A long-lost space age satire about what it means to be a Jew from one of science fiction’s greatest humorists
By William Tenn
The story you are about to read was almost never written. By the early 1970s, one of America’s greatest science-fiction satirists had all but retired. After a celebrated literary career under the pen name of William Tenn, London-born Jewish author Philip Klass had hung up his pseudonym and settled in as a professor of English at Penn State University. That is, until he had a chance encounter with some young fans at a science-fiction convention in 1973.
“They asked me why I wasn’t still writing,” Klass recalled. He responded that teaching was its own satisfaction, and that “there was not much market for the fiction I wanted to write these days, especially for a specific story whose title was all I had but which had been on my mind for many months.” Klass told them the name, sure that it was a nonstarter. But as luck would have it, one of the fans was planning a collection of Jewish science fiction—and so “On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi,” William Tenn’s final story, was commissioned.