Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the newly released space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.
Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, most Earth societies wrestle with conflicts between faith and science. Although many have argued that science and religion cannot coexist reasonably together, science fiction and fantasy literature is rarely so dismissive. Authors in some of the genres’ most influential books wrestle with spiritual themes. Here are several examples:
- The Urth books (The Book of the New Sun, Litany of the Long Sun, The Book of the Short Sun) and more, this series by acknowledged Catholic Wolfe is considered one of his best and highly influential in the field.
- A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller–considered a classic and one of the best science fiction books of all time by many. A postapocalyptic tale set in a Catholic monastery, it tells the tale of a search to recover and protect knowledge in a world rebuilding itself.
- Dune by Frank Herbert–a classic and one of the most respected and popular of all science fiction books, covers a history stretching some 16,000 years, it examines changes in political, social, and religious structures of the world in the story. The Orange Catholic Bible within the story even posits a syncretic blend of current religions.
- The Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S. Lewis–another series filled with Christian allegory and highly influential, Lewis’ children’s fantasy books have rich imagery from Lewis’ Christian faith.
- The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells–an anti-Christian book in many senses, Wells’ tale is the author’s take on the whole Genesis/Paradise Lost creation story or myth, depending on your perspective.
- Out Of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis–Considered by many to be the definitive work of Christian science fiction. Lewis made a deliberate attempt to meld his faith with science fiction in this 1938 respected classic.
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley–Romantic creation myth, Gothic novel considered to be the first science fiction novel.
- Foundation Earth by Isaac Asimov–Asimov is a known Athiest yet this entry in his classic and highly influential series features a Group-Mind which may also be a God-Machine.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams–another series which riffs on perennial themes, including religious ones and contains a plethora of God-machines.
- A Case of Conscience by James Blish–the tale of Jesuit priest on an alien planet whose faith is shattered by his discoveries in the planet’s subculture.
- The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling–Yes, some Christians may slam the books as full of sinful sorcery but in truth, the books are far more focused on a more important theme of Redemption. Rowling herself is a regular church member. And common Biblical themes frequent the series.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke–Although Clarke labeled himself an Atheist, some of his ideas reflect Deism. Whatever the case, his classic is the story of the ultimate God-Machine.
- Neuromancer by William Gibson–a retelling of the God-Machine Myth for the cyberpunk era, this is considered a classic of the subgenre and Gibson’s masterpiece.
- The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons–from God-Machines to Frankenstein creatures, dystopias, apocalypses, cyberpunk, Catholicism, classical myth and the Romantic poets, the two volumes of this series truly have it all.
- Contact by Carl Sagan–A lifelong religious skeptic, Sagan’s classic novel follows his lifelong focus to reproachment of the human need for wonder, meaning and love, common themes of religion and faith.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, of course. But given the famous names of both books and authors listed here, it’s obvious that science fiction and religion continue to wrestle with each other at least in literature. And given that science fiction is an examination of the “what ifs” through postulating about the future while examining the present, perhaps that’s appropriate.
[Editor’s Note: Bryan’s blog tour continues tomorrow at The New Author.]