Religion and Science Fiction

Article excerpt

Religion and Science Fiction. Edited by James F. McGrath. Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick, 2011. vii + 194 pp. $35.00 (paper).

As a boy, I read every science fiction book in the Redwood Library in my hometown of Newport, Rhode Island. Over the years, I have narrowed down to a very few authors, following hard-science writers like Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Greg Bear. For some time, I have fantasized about writing myself, in particular, to explore what might happen to Christianity on a multigenerational spaceship carrying colonists to another solar system, what happens to themes like "heaven and earth" on another planet when Earth is light-years away, the salvation of extraterrestrials, and so on. Of course, the stories would have to have their own integrity as well, or they would not be good fiction at all.

Such a project would be typical in the genre. Over the decades of science fiction's development, religious themes have permeated its literature, television programs, and films. This collection of essays, Religion and Science Fiction, explores in various ways the nexus of these themes in this genre.

The editor, James F McGrath, is a professor of New Testament literature at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. He intends his collection to be varied in approach and angle, and to that end enlists writers from very different perspectives: a historian, a professor of French, a musician, a theologian, an anthropologist, the present Canon to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and a scholar of science fiction literature. Each essay pays close attention to various intersections of religion and science fiction, but as the editor intended, they differ in the angle of approach and response.

Postmodern theological themes in French films, the superhero as mythological figure redivivas, Chinese science fiction and state "religion" in that country, the "mad scientist," good and evil in the original Star Trek series, "human" rights of artificial intelligences, the "music of the heavenly chorus" in Madeleine l'Engle 's opus, and a proposed method for theological analysis of ones favorite sci-fi film form the substance of the essays. …