REVIEW: “Bull of Heaven” by Gabriel Murray

Review of Gabriel Murray, “Bull of Heaven”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2017: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2017): 83-99. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

So much calculation had gone into giving Francis realistic human coloration: olive skin, brown eyes, brown hair a little lighter than the eyes, striated and naturalistic. No one had done the same with the android Moses: they’d just painted him in tones they found beautiful, which occurred on no living man, which Francis found garish.

This is another story of automata, religious automata programmed and constructed so that they are “born” already knowing all the catechism, already capable of experiencing “the mystery of the faith” (p. 85). It is easy, in this story, to slip into the uncanny valley; it is only in consciously self-reflective narration that we are reminded that Brother Francis is no ordinary temple cleric. Moses, too, is an android, and what I find most fascinating in this story is watching Brother Francis go through his own uncanny valley, to see the automaton respond to the not-quite-right, the too-almost-organic android. “The humans might not have noticed, but Francis did” (p. 86). But there remain many things that Francis does not notice, not until he is confronted with them, not until it is almost too late.