Religion and Science Fiction

By Mills, Anthony R. | Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Religion and Science Fiction


Mills, Anthony R., Journal of Religion and Popular Culture


McGrath, James F., Ed. Religion and Science Fiction. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011.195 + viii pp. paperback $22.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60899-886-9

This anthology edited by James McGrath consists of eight chapters, each of which addresses various religious themes in light of, or germane to, different science fiction phenomena and/or popular media "texts." The topics are quite diverse but tend to concentrate on lesser-known, or less discussed, science fiction media such as the films of French director Jean Jeunet, the British cult television series The Prisoner, the Wrinkle in Time book trilogy of Madeleine L'Engle, and the nineteenth-century classics Frankenstein and The Island of Dr. Moreau, to name a few. Only part of a chapter attends to the original Star Trek series, for instance, while scant mention is made of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Babylon 5, or other more popular sci-fi products which are rife with religious issues and imagery.

This diversity is both a strength and weakness of the book. On the one hand, it does, as McGrath puts it in the introduction, give the reader "different approaches to and angles on the subject itself" (1, emphasis his), as well as provide some interesting insights on texts which are often neglected by interdisciplinary projects of this kind. On the other hand, many readers who are only familiar with more popular media will be disappointed by the relative obscurity of the texts discussed and will for that reason not find it to be as suitable an introduction to the topic as McGrath suggests elsewhere (4).

One aspect which is a definitive weakness is the lack of any attempt to clarify what is meant by both "religion" and "science fiction." While both of these phenomena are notoriously difficult to define, one can make the opposite mistake of including too much within their parameters. For instance, C. K. Robertson's chapter on superhero mythologies, while insightful, would be considered by many to belong in a different genre than science fiction. In addition, the discussions of consciousness, good and evil, and artificial intelligence which appear in several chapters would not strike every reader as uniquely or even particularly religious. That being said, this is a shortcoming which the book shares with many others of its kind. …

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