"The Dope Fiend" by Lavie Tidhar: An Appreciation by Jason Sizemore
As a writer, Lavie culls from the rich histories of the Jewish religion, African voodoo magic, and the dark secrets of London to build complex, fascinating stories that he describes as "HebrewPunk." A mixture of British Steampunk and religious mythology, HebrewPunk is quite unlike anything you'll find in the short fiction world.
Ellen Datlow introduces the concept of HebrewPunk to the masses with the story "The Dope Fiend." The work is dense with plot, arcane references to mysterious religious entities, and drugs . . . lots and lots of drugs. We're introduced to a fallen Guardian called Tzaddik, a fascinating figure who maintains a taste for the darker aspects of London. Through the machinations of a desperate man and the power of an African hougan, a dark angel is unleashed that looks to make a sinister trade
for Tzaddik's immortal life.
Though I could go into an extended review of Tidhar's tour-de-force, such reviews have already been written in multitudes. Instead, let me extoll an appreciation of Ellen Datlow's knack for recognizing the unique talents and voices of writers such as Lavie Tidhar. How many times has Ms. Datlow done this over her career? Or simply in the five and one-half years at SCI FICTION? No doubt, many others would have passed on "The Dope Fiend." Too dark, they'd say. Audiences won't connect to this.
Sadly, "The Dope Fiend" was the last story published by SCI FICTION under Ms. Datlow's editorial direction. A fine parting shot to the world.
I miss her stories. I miss her visionary influence on the short-fiction world.
I miss SCI FICTION.
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