Review of Karl Egerton, “Sin”, in Myths, Monsters, and Mutations, edited by Jessica Augustsson (JayHenge Publications, 2017): 108-118. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
It’s astonishing how often SFF stories don’t seem to have any form of religion in them, given how major an influence that has been on pretty much the entire history of human culture. Without religion there really isn’t any kind of concept of “Sin”, so going into this story the question for me was: What kind of religion is it going to be?
Never did I expect it would centered around the goddess Perchta (whom I’d recently been reading up on, so to see her name was a sudden delight!), rather than classic Christian tropes. There is a visceral — no pun intended — delight in reading of the school children chanting:
“But we know that she was a Sinner because…?”
Albert and the rest of the class, in unison, practically sang the response.
“Because Perchta came and sliced up her guts!”
The teacher gestured to Albert.
“She filled her with rocks!” he chanted.
The children let out an excited giggle.
“And why did Perchta’s righteous knife disembowel her?”
“To save us all from Sin!”
Because when I read that, I know I’m in for something different, something fun.
Egerton’s story is an investigation of childhood, of sin, where it comes from, and how we rationalise it. “What sort of thing is a sin, really?” Albert asks the priest, and that question encapsulates the entire story. “It was absolutely necessary for actions to have consequences,” the narrator tells us, and in the end, we see that Sin and Perchta, transgression and punishment, are two sides of the same coin. We cannot have one without the other.