Christian science fiction

…and its limitations.

My brother wrote an interesting blog about trends in speculative fiction lately. How we want what we can’t have.

Going to other planets is “old hat,” and in any sci-fi movie like Riddick or Prometheus you can see some very sharp special effects depicting computers and space travel technology. We’re (mostly) living in the future that writers from the turn of the last century predicted, albeit a much less glamorous one with many fewer spaceships. As some statisticians would tell you, we have more people living in urban areas than in the countryside these days, and so the imagination of modern culture itself has shifted somewhat to reflect that.

In other words, one-hundred years ago, people who lived in the country loved stories about technology. These days, while surrounded by technology, we dream of a time without it.

Which prompted all sorts of interesting thoughts. Especially about how most science fiction these days is Bad Future. The post-apoc, the dystopian, the ruling oppressive religious regime. The Antichrist. The future, as seen from our culture, is pretty bleak.

We’ve gone from flying cars and robot servants to merging with the internet. I’ve read SO many short stories where people merge their souls into the internet in some way, it’s not even funny. And in every case, it’s a horrifically bad thing.

We need some Good Future, like so much stuff written in the 50’s. Heck, I remember reading one where mankind had eliminated the mosquito and hugely developed the tropics as a result. It was intriguing. Where’s the hope for mankind’s future? And not the escaping-your-body kind of hope, but the let’s-colonize-other-worlds hope. Let’s go out and conquer the universe. Try to befriend the aliens, if we find any, and if not, WAR. (Ah, Halo novels, we love thee so.)

That leads into the bizarre land that is Christian science fiction.

My brother and I had an interesting discussion about this. How does one have science fiction without evolution to explain aliens? Either God made a couple different types of humans and some sinned and some didn’t, or the aliens are angels, or they’re demons. There’s no room for any kind of highly-evolved or lesser-evolved race. That really, really limits the scope of science fiction, at least as far as aliens and exploring other planets.

Or robots. I doubt a Christian would have come up with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, but Asimov’s wonderfully moral robots turn out to have all kinds of pictures of Christ. (They sacrifice themselves, they love their masters who in turn treat them cruelly, and so on.)

When I first started reading science fiction, I picked up Heinlein, and he does get pretty bleak and amoral (not to mention the politics). Asimov’s sweet, emotionally-resonant robot stories were a breath of fresh air. (Alas, after a while I lapsed back into fantasy. Blame World of Warcraft.)

To wrap up, Christian-worldview science fiction is hard to work with because the imagination is shackled by our modern evangelical conventions (Nephilim in space!). The future is a dark one because our imaginations are darkened.

We, the darkened, shackled writers. What a legacy for future generations.

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11 thoughts on “Christian science fiction

  1. Well I expect you and Will to have lot of discussion about his topic. You really thought about this didn’t you. I just listen to you too and I think that you both are really great thinkers and I like all of your ideas.

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  2. I think one of the reasons I like Doctor Who so much is a line by the 9th doctor in the second episode of the reboot:

    “You’re so concerned with global warming you never stop to think about the alternative: what if you make it?”

    Personally I’ve never understood why aliens have to be angels or demons; couldn’t they have been created similarly to how we were? Of course, I’m also more than willing to suspend any number of truths in the name of a good story. 🙂

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  3. Once again, I cite C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy as an example of what other worlds might look like with a Christian perspective. His first book (Out of The Silent Planet) explores a world of non-human creatures, but a world that is not fallen like ours. The second book, Perelandra, explores a planet that is not yet fallen, but is being subjected to temptation like we were. It shows how the inhabitants deal with it.

    We need more books like these.

    Personally, I think it’s okay to use evolution in science fiction novels, even Christian science fiction novels. Who’s to say that God didn’t use some form of evolution to create life on other planets? Evolution is far too complicated to happen by chance anyway. It would NEED a Divine Hand to work, whether or not scientists want to think that or not. Also… he’s God. He can make whatever he wants. =D

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  4. Evan: That’s a good point. What if we survive and the world doesn’t end? What then? Do we dare cast our imagination into the future and dream again? Also, I’m with you on a good story. Just tell me a good story and figure out the theological details later. 🙂

    Rachel: I think Lewis succeeded because he knew exactly what he believed and what he was trying to say. I think a lot of writers don’t.

    And I think evolution is a fascinating concept. I’d like to see someone write a planet where evolution is taken to its logical conclusion. You know that game Spore? Where you can stick limbs and jaws on every which way? Follow that through and you have eldritch abominations.

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  5. The Bible tells us what God did, not what he didn’t do. It doesn’t say that he didn’t create other beings somewhere who are also in His image. Though I always try to somehow connect my speculative stories to the real world, not just have them hanging in a void.

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  6. NetRaptor, I hope I’m not tooting this horn too much, but you might like the “Clouds Fall to Earth” idea. Background: When the seas rose and covered the land (global warming?), civilization broke down, but not before a group of aviators and engineers designed, built, and equipped aircraft that could sustain them above the chaos. The surviving humans on the surface devolved into primitive brutes. The story begins 1200 years later when the people of air are dying out: the women die young and are not having enough children. The story is centered on a young man in the hunter caste whose finance dies. He wants to find a wife among the “animal humans” on the surface, but his whole culture, expressed through his father, forbids any kind of contact with them.

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    1. Earthtrekker: It does sound like an interesting concept. Kind of like the Zelda Wind Waker concept taken to the next level. Is your book finished, or are you still working on it?

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  7. NetRaptor, “Clouds Fall” isn’t finished, alas. It’s the one project that I always find reasons to postpone and the one with the most chance at commercial success. I have a couple chapters done and a complete outline, plus quite a few cultural/language factors already developed, plus geographic research done (subarctic.) My completed novelette “Shoreless Ocean of Eternity” is a stand-alone prequel. In it I expose how if you are to travel across time, you must also travel across space to end up where and when you want to be. Because, obviously, everything in the cosmos is moving!

    And, if I must find a comparison, it’s somewhat (remotely) like the film, Waterworld, and not at all bleak.

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  8. The “mankind eliminating mosquitos” storyline could become reality soon. RadioLab had a great episode (a follow-up actually) about the recent developments with CRISPR, the gene-editing super-tool. One experiment being done is making mosquitos completely resistant to malaria. The way it works, too, is that pretty much all mosquitos in a local population would inherit this modification. Imagine a world without malaria.

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  9. I think the kind of sci-fi you are yearning for his found in Chris Walley’s Lamb Among the Stars trilogy. Unfortunately, I don’t think the publisher knew how to market sci-fi and the expansive story has gone under the radar.

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