…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.