GlitterShip

Episode #68: “These Are the Attributes By Which You Shall Know God” by Rose Lemberg

March 18, 2019

These Are the Attributes By Which You Shall Know God

by Rose Lemberg

 

Father is trying to help me get into NASH. He thinks that seeing a real architect at work will help me with entrance exams. So father paid money, to design a house he does not want, just to get me close to Zepechiar. He is a professor at NASH and a human-Ruvan contact.

Reason and matter­—these are the cornerstones of Spinoza’s philosophy that the Ruvans admire so much. Reason and matter: an architect’s mind and building materials. These are the attributes through which we can know God.

And then, of course, there’s particle technology.

 

Full story after the cut:

Hello! Welcome to GlitterShip episode 68 for March 18, 2019. This is your host, Keffy, and I'm super excited to share this story with you. Today we have a GlitterShip original, "These Are the Attributes By Which You Shall Know God" by Rose Lemberg, and "Female Figure of the Early Spedos Type, 1884-" by Sonya Taaffe.

This episode is part of the newest GlitterShip issue, which was just released and is available for purchase at glittership.com/buy and on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and now Gumroad! If you’re one of our Patreon supporters, you should have access to the new issue waiting for you when you log in. For everyone else, it’s $2.99.

GlitterShip is also a part of the Audible Trial Program. This means that just by listening to GlitterShip, you are eligible for a free 30 day membership on Audible and a free audiobook to keep. Today's book recommendation is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison. In a world ripped apart by a plague that prevents babies from being carried to term and kills the mothers, an unnamed woman keeps a record of her survival. To download The Book of the Unnamed Midwife for free today, go to www.audibletrial.com/glittership — or choose another book if you’re in the mood for something else.

 


 

Sonya Taaffe reads dead languages and tells living stories. Her short fiction and poetry have been collected most recently in Forget the Sleepless Shores (Lethe Press) and previously in Singing Innocence and Experience, Postcards from the Province of Hyphens, A Mayse-Bikhl, and Ghost Signs. She lives with her husband and two cats in Somerville, Massachusetts, where she writes about film for Patreon and remains proud of naming a Kuiper belt object.

 

 


 

Female Figure of the Early Spedos Type, 1884-

by Sonya Taaffe

 

When I said she had a Modigliani face, I meant
she was white as a cracked cliff
and bare as the brush of a thumb
the day we met on the thyme-hot hills above Naxos
and by the time we parted in Paris, she was drawing
half-divorced Russian poets from memory,
drinking absinthe like black coffee
with the ghosts of the painted Aegean still ringing her eyes.
Sometimes she posts self-portraits
scratched red as ritual,
a badge of black crayon in the plane of her groin.
In another five thousand years,
she may tell someone—
not me—
another one of her names.

 


Our story today is "These Are the Attributes By Which You Shall Know God" by Rose Lemberg, read by Bogi Takács.

 

Bogi Takács (prezzey.net) is a Hungarian Jewish agender trans person currently living in the US as a resident alien. Eir speculative fiction, poetry and nonfiction have been published in a variety of venues like ClarkesworldApexStrange Horizons and podcast on Glittership, among others. You can follow Bogi on TwitterInstagram and Patreon, or visit eir website at www.prezzey.net. Bogi also recently edited the Lambda Award-winning Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016, for Lethe Press.

Rose Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their fiction and poetry have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed‘s Queer Destroy Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, and many other venues. Rose’s work has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and other awards. Their Birdverse novella The Four Profound Weaves is forthcoming from Tachyon Press. You can find more of their work on their Patreon: patreon.com/roselemberg

 


 

 

These Are the Attributes By Which You Shall Know God

by Rose Lemberg

 

Father is trying to help me get into NASH. He thinks that seeing a real architect at work will help me with entrance exams. So father paid money, to design a house he does not want, just to get me close to Zepechiar. He is a professor at NASH and a human-Ruvan contact.

Reason and matter­—these are the cornerstones of Spinoza’s philosophy that the Ruvans admire so much. Reason and matter: an architect’s mind and building materials. These are the attributes through which we can know God.

And then, of course, there’s particle technology.

The house-model Zepechiar has made for my family is all sleek glass. It is a space house with transparent outer walls; the endlessness of stars will be just an invisible layer away.

“I do not want to live in space,” dad hisses. Father hushes them.

Zepechiar’s model for our new house is cubical, angular, with a retro-modern flair. The kitchen is the only part of it that does not rotate, a small nod to dad’s desire for domesticity. Outside of the kitchen capsule, the living spaces are all zero-g with floating furniture that assembles itself out of thin air and adapts to the body’s curves. There is no privacy in the house, but nobody will be looking—out there, in space, between the expanses of the void.

“Bringing the vacuum in is all the rage these days,” the architect says.

I pretend indifference. Doodling in my notebook. It looks like nothing much.

Swirls, like the swirls our ancients made to mark the landing sites for Ruva vessels. For thousands of years nobody had remembered the Ruva, and when they returned, they did not want to land anymore on the curls and swirls of patterns made in the fields. They had evolved. Using reason.

They razed our cities to pour perfectly level landing sites. They sucked excess water out of the atmosphere and emptied the oceans, then refilled them again. But then they read Spinoza and decided to spare and/or save us. Because we, too, can know God.

If we continued studying Spinoza, Ruvans said, we’d be enlightened and would not need sparing or saving.

I want to build something that curls and twists between hills, but hills have been razed after the Ruva arrived. Hills are frivolous, an affront of imagination against reason, and it is reason that brought us terraforming particle technology that allowed us to suck all usable minerals from the imperfections of the earth: the hills, the mountains, the ravines, the trees, leaving only a flatness of the landing sites between the flatness covered by angular geodomes.

I learned about hills from the rebel file. Every kid at school downloads the rebel file. All around the world too, I guess. I don’t know anybody else who actually read it.

I do not notice anything until my father and dad wave a cheerful goodbye and leave me, alone with Zepechiar. He’ll help me with entrance exams. Or something.

He pulls up a chair from the air, shapes it into a Ruvan geometry that is perhaps just a shade more frivolous than reason dictates.

He says, “Your father lied about the purpose of your visit. What is the reason behind it?”

I mumble, “I want to get into NASH.”

“Show me your architectural drawings,” Zepechiar orders. His voice is level. Reason is the architect’s best tool.

I hesitate. Can I show him—

No. I need something safer, so I swipe the notebook, show him a thing I made while he was fussing over dad’s kitchen: a cubical model of black metal and spaceglass, not unlike Zepechiar’s house model for my family. The distinction is in the color contrast, a white stripe of a pipe running like a festive tie over the steel bundle.

Zepechiar nods. “Show me what you do not want to show me.”

There is something in his voice. I raise my hand to make the swiping motion, then stop mid-gesture.

“You could have convinced dad to say yes to that kitchen,” I say. “They would have cooked breakfasts for eternity, looking out into an infinite space until their heart gave out.”

“I’m selling my architecture, not my voice,” he says, but something in his voice is bitter. Bitterness. Emotion, not reason. He is being unprofessional on purpose, perhaps to lull me into trusting him.

“Why did you decide to become an architect?” I ask, to distract. A tame enough question. My father’s money bought me an informational interview.

“Architecture is an ultimate act of reason,” Zepechiar says. It’s such a Ruvan thing to say. I must have read it a hundred times, in hundreds of preparatory articles. “I teach this in the intro course. Architecture is key to that which contains us: houses. Ships. The universe. The universe is the ultimate container. The universe is God. God is a container of all things. We learn from Spinoza that we can only know God through reason; and that is why we approach God through architecture.”

“If God contains all things, would God contain—” swirls? Hills? Leviathans?

“The thing you do not want to show me?” says Zepechiar. His voice lilts just a bit, and I am taken in.

I swipe my hand over the notebook, to show Zepechiar what will certainly disqualify me from NASH.

It is a boat that curves and undulates. Its sides are decorated in pinwheel and spiral designs. There is not a straight angle anywhere, not a flat surface. I have populated my Ark with old-style numbers—the ones with curves. There are two fives, two sixes, a pair of 23s.

Zepechiar rubs his forehead. “What are the numbers meant to indicate?”

“Um… pairs of animals.” I read that in the rebel file, but I do not know what they are supposed to look like.

“This… is hardly reasonable,” says Zepechiar. “You know what Spinoza said. The Bible is nothing but fantasy, and imagination is anathema to reason.”

I am stubborn, and yes, I’ve read my Spinoza. Scripture is no better than anything else. But God’s existence is not denied. I say, “You could use reason to replicate the Ark in matter.”

“Yes,” Zepechiar says. Yes. We can use particle technology to manipulate almost any matter. Even sentient matter. His voice hides a threat. “I want to know where you learned this. And why did you draw this.”

God told Noah to build the Ark and save the animals. Ruvans just sucked all the water out of the seas, froze some, boiled the rest, and put it back empty of life. The rebel file does not always make sense, but this is clear. “I wanted to recreate the miracle of the Ark, to imagine the glory of God.”

Zepechiar says, “No. It is only through reason that you can reach God. God is infinite, but reason and the material world are the only attributes of God that we can reach. I want to know where you learned this.”

His voice. His voice bends me.

The rebel file. Everybody knows about the rebel file. Nobody cares about the rebel file. I can speak of it. Nothing to it. Just say it. Do what he says. Use reason. Straighten every curve.

I mumble, “Ugh… here and there, kids at school, you know.”

“I don’t.” He squints at me, halfway between respect and scorn. “Erase the Ark.”

I breathe in. I have always been stubborn. “I do not want to erase the Ark. It is a miracle.”

He breathes in. His hand is on my arm. “Miracles are simply things you cannot yet understand. Like particle tech and sentient matter.”

He folds me. I’ve heard of the advanced geometry one can only learn at NASH, but this is more than that, this is something more. It is nauseating, like I am being doubled and twisted and extended.

Dimensionally, stretched along multiple axes until my human hills—my curves, my limbs—are flattened into a singular geometric shape, a white pipe that runs around along the lines of the design studio, wrapping around the cubic shape of it like a festive ribbon.

I am… not human anymore. I am sentient matter altered, like the rest of Earth, by Ruvan/human particle technology. I see Zepechiar from above, from below, in multiple angles. I have no eyes, but some abstract form of seeing, a sentience, remains to me.

“I want to know,” Zepechiar says, “who altered you.”

He falls apart into a thousand shiny cubes, then reassembles himself again, a towering creature of glimmering metal, a Ruvan of flesh behind the capsule of dark steel.

I, too, am altered by him now, a thousand smaller cubes scattered by his voice, reassembled into the dimensional model of the house in the void. I see dad and father standing above my form. Perhaps they never left. They do not seem to care if Zepechiar is human or Ruvan.

Zepechiar speaks to dad. “The perfect kitchen just for you—look at these retro-granite countertops, self-cleaning—” He pokes me. “Where did you learn this?”

I think back at him, quoting the Scripture the best I can. “Two by two, they ascended the Ark: Male and female in their pairs, and some female in their pairs and some male in their pairs, and some had no gender and some did not care. Some came in triangles and some came in squares. And some of them came alone.” Like the Leviathan. The Leviathan holds all the knowledge the Ruvans discarded for reason’s sake, all the swirly landing sites, their own hills, their poetry. The Leviathan is the Ruvans’ rebel file.

I no longer know my initial shape. I am made of hundreds of shining squares. My parents are here, in the room, but they do not know me. They are human—all curves and lilts of flesh. Forever suspect. I am Ruvan/human now. I am an architectural model, sentient matter transformed by an architect’s reason—and architects are the closest thing to God.

“Think about all the damage scripture did,” says Zepechiar. “Holy wars, destruction, revision, rewritten over and over by those who came after but made no more sense. Think about what imagination did to this planet and to ours. It is dangerous. It makes you dangerous. But I will make matter out of you.”

I am a house. Floating in space, rotating along all my axes. Inside me, the kitchen is the only thing that is still. I have been human or Ruvan, I do not remember, but I carry two humans inside me. They no longer remember me, but they came in a pair. I am their Ark.

Zepechiar made me. A Ruvan/human architect. An architect is the closest thing to God. But so are the buildings architects create. So am I.

Slowly, I begin to shift my consciousness along the cubic geometry of my new shape. Slowly, I move the space house, away. Where, in the darkest of space, there swims a Leviathan.

 

END


 

“Female Figure of the Early Spedos Type, 1884-" is copyright Sonya Taaffe 2019.

“These Are the Attributes By Which You Shall Know God” is copyright Rose Lemberg 2019.

This recording is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license which means you can share it with anyone you’d like, but please don’t change or sell it. Our theme is “Aurora Borealis” by Bird Creek, available through the Google Audio Library.

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Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back soon with a reprint of “Ratcatcher” by Amy Griswold.