Friday, May 01, 2009

Hugo Award Nominee: "Article of Faith"

Article of Faith
Mike Resnick
Nominated for the Hugo Award: Short Story

Mike Resnick's “Article of Faith” is as straightforward and obvious a story as they come. I’m not sure there is a single thing that readers with any familiarity with Christianity or a childhood of churchgoing (or, perhaps of watching movies) would not anticipate.

The new robot servicing the janitorial needs of Reverend Morris’s church is a bit different than the last robot. The new one, named Jackson, asks questions of Morris, questions about God. “Article of Faith” examines the ongoing conversation between Reverend Morris and Jackson about the nature of God. It is elementary stuff, though at the core of the Christian faith. Questions someone unfamiliar with the religion might ask, and Jackson persists with the logical next questions. As the conversation continues over several weeks Morris utilizes Jackson to correct logical issues in his sermons.

Do you see where this is going? Do you see what story Resnick is telling here?

Another pause. “God created everything except me?” he asked at last.

“That's an interesting question, Jackson,” I admitted. “I suppose the answer is that God is indirectly responsible for you, for had He not created Dr. Kalinovsky, Dr. Kalinovsky could not have created you.”

“Then I too am God's creation?”

“This is the House of God,” I said. “Far be it from me to tell anyone, even a robot, that he isn't God's creation.”

This is a world where humans are upset that robots are taking more and more of their jobs. Perhaps a world which is not far off what Asimov might have written about, if he wrote about Robots and Faith (and given how prolific a writer Asimov was, maybe he did).

It is likely the simplicity of “Article of Faith” which caused it to resonate with enough readers to garner a Hugo nomination. It is a very pleasant story, overall. A story about what it means to have a soul, to be “a man”, to be able to know God, to be able to worship God. Simplified.

Mike Resnick’s writing is almost always smooth and easy and “Article of Faith” is no exception. There is a reason Mike Resnick has as many admirers as he does. I can’t really get behind this story, though. I keep using the word “simple”, and simple is not inherently a bad thing. Except, perhaps, in this case. The message of the story is so reduced and parable-ish that “Article of Faith” reads as if Resnick is trying to present a particular message to his readers. That it is a parable, to be used for instruction. Maybe that’s the point. If so, point taken.

As a story nominated for a Hugo Award – it’s not good enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"As a story nominated for a Hugo Award – it’s not good enough."

Sigh. Exactly my thoughts.