite differences of opinion on politics, religion and the like. While I may not have been right, I wasn't wrong. SF does have more than its fair share of such individuals. Here, "If the Stars Are Gods" by Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund, is another narrative that lulls you and then asks you to step outside yourself.

Aliens almost arrive on Earth. They stop at the Moon to find Reynolds, a washed-up, old has-been astronaut whose expiration date has come and gone. They won't talk to anyone else.

Inside their crude if effective interstellar spaceship that humans have not managed to construct for themselves, they tell Reynolds that they have come to visit the stars -- not other races. They know that our star is benevolent and want to visit the creatures beneath its gaze.

The creatures are always on the verge of leaving and heading to the Sun, but Reynolds manages to stall them, little by little, to gain what knowledge they have the stars. However, they are liars although Reynolds is able to peer through the lies and surmise the truths they do have.

Finally, they lend Reynolds a taste -- a glimpse, a glimmer -- of what they do know, leaving him hungry for more. Meanwhile, Earth delegates are on their way to convince them to come down and visit Earth, in which they have zero interest. Reynolds makes an attempt to convince them of his own concerns.

All of this time, the story felt nearly tongue-in-cheek or frivolous. Then Eklund and Benford pulled the rug out from under me:

  " 'I have to be frivolous. Otherwise, it sounds too ridiculous....'

"[Reynolds] had underestimated these creatures. [Jonathon, the alien] was lying well, only when the truth would not suffice....

" 'When they come to you, they assume a disguise you can see. That is how they spend their time in this universe. Think of them as doorways.' "


When you arrive at the end, you'll want to read it all over again. It's that good. The story resonates, leaves you thinking.

Copyright © 2013 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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