Atheist in the Attic: A Publishers Weekly Review

Publishers Weekly
June 2018

This small volume offers two delectable ruminations (plus an interview) by Delany (Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders) on the nature of God and the insidiousness of racism. In the title novella, the 17th-century mathematician Leibniz travels in secret from Amsterdam to the Hague to visit the philosopher Spinoza, wishing to hear his ideas of an immanent “God, or nature” that led to accusations of atheism. But Leibniz finds this is “like hunting for a man hiding in the attic of a building that has none.” Though Delany does not spell it out, Leibniz historically took the more traditional, Christian view of the divine, so it is significant that he comes away from this fictional meeting full of optimism that “this Jew and I would come so close to the same conclusions.” The essay that follows, “Racism and Science Fiction,” originally published in 1998, concludes that even the appearance of racism can be a factor in reproducing and promoting racism itself. Delany is generous enough to choose not to dwell on the guilt of each individual because racism is a system, saying as much in the earlier story, that “at best the world was intriguingly devious and only the people in it a little silly.” Delany has said he thinks by writing, and this remarkable melange will be enlightening for readers to follow along with him.

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