Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: September 2015

‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’

Isaac Asimov

Reflections is a regular column by multi-award-winning SFWA Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, in which he will offer his thoughts on science fiction, literature and the world at large.

This month: ‘The Sixth Palace’

More than fifty years ago I wrote a short story called “The Sixth Palace,” which Frederik Pohl published in Galaxy, the top science fiction magazine of the day. Subsequently it was reprinted in a number of anthologies and translated into three or four foreign languages, and generally it has been held in high regard by SF readers over the years. I like the story myself and have used it in several of my own collections of my work, most recently one called To the Dark Star.

The story begins with a quotation that is drawn, though I don’t say so in the text, from ancient Hebrew mystical literature:

Ben Azai was deemed worthy and stood at the gate of the sixth palace and saw the ethereal splendor of the pure marble plates. He opened his mouth and said twice, “Water! Water!” In the twinkling of an eye they decapitated him and threw eleven thousand iron bars at him. This shall be a sign for all generations that no one should err at the gate of the sixth palace.

—Lesser Hekhaloth

From that starting point I go on to tell the tale of two soldiers of fortune who travel to a small world orbiting the star Valzar, where a fabulous treasure is known to be guarded by a gigantic robot who will admit to the treasure vault only that person who can correctly answer a series of difficult questions. Anyone who fails to give the proper answers will be immediately annihilated . . .


You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.