Response to the Review

I was, of course, delighted with Phyllis Chesler’s review of my novels, The Throne in the Heart of the Sea and The Stars in their Courses. However, I can’t resist writing a response. After all, as Phyllis indicates in her last line, we may disagree.

First, a minor nit to pick: I don’t see my work as lesbian science fiction but as historical fiction. There are no science fiction elements in it, and although there are major lesbian characters, Jezebel herself is basically heterosexual.

Second, Phyllis sees my version of Elijah, whom she calls the Messiah, as “an angry ‘loser,’ a thief, a scoundrel, a rough customer—and only eventually, as a man of God.” Poet Judy Grahn read the first book in manuscript and encouraged me to rewrite it, to show Elijah as “the true and absolutely loyal…prophet of Judaism to come. He is not going to be tolerant of the goddess people, not even if one is a cousin.” He must be a man of “steely resolve…entirely fixed on his mission.” My Elijah, however, is neither a savior nor a fanatic.

The Biblical Elijah springs up full-blown, a prophet and miracle worker. He has no flaws and no self-doubt. What can a writer do with an already perfect hero (albeit one who engineers a mass murder)? You can’t develop a cardboard character. My Elijah is a human being, and I’m very fond of him. I watched him mature from a troubled adolescent into a mensch, a man who does his best to help the needy and oppressed, and to atone for the crimes of his youth.

As the author, I inhabit my characters. All of them are parts of me, to the extent that I can imagine myself into another person’s life, another age, another country. And under the right circumstances, all of us are capable of theft and murder, of great cruelty—and great love.


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