THE MADONNA AND THE STARSHIP is reminiscent of Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World but funny


For the July (253) issue of Interzone, Duncan Lunan examines James Morrow’s The Madonna and The Starship.

“Even the grottiest pulp SF performs a salutary cultural function,” writes Morrow in his afterword. His characters do take their young audience seriously, to the extent that each episode is followed by a short science lesson from ‘Uncle Wonder’, urging their child star and their viewers to try experiments at home, always ending with the mantra ‘Safety first!’ In consequence they are visited by a delegation of Qualimosians – “by-God extraterrestrials, complete with crustacean physiognomy, insectile eyes and an antisocial agenda.” They’ve come to present the show with an award for its values, but also to wipe out irrationality wherever they find it, especially in religious belief.


Its central character is Kurt Jastrow, sharing his first name with you-know-who but his last name with a distinguished astronomer and science writer, the author of Red Giants and White Dwarfs (“a masterpiece of science” according to Wernher von Braun), Until the Sun Dies and The Enchanted Loom. Paddy Chayefsky called him “the greatest writer on science alive today” and Sir Bernard Lovell said of him “Very few scientists are capable of writing as fearlessly and honestly as Dr Jastrow”. Calling the character ‘Sagan’ would have been too obvious…but to whatever extent the Qualimosians represent the spirit of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, the ‘live and let live’ moral of The Madonna and the Starship is closer to Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. And what’s more, it’s funny!

Read the rest of Hunter’s review in the latest issue of Interzone.

For more on The Madonna and the Starshipvisit the Tachyon page.

Cover and design by Elizabeth Story.