Tuesday, May 22, 2007

calling all sci-fi trivia geeks

Brian wrote a comment to this post in which he jokingly mentioned that he wanted to establish his sci-fi nerd bona fides. Well, I've got a request for all such geeks:

I vaguely remember a short story that appeared in an issue of Omni Magazine, probably in 1986. I don't remember the month, but I think it appeared in the same issue as Stephen King's short story, "The End of the Whole Mess."

The story dealt with the nature of God, a nature we discover to be horrifying. At the very end of the story, the protag has a vision of God in which God appears as a lion and a lamb. The lion suddenly turns on the lamb and slaughters it with a single blow, at which point the protag realizes that God is a bloodthirsty, vengeful God who demands sacrifice. The vision of God morphs; the lion and lamb change to reveal God as God truly is: some vast, awful, "cyclic" (or "cyclical") thing. The story ends about there.

Does anyone know what the name of this story is, and where I might find it online (assuming it is online)?

ANSWER, June 18, 2012: "The Visitation," by Greg Bear.


1 comment:

Kevin Kim said...

I thought I had posted the comment(s) to the this post, but they're not showing up. I either hit "reject" by mistake or the comments got eaten in a freak cyber-accident during the publishing process. Either way, my apologies. (If the comments show up later, un-apologies.)

Charles had asked about why this was called a "shaggy" god story. The Wiki article linked to another Wiki article about the expression "shaggy dog story," which is the expression from which "shaggy god story" is derived.

The original expression literally had to do with a joke about a shaggy dog (I'll trust that Wikipedia is right about this). The joke was rather long and pointless, and therein lay the humor. I'm assuming, then, that "shaggy" or "shaggy dog" has become synonymous with that sort of story-- something long and pointless, or by extension, a story that leads to a major letdown at the end.

My guess is that it's probably the latter aspect that makes a "shaggy god story" shaggy: the idea of ending a story with the Eden scenario is such a cliché among sci-fi mag editors that it probably causes them to bang their heads on their desks in frustration. They're led down the primrose path for ten or twenty pages... only to find that they're reading yet another Eden story.

Just a guess.