In 1993, when I decided to take my writing seriously, I came across an exceptional magazine called Tomorrow, a monthly publication of Speculative Fiction by Algis Budrys. It is now, unfortunately, defunct. But within the few issues I was able to get my hands on, I found Convert, a story by Valerie Freireich, about a world where martyrs can be bought and sold and crucified, if need be, to perpetuate whatever belief system is most lacking in believers. This world, and the characters that reside in it, was so seamlessly constructed, and the narrative was so effective, yet so effortless, that it it became, and remains, my all-time favorite short story.
In a series of novels, including Testament and Becoming Human, Ms. Freireich continues the same ability to create rich worlds and cultures that make them up in such a way that you are wholly unaware you are reading fiction, and that you never once feel the hand of the writer guiding your experience. You’re blissfully, clueless-ly immersed.
Her novels are still available, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find her short stories. Hopefully, we’ll all be fortunate enough to see a collection of those published one day.