Top Ten Most Original Speculative Fiction Story Worlds, Part 2
Last week’s post, now edited, which I intended to list the top ten stories original story worlds by authors who don’t identify as Christians (in contrast to this week’s post), made an error. Unknown to me at the time, I included the Myst video game series as part of that list. And I’ve been repeatedly assured that the series was not only produced by Christians, its sales have been used to support missionary work (so is kinda “über-Christian” 🙂 ). So I’ve moved it over to this list, which has the top ten speculative fiction stories by authors who are Christians, and in its place have edited H. P. Lovecraft’s short story, The Call of Cthulu, back into last week’s article.
I won’t explain again the reason behind the focus of last’s weeks post on originality, but I’d like to clarify that while I used the term “original story world,” what would have been more accurate would have been “original setting.” Because the setting of a story is a broader category than the story world. It would have been a better term to account for the fact that Jurassic Park in particular invented several original ideas key to the story (bringing back lost species, searching amber of ancient DNA), though had an otherwise ordinary story world. Likewise this week’s list is really more broadly about original setting, even though I’m continuing with the term “original story world.”
Likewise I won’t explain my rating system all over, though I will mention I rated rated each story from 1 to 5 on originality, influence on other stories, sales influence, and influence on public discourse. The ten stories on this list rate from 10 to 16 points overall.
10. Requiem 4
Mike Duran is far better known for his Reagan Moon series than this novelette. However, while I’ve read one of the Reagan Moon books (The Ghost Box), I feel Requiem 4 is far more original in its tone and approach. Combining concepts of Nephilim, demons, dystopia, and military science fiction, Requiem 4 is among a handful of works by contemporary Christian authors I consider truly original.
While it does draw on other types of stories I just mentioned, Requiem 4 rates 5 points for originality in my opinion. As far as influence on other stories, as far as I know it sadly has had none, 1 point. Concerning sales, I don’t know for certain, but I would guess this story rates a 2 in that department. Concerning influence on public discourse, it’s hard to get people talking about a story they’re barely aware of, but I estimate people would talk about this tale if it were better known–2 points. 10 points total.
A disclaimer is in order here–Mike asked me for editorial input on Requiem 4 as he was writing it. Some of my advice he followed and some he didn’t. I’m not responsible for the story turning out as original as it did, but I could be accused perhaps of bias in favor of a story I helped with in a minor way. I don’t think I’m biased about it (my connection may have caused some negative bias, in fact)–but, anyway, now you know.
Downsides? This story could be disturbing for some readers. Not supremely graphic but a bit so. I also don’t agree with the notion of Nephilim as used in the tale, but Mike drew from ideas popularized by Dr. Michael Heiser, a scholar many people find fascinating. Though I disagree with much of what Heiser says, he does make a few points I find worthwhile…but anyway, Mike creating a story that includes elements drawn from Dr. Heiser’s works is of course a legit thing to do in writing fiction.
Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series I haven’t read, but the story world premise of magic divided up by colors of light isn’t commonly done as far as I know. Though The Black Prism, the first in the series, was published in 2010, which is long after the invention of the card game Magic: The Gathering, which has been dividing magic up into colors since 1993. Still, the system Weeks created uses seven colors instead of four. The Lightbringer series also departs a bit from the normal fantasy milieu by placing its story in a world not limited to swords and medieval technology–gunpowder and simple mechanical machines are common in Week’s story universe.
For re-branding color magic and throwing in some non-standard tech, I’ll give Mr. Weeks a 3 for originality. Influence on other stories is difficult to gauge for tales which are relatively new, but clearly there is some influence, so a 2. Concerning sales, I think Lightbringer has done quite well, but doesn’t hit the top (no movie deals as of yet!)–4 points. As far as influence on public discourse is concerned, does the general public discuss the stories Brent Weeks created? Die hard fans might, but nobody else as far as I know, so 1 point. 10 points total.
As far as story downsides that may exist, it’s difficult for me to comment because I haven’t read it. I read dozens of Amazon reviews and saw some few readers complained about excessive use of the f-word and sex, while others complained the story seemed “chauvinist.” I’ve met Mr. Weeks in person and know he’s a Christian, but his reviewers didn’t focus on any redemptive aspects of his stories or any indication the series relates to faith in God–not that I saw in the reviews I read, anyway.
8. Myst Series
Myst represents a series of video games that started in 1993. I had heard of Myst but never played it. I’m including it on this list based on other people mentioning it and me conducting some research. The reason Myst was so groundbreaking at the time was it decided to do video game graphics from already rendered images, making the images available via the then-new technology of CD-Rom discs. The experience was visually immersive but didn’t allow for rapid realistic movement. So in an age dominated by shooting baddies even more than our own time, the developers of Myst decided to center the game around solving puzzles, with different small worlds to explore (limited in size by the storage capacity of discs), and built a backstory after the fact to explain what they’d created. The backstory, while an afterthought, helps make the game immersive and fascinating for many players.
The first game was a huge hit in terms of sales, spawning a sequel, Riven. Fans loved the sequel, inspiring even more games, but they were uneven in terms of quality and playability and gradually became less popular. For a time it seemed the Myst series was going to fade out of existence. However, since 2016 it’s enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in popularity.
By shaping content to match a format and doing what no other game series has done before or after, the Myst series rates 5 for originality. While often hailed as a game of the future back in the 90s, most games did not in fact imitate Myst. It’s had only limited influence on other games, so I gave it a 2. Sales were great at first for Myst but declined eventually, so I rated it a 3. As far as Myst influencing the public discourse, I judge any influence it may have had on what people think to be limited to its fans, so 1 point. 11 points total.
I can’t speak very well to any negative influences Myst may or may not have had. Myst contains no direct references to God, though does refer to “The Maker” in a way that supports a theistic worldview. The Myst series qualifies as “clean fiction” with no nudity, profanity, or violence. Still, I’ve been told some people might possibly object to the game’s magical system, though I don’t know specifically why.
7. The Dark Trench saga
Loads of modern sci-fi stories are in the cyberpunk sub-genre, but I think Kerry Nietz’s Dark Trench series takes an approach to a futuristic cyber dystopia that on the one hand is boldly politically incorrect and on the other, nobody else is doing. Not that I’ve ever heard of. Because Kerry’s world is of an Islamic civilization that has conquered the world–but then is endlessly at war against itself.
Dystopian Islamic cyberpunk is a unique combination, but cyberpunk is so common this tale gets a 4 for originality from me. As far as influence on other stories, it’s probably had some, but limited–2 points. As far as sales are concerned, I think the series may rate a 3 in the system I’m using. As far as influence on public discourse, hmm–as intriguing as Islamic cyberpunk is, I don’t actually hear people talking about it. Though they should!–2 points. 11 points in all.
Downsides could include the idea the story portrays an unrealistic view of Islam…perhaps even one that’s “Islamophobic.” Personally I think there is little chance Islam will conquer the entire world and Christians should not focus on it all that much–so perhaps a danger of this series would be to get people overly focused on Islam.
6. The Constant Tower
Several people recommended to me books by Carole McDonnell. I’ve only read a bit of her work, not including the novel I included here or other novels she wrote I considered, but I’m impressed by her powerful story-telling from what I’ve read. I wish I could say for certain that The Constant Tower has the most original story world among her works, but I don’t actually know for sure that it is. However, I’m intrigued by the premise of towers with a will of their own but which also work with human beings to keep people safe “from the Creator’s ancient curse.” I also find the idea of geographic location changing every night interesting–like dreams or nightmares of motion coming true in a sense, perhaps.
Also, from what I’ve read, this fantasy is one of relatively few that seems to owe nothing to Tolkien. There are not elves or dwarves or sword-and-sorcery play from the reviews I read. As far as I know, nobody has ever used towers in the sense McDonnell has done–5 points for originality. As far as influence on other stories is concerned, I don’t know of any, though perhaps I’m a poor person to judge since I haven’t read the story. Let’s say 2 points. As far as sales are concerned, I don’t actually know, but to estimate sales influence by the number of ratings left on Amazon and elsewhere, I would guess this novel is a 2. As far as influence on public discourse, I again don’t know of any (even though perhaps there should be) but there may be some I’m unaware of, 2 points. 11 points total.
As far as downsides, one reviewer I saw mentioned sexuality and violence. Other comments make it clear that while “the Creator” is clearly referenced, Christian ideas are not overt in most of this story, which can be good or bad, depending on the person you ask.
5. The Mote in God’s Eye
This novel is a collaboration of work between Larry Niven, who is not a Christian, and Jerry Pournelle, science fiction writer well-known for his Catholic faith. Interestingly the tale takes place in a future universe in which the overall society is Catholic (though not every individual is Catholic) and in some ways resembles the feudal past of Earth. Space has nobility who reign by birthright. This conservative-mindset world meets the first known intelligent alien species, who are radically different from human beings and who are both very nice and welcoming–while at the same time form a menace to human existence.
This story puts overtly Christian (even though generally Catholic) characters in a situation that doesn’t line up with the Christian gospel very well–in which aliens do evil, but haven’t contemplated needing a Savior and don’t seem interested in one. Evolution is treated seriously in the story and shows what it would take for aliens to evolve as “more advanced” than humans. This story rates 5 points for originality for the aliens it created. As far as influence on other stories, this tale may have influenced other science fiction in ways I’m unaware of, but hasn’t influenced Christian authors very much for sure–2 points. As far as sales, I think the story sold reasonably well, and has a few sequel stories, but hasn’t become a big franchise–3 points. As far as influence on public discourse is concerned, I think the story would lend a person to talk about what it would really mean to meet aliens and is interesting in that respect. But on the one hand isn’t widely-known and on the other is mainly about the menace the aliens (secretly) pose–2 points. 12 points overall.
As for downsides, I think Protestants get shorted in the tale, but that’s fine (I kinda returned the favor to Catholics with Medieval Mars, which is largely Protestant). I also think treating evolution so seriously would obviously cause a lot of protest from the point of view of Biblical creation. Still, while I’m willing to talk about evolution as a story idea, I would have preferred the story to have done more to show God’s purpose or plan for the alien race–although the tale didn’t altogether neglect that aspect of the story. AND finally, the title seems insulting to God, but there’s actually a story reason explaining exactly why the story title is what it is…
4. Demon: A Memoir
While writing a story that includes demons done many times by Christian authors, the approach of trying to delve into what motivates a demon hasn’t been looked at as thoroughly since the time of Milton and hasn’t been written from the demonic point of view that I know of other than The Screwtape Letters. Especially pondering why demons hate humans marks Demon: A Memoir as original compared to other stories.
Overall I’d give Tosca Lee’s Demon 4 points for originality (it did draw from previous tales to a degree). As far as influence on other stories is concerned, I’m not really sure, but suspect it’s been minimal, 2 points. As far as sales are concerned, I believe it’s sold well–4 points. As far as influence on public discourse is concerned, I think people reading this story would be generally interested in talking about what demons are like and what motivates them, though probably not in depth. 3 points. 13 points in all.
On the downside, years ago I wrote a personal blog post saying that I felt Demon failed to really convince me this was a demonically evil character in the tale and also seemed to rather humanize demons. I felt that the story though is something Christians should read in part because it could inspire some conversation and thought about the nature of demons and how they are and are not like humans. Still, as is, the story might strike some readers as undermining the notion that God is just.
It’s interesting perhaps that I’d pick one book out of Lewis’s Space Trilogy without including the other two. But each of the three works in the trilogy are distinctly different from one another. Out of the Silent Planet strongly parallels the planetary exploration science fiction stories common at the time Lewis wrote his tale, whereas That Hideous Strength features the main character’s return to Earth and contest with an organization of scientists influenced by demons reminiscent of Lewis’s own work in The Screwtape Letters.
Perelandra occupies original middle ground between the other books in the series, where the Fall (in the Christian sense) could happen on another world, Venus. It’s the main character’s role to prevent that from happening (Dr. Ransom). This book therefore makes Lewis’s ideas about the redemption of the universe and nature of the existence of aliens central to the tale.
Lewis of course drew from the Bible and pre-existing science fiction for his story, but I’d still give it a 4 for originality. As for influence on other stories, I’d say this story has mainly influenced other Christian writers, mostly to refrain from writing science fiction! Because Lewis largely closed the door to aliens having sinful motivations, which make stories interesting–in ironic contrast to how he showed fantasy creatures to act in Narnia. Overall, 3 points for his negative influence. Sales? Perelandra has sold well-enough, but not amazingly well, 3 points. Influence on public discourse would likewise rate 3 points in my estimation, because while the story is thought provoking about the nature of God’s work among other intelligent species, most people aren’t that aware of the existence of this story. 3 points. 13 points total.
On the downside, Perelandra has been criticized for showing the Eve figure as a stereotypical and old-fashioned view of femininity (space Eve lacks “agency,” among other complaints). Though Professor Weston, the antagonist of the tale, who serves as Satan’s sock puppet (so to speak) is hardly more developed. The story is also a strange read with certain elements seeming outright surreal, such as the prolonged fight between Weston and Ransom. My biggest criticism though is the story reinforces ideas that writing about aliens acting as human beings do is unchristian, even though Lewis was fine portraying animals and mythological beings as equivalent to humans in terms of personal morality.
2. The Screwtape Letters
C. S. Lewis’s look at what one demon would advise another to do as a commentary on demonic influence in the real world was a bold approach to modernize and make relevant the concept of Satan’s influence. Clearly The Screwtape Letters isn’t Lewis’s most renowned work (Narnia is), but it’s among his most original.
Still, as a story concept, Lewis did not invent stories about demons (bear in mind that Faust was considerably better-known in his time than ours). He simply refreshed the notion, but with a significant twist: 4 points. As far as influence on other stories is concerned, there certainly has been influence, but I’d say the influence has diminished over time, 3 points. Sales of this story have been steady but are not on the scale of even Narnia, let alone LoTR. 3 points. As far as influence on public discourse is concerned, the main limiter on its influence on discourse is the fact the book is so clearly Christian, therefore non-Christians tend to ignore it. Though that isn’t true when it was first published and in fact pretty much everyone aware of the existence of this book winds up discussing at least some of its ideas in my observation–4 points. 14 points total.
The major downside of this book is that cultural issues have moved on since Lewis’s time. As has correspondence. So the issues Lewis talked about are not the same as what we face today, even though there are many similarities. And the style he wrote in, which was fresh and easily-accessible at the time of writing seems stale and old-fashioned now. All of these things limit the scope of this story and can have the side effect of causing someone to miss issues that matter very much in our own day but which were moot points in Lewis’s time (such as the modern rise of Neo-Paganism).
1. The Lord of the Rings
It’s hard to overstate the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterwork. Fantasy as we know it in modern times with all the elves-dwarves-magic-swordplay aspects is directly a product of what Tolkien wrote.
Tolkien though was not in fact trying to be original or create a new genre. His fascination was with legends of the past, including Pagan mythology and fairy tales, and he wended them into a world that also included various Christian ideas removed from specific allegory. While the results were groundbreaking, the roots of what inspired Tolkien are visible. So I’d give him a 4 for originality. As far as influence on other stories is concerned, of course LoTR rates a 5. As far as sales are concerned, the overall series with all related products rates a 5. As far as influence on public discourse is concerned, do people discuss the meaning of the ring of power and other story elements as much as they simply get caught up in the action? How many people are even aware of the fact Christian ideas inspired Tolkien? Here I’d say the story falls down, 2 points–16 points total.
The downsides of LoTR includes how little of the intended meaning gets across to the general public. Many readers and viewers of the movies seem unaware of the fact that Tolkien made commentary on the ultimate nature of evil. Even moreso, Frodo bearing the ring paralleling Christ’s Passion or Gandalf coming back from the depths paralleling the resurrection or Aragorn’s return to Gondor paralleling the Second Coming largely falls on deaf ears. I’ve had conversations with non-Christians in which I explained the Christian symbolism in Tolkien and the reaction I’ve received is, “Huh. Interesting!” followed by no change in attitude towards LoTR or life in general. Sadly. (And, no kidding, practicing Neo-Pagans who dislike C.S. Lewis defend Tolkien because of the Pagan elements he drew upon. I’ve had conversations on that topic…)
I laid out these two posts with certain expectations in mind–one would be that Christian stories overall are less original in the rating scheme I’ve created than stories created by non-Christians. But that isn’t true in the stories I’ve placed in these posts–sales and influence on public discourse is definitely less, but originality isn’t less.
Though what I think I’ve found is that in the world of speculative fiction in general, strong sales have at least some connection with original story settings. That seems to be less true for stories written by Christians or dealing with Christian themes. Narnia, less original in my view (clearly influenced by Tolkien to a degree), definitely outsells C.S. Lewis’s other creative universes.
It seems to be the case that Christian fans of speculative fiction aren’t as drawn to originality as speculative fiction fans in general. Perhaps that isn’t actually true, but it seems to be as of this moment. Hmmm.
Also, of all of these stories, only one has been turned into a film version. Overall, the entire body of Christian speculative fiction is much less commercially successful than so-called “non-Christian fiction.” Apparently there’s a smaller fan base seeking Christian writers of speculative fiction.
I would have liked to include more stories in this list. Yes, stories and authors I knew about were more likely to make the list than ones I don’t know, but I included stories I haven’t read or seen here. I will list all the stories I considered in a comment below.
Agree? Disagree? Would like to suggest your own list? Please let me know in the comments below!
(By the way, the podcast version of this post, same content but in different words, is available at:)
Stories/authors I considered for this post but did not include (basically in the order I wrote them down on an envelope) are:
D.M. Cornish, Foundling Trilogy; C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia; C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces; J.R.R. Tolkien, the Hobbit; Walter M. Miller Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz; Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Inferno; Carole McDonnell, Wind Follower series; Tosca Lee, The Line Between; David Bergsland, Reality Calling; Ted Dekker, The 49th Mystic; Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in TIme; John C. Wright, Superluminary; Parker J. Cole, House of Hedway; Frank Perretti, This Present Darkness; Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind series; Stuart Vaughn, Starfire; Lelia Rose Foreman, A Shattered World; Lelia Rose Foreman and Josh Foreman, The Scarred King; Katherine Kurtz, Deryni Chronicles; David Johnson, Chadash Chronicles; Kathy Tiers, Shivering World; Gene Wolfe; Cordwainer Smith; and Steve Rzasa.
Note that I in general was more likely to pick stories I was familiar with than ones I don’t know. Also, some authors I didn’t include might well top out a list of most exciting or most immersive story worlds, but my system of rating was an attempt to track both originality and influence rather than how much fun or detailed a story world might be.
Interesting list. Just looking at the cover of Carole’s book without paying attention to her name, I thought you were going to list A Wrinkle In Time. It’s certainly easy to see how you determined that LotR tops the works by CS Lewis. Judging only by the originality of setting, I’d give Perelandra the nod, I think, but adding in the other factors . . . no.
There are lots of other Christian writers I could suggest, but I don’t think “original setting” is stronger than original characters or plot line. And certainly the other factors drop them down in the list.
These posts do make me wonder if original setting matters as much as other original elements.
Becky, yeah it’s a good observation that original setting may not be the most important thing–but I think Christian authors often are not making the most of the ability to set up a story world and situation. Too many settings, in my opinion, are essentially repetitions of other stories.
So what other stories Christian writers would you suggest that I hadn’t considered at all? (I’d like to know!)
Patrick Carr, especially his Darkwater Saga. Jill Williamson, especially her Kinsman Chronicles series. She did something pretty risky in that series. Also, not well known, Sally Apokedak’s Button Girl–with the idea that setting includes culture and not just landscape. Let’s see, Karen Hancock would also fit, I think. That’s just off the top of my head. For original, unique characters, I’d suggest Donita Paul. Oh, if we include YA/ MG I’d say Jonathan Rogers and his stories about the Feechie.
It’s too recent but what about Sharon Hinck’s new novel, Hidden Currents? The world the protagonists live in/on is a huge floating island; people trained in dancing can control its movement or lack thereof. She mentions in the Afterword that she was influenced by Perelandra. No surprise to me because that’s what I was thinking as I read it.
I haven’t read The Lightbringer Series, but I’ve read through significant portions of the Night Angel Trilogy and a little bit of another Brent Weeks book. He does have quite a bit of crass sexual things in his stories. Since I haven’t read through an entire book or series of his, it’s hard to say for sure whether or not I think he’s sexist. I’m more inclined to say ‘no, or at least not so much that he seems like a horrible person’.
Based on some ending notes he left in one of his novels, a sexual situation in one of his stories was to illustrate a real life illness/condition/whatever that he wanted to raise awareness of, since it isn’t super common and can be upsetting/confusing for couples to deal with. His stories also seemed to show that it was desirable for people in romantic relationships love each other and treat each other decently (and it was obvious that the abusive situations other chars endured were not desirable). So, yes, tons of bad things happened, and there were instances where women(and sometimes men) were treated horribly, but it seemed there to show the brutality and wrongness of the story world, rather than to say that he wants women to be treated badly.
I think Brandon Sanderson had a book or two that used colors as part of its magic system, though I don’t know if his story came first or not. He’s a Mormon, at any rate, and I don’t know if you count that as Christian (I’ve heard that some people do)
When it comes to whether or not original books are more popular within Christian fiction…it’s probably not necessarily a matter of people craving familiar settings over familiar ones. Some of it is simply what people know about and when they discover things. Narnia and LotR are basically classics and are all over the bookstores and have movie and game adaptations, so people are more likely to discover them at a young age and love them.
Other stories… it’s more complicated. Several of the ones you mentioned in this article series sound interesting to me, even though I haven’t read them yet. And if I was still in highschool I would have probably tried the Christian ones as soon as possible because I actually had time and was always on the lookout for reading material.
But now that I’m older, it’s harder. I love original settings, but with the way my life is it’s easier for me to get that from fanfics and certain indie comics. I still love to read novels, but being motivated to pick them up is a lot harder now, even when it comes to authors I like. And I’m so much pickier than I used to be. A lot of times, a cool setting isn’t good enough if I don’t like its execution. Unfortunately, a lot of novels I’ve read have good ideas, but the pacing or characterization or whatever falls too short in my view. Often enough, finding excellent fanfics, anime or indie comics ends up being easiest, so unfortunately I’ve been sticking with that instead of trying to wade through tons of novels to find one I like.
There are lots of good books being made, and I’ll probably give several you mentioned a try some day. But, well, like I said, it’s not necessarily that people don’t want originality from their Christian fiction. There’s just a lot of cause and effect as to why books get noticed or not.
If I had to make my own list of Christian fiction stories with original settings, I would probably include a few of Bryan Davis’ books.
His most famous and influential series is Dragons In Our Midst, which was inspired partly by a dream he had about a boy that could breath fire. The premise is that, in medieval times, dragons were being hunted to extinction by evil dragon slayers, so God turned the dragons into humans so they could be safe. Those dragons turned humans survived into our modern era and eventually had children of their own, who become the main chars in the series. The series starts with Billy, who barely learns of his dragon heritage after he starts to manifest his ability to breathe fire. He soon meets Bonnie, who’s known about her heritage for most of her life because she has large dragon wings that she’s had to hide since early childhood.
They and the other chars on their side have to evade the slayers, unwind some mysteries and cope with their abilities and how the world reacts to them. There’s lots of other interesting things to the world building, too, such as candlestones(which are introduced in the second book in the series.) The author’s take on the seven circles of hell is interesting, too, though that part was influenced by Dante’s Inferno. The way dragons work in this series is interesting, too, with them having photoreceptors in their bodies that help them process light in a way that helps them live a long time. In the sequel series, Oracles of Fire, even more world building elements are introduced as the chars go to another world that’s in its own Eden state, and the dragons there are different.
The first Dragons In Our Midst book isn’t as great as the rest of the series(partly because that was pretty much his first published fantasy novel, and partly because all of the coolest parts of the series take place in the sequels) so I wouldn’t recommend people judge it solely based on the first book.
The Christianity is pretty overt, and the chars are in danger from other people in the world, but they handle it from a more Christian perspective than the typical YA book would. It has had a lot of influence, in that it helped pioneer Christian fantasy and a lot of people have gained inspiration and encouragement from it. No movie deals have been made, though Bryan Davis did collaborate with an artist to make a graphic novel of the first book. There are things in the series I dislike and disagree with, but it and Oracles if Fire are still pretty good overall.
I wasn’t terribly impressed with the supposed originality of Dark Trench. He didn’t spent that much time on his Islamic cyberpunk society, just broad sketches. And we’re shot offworld pretty fast and the other worlds are pretty run-of-the-mill when compared to Star Trek planet-with-dark-secrets and anomalies-in-space plots.
The Constant Tower sounds a bit similar to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Triology, and I might have to check that out.
Dis made me laff: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/611152611920448989/
Go outside the original trilogy–there’s plenty of description of the Islamic setting in Mask, for example.
Interesting list. As you know, I’m a fan of Requiem 4. I think Christian themes are far more present in Mote in God’s Eye than you might think. The whole plot basically revolves around debates surrounding Neo-Malthusianism in the 1970’s. Neo-Malthusianism was seen as the fundamental enemy of Catholicism at time. Indeed, one can make a strong case that opposition to Neo-Malthusian ideas, such as population control, eugenics, birth control and abortion is the fundamental link that unites virtually all Christian science fiction. Basically, when Lewis criticizes Wells or Stapledon or scientism, that’s what he is getting at. Winterflight, one of the earliest evangelical science fiction novels and one of the most well-known outside of Chrisitan fandom, is heavily filled with references to Neo-Malthusianism. Also, pretty much every Christian science fiction novel that deals with closed societies\enclaves, etc. is playing with Malthusian politics (the idea of Spaceship Earth in particular, which was a staple of this politics). Representative novels here would be Andrew Seddon’s Red Planet Mars, Karen Hancock’s Enclave (which I have to say I was not impressed with), and Lawhead’s Empyrion.
I like Kerry as a person so I don’t want to comment, at least here, on whether I think the Dark Trench series is Islamophobic. I would note, however, that the research material Kerry used to understand Islam, which he talks about on Speculative Faith, is basically all counter-jihadist literature. Mainstream scholarship, including a good deal of conservative scholarship outside of neoconservative and Tea Party circles, sees counter-jihadism as a conspiracy theory. Therefore, I don’t think people would necessarily criticize Kerry for critiquing Islam. Arguably, Dune, in spite of its pro-Islamic reputation, can do that at times and it is a much beloved work. I think, however, there would be criticisms of Kerry’s research methods for the novel, which arguably lead to a lack of realism about Islam. I should note that at least one other Enclave writer (Macy, I believe) wrote science fiction that’s clearly in the counter-jihadist stream. Vox Day’s fiction interacts with this literature, but I’m not sure where he falls there. In general, the Alt-Right (which Day belongs to) tends to have a more complex relationship to Islam than is commonly assumed. I could also tell you guys stories of how the Western version of Sufi Islam profoundly influenced Christian futurism, the Church Growth and Church Health movements, the enneagram craze, Inklings scholarship, and Donald Trump’s election, but that’s a story for another time.
I’m curious about Sufi’s influence on the Enneagram craze. I’ve read some on it, and find it particularly helpful for building characters, but I don’t know much about the system’s history.
Welp, considering that Dark Trench’s worldbuilding is based on a racist conspiracy theory about how the brown heathens are outbreeding the white Christians, coupled with the dearth of character exploration for any of the heathen browns who weren’t Jesus-blammed in space, the accusation of Islamophobia is not exactly wrong. But if it makes everyone feel better, I think it’s because of lack of time and attention rather than personal animus (yay for more passive than aggressive motives??).
I dunno if Sufism is specifically the cause of any of that Jungian-ish mysto-babble rather than just mysticism in general, that probably started with Jewish and Islamic mysticism because they were exotic without being TOO exotic, but as white people grew more comfortable with those, then Buddhism et al became the new thang.
Tho your mention of Malthusianism and its variants makes me want to fall into the google hole about how long Christian culture has been weird about nonreproductive sex (the Rev Graham and his crackers, etc. At least Catholicism has a cultural niche for non-childbearing people in monasticism [except it was still labor exploitation?])
Holy crap, Malthus was also a Reverend, of the Anglican variety (if I knew that before I’d forgotten). And he also preferred abstinence over other methods. But he approached it from an economic standpoint that would have made it palatable for white racists with non-pious motives.
Actually the idea was almost one of divine retribution–for tolerating abortion (killing our offspring), the West gets overwhelmed by the Middle East. I don’t believe that will happen, but the idea of retribution is in Mask if I remember correctly.
Well, John, your study of Evangelical authors has influenced what I included and did not include in this list, though it did not shape it entirely, of course.
Yes, it’s hard to miss a sci-fi examination of population control arguments (Neo-malthusian thought) in The Mote in God’s Eye, but I find myself surprised that such an argument would be seen as specifically anti-Catholic in 1974. Italy’s birthrate was already plummeting then and France’s was so low when I was an exchange student there in 1985 that I personally saw the nation filled with billboards announcing the need to have children (France a besoin d’enfants)!
So while Catholics may have enjoyed discussing the issue at the time, I see the Moties as more influenced by Niven but transplanted into the story world of Pournelle. Since Niven was more of an inventor of ingenious aliens than Pournelle–who was probably more interested in political systems as expressed in his story world. Or that’s how I saw this story as someone who read both Niven and Pounelle separately and other novels of theirs in collaboration (Lucifer’s Hammer and Inferno).
John, concerning Islamophobia, I think mainstream scholarship is rather too unjustifiably tolerant of the extremes of Islam–this is in part due to a significant anti-Western bias in much of modern scholarship and a view that any criticism of Islam is pretty much straight racism (see Notleia’s comment).
On the other hand, Islam is complex and has many strains. The Sufis in Afghanistan were not the ones trying to blow up US servicemembers there (including me). They have a mostly pacifistic view of the world, including interpreting Jihad non-literally. I personally worked closely with many Muslims and have known Muslims I liked and admired very much.
But there are strains of Islam that would gladly take over the world and would engage in continual, literal Jihad. The potentially Islamophobic part of The Dark Trench in my opinion is Kerry seems to imply the worst of Islam is the same as all of Islam–which isn’t valid.
Note by a twist of fate one of Kerry’s short stories in The Dark Trench story world has been translated into Arabic and published in a literary magazine in Iraq–something I actually had a role in. The translator did not disagree with Kerry’s criticisms. And she’s a Muslim (of course). Though it would be at the risk of her life to translate the entire series into Arabic–so that’s not happening.
Rachel, the history of the enneagram symbol is a little unclear. What is clear is that its modern introduction into Western culture was facilitated by the Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, who is commonly labeled a follower of Western Sufism, although in many ways he borrowed more from Theosophy than Western Sufism (everyone cribbed from Blavatasky at that time, mostly unaccredited). The enneagram entered evangelicalism through Catholicism, as some relatively liberal Jesuits introduced it in Catholic circles (not dissing Jesuits here, that’s just what happened). The people they borrowed it from are alternately seen as falling into Esalen sort of New Age spirituality (with some truth) or simply variants of Gurdjieffian spirituality. Mind you, a lot of times there’s not a lot of difference between Gurdjieffian teachings and New Age Theology. Some people even see them as functionally equivalent, which is to my mind an error. Theosophy and the so-called Theosophical current do basically blend into New Age at some point anyway. Steve Bannon, who is pretty much credited with getting Trump elected, followed another version of Western Sufism called Traditionalism, which again arises mainly out of Theosophy. Here’s a video on the influence from Democracy Now. I’d try to explain Traditionalism here, but I think the video does a better job than I can. It’s probably the only philosophy that could eer claim to be to the RIGHT of Nazism, though this is only some Traditionalists, not all of them.
Traditionalism has two major early figures, Rene Guenon and Julius Evola. Evola was Mussolini’s chief racial theorist and promoted a kind of spiritual racism. Evola’s version of Traditionalism emphasized the importance of Buddhism over Sufism. Moreover, and I know this gets complicated, but the philosophy is also deeply dependent on the concept of cyclical time from the Hindu Vedanta. Basically, the politics of the Golden Age. Given the right’s longtime love of Spengler and certain Catholic theories of cyclical time, its not surprising that Traditionalism is popular among them. Traditionalism has a lot of affinities with Tolkien. Italian fascists who sympathized with Evola loved Tolkien so much that they ran a series of influential “Hobbit Camps” in the 1970’s as fascist recruiting tools. The Camps were so influential that they are rather frequently mentioned in histories of post-WWII Italian fascism. The Alt-Right borrows heavily from Evola and Guenon, despite their often anti-Islamic politics, which is not as contradictory as it sounds once you have studied Traditionalism long enough. Interestingly, Bannon (a Traditionalist and Western Sufi) played a key role in getting Biosphere 2 shut down. Biosphere 2 was run by the New Religious Movement Synergia, and mixed a lot of more-or-less Gurdjieffian (again, Western Sufi) influences with Vernadsky’s idea of the biosphere (which is seen to be in the secular vein of Russian Cosmist esotericism, but Vernadksy himself was a skilled scientist). Biosphere 2 was also promoted heavily by various people associated with the Whole Earth Catalog and the Global Business Network, which were both influential at the time. Both of them were rather heavily associated with the concept of the learning organization, pioneered mainly by Peter Senge, which promoted the idea that its version of scenario planning (a kind of futurist management practice) was indebted to ideas the scenario planner Pierre Wack partly borrowed from Gurdjieff. The scholar Bretton Fosbrook has argued that that mythology was likely created after-the-fact and he may be right. I’ve seen some evidence to the contrary and therefore I had to go with the more accepted version of the story promoted by Fred Turner and Art Kleiner in my own scholarship (a GBN insider). Nonetheless, I suspect Fosbrook may be right. The leading promoter of Biosphere 2 at the time was Kevin Kelly, who claims to be an evangelical. He’s also one of the leading proponents of the idea of the noosphere (which comes both from Vernadsky and from Teilhard de Chardin). Kelly influenced the Q conferences in some rather significant ways. He also hooked up with George Gilder in the 1990’s to promote business-friendly internet regulations. This was facilitated through the Discovery Institute (home of intelligent design). While Discovery Institute was busy pioneering ID, it was also busy promoting bionomics which is an explicitly evolutionary model of the economy that basically legitimates ruthless Social Darwinism. Discovery also essentially played a rule in creating the business friendly version of Ecotopia, the left’s dream. There version was known as Cascadia and never really panned out. Also, people who look at Discovery Institute anti-transhumanist schtick seem to take it at face value, which, uh, ain’t a really good idea considering how similar transhumanist libertarianism is to Discovery Institute libertarianism.
Meanwhile, the learning organization concepts of Senge, which incorporated insights from systems theory and cybernetics with a lot of, more or less popular physics and New Age Science, were used from the late 1990’s to the modern era to more or less design churches to be feedback responsive mechanisms (which I guess is to say, it designed churches like they were information processors, which is true enough I suppose). And from there you get the Emergent church, Ted Dekker’s quantum mysticism, etc. You also get churches that literally attempt to be biomimetic (the massively influential Natural Church Development model), the application of chaos theory and complexity theory to the missions field (I’ve seen multiple dissertations on this). Anyway, if you guys want more information on this stuff, I’ll link you to my book below. I’m a progressive and not any meaningful sense Christian (a very broad church Anglican). And I certainly don’t have a problem with Western esotericism, much less systems theory and cybernetics (which are legitimate scientific fields). But I do find evangelical Christian naivety about the way power actually works in churches to be painfully naive. And evangelical science fiction on this stuff has been beyond ridiculous. Nephilim in Biosphere 2 (Enclave’s plot)? Uh, yeah. Try business execs just doing what businesses do. I would say that I do respect Seddon’s Red Planet Mars on Biosphere 2 though. He cut through the schtick on it and critiqued its essential problem, from a theological perspective, being its neo-vitalist ideology. That would be a perfectly respectable thesis for mainstream sci-fi, let alone Christian speculative fiction.
I have a quip I would make here about Fuller Seminary and parapsychology experiments, but as its actually true, I won’t make it here.
TL;DR: crank magnetism
Pardon any typos, guys. Sorry if my post sounded too critical of evangelicalism, I just think a lot of Western esoteric and secular management ideas were accepted uncritically by evangelicals over the last 20 years. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of dedemocratization in the church, which helps neither evangelicals nor followers of Western esoteric traditions.
John, as you may realize I am not as knowledgeable of these issues as you are, but it is my sincere desire to inspire some distinctive strains of Evangelical speculative fiction. Neither aping the world–nor aping the fine Catholic writers who’ve gone before us, to include Jerry Pournelle.
Sorry if the post was too long. Don’t know if the crank magnetism was referring to me or to Bannon and company, but frankly, 90% of what I describe there I documented in my book (which was peer reviewed) and the other 10% you can find either in the Green video or through a simple google search. Again, I realize you may not be referring to me anyway.
Nope, not you, what you’re talking about can be summed up as crank magnetism. I don’t know enough about you to know if you’re a crank, just that you’re talkative.
Just for ease of reference:
Gurdjieff and Vernadsky at Biosphere 2:
Kevin Kelly’s book on Biosphere 2, which was very popular in the 1990’s
Steve Bannon and Biosphere 2
Italian neo-fascist hobbit camps
Dissertation referencing Mythologizing of Gurdjieff by GBN and others:
One of a number of articles on Ecotopia’s link to Discovery Institute:
The other material is in my book. I’m sorry I can’t link to it real easy.
Gotcha. I don’t know if it’s really crank magnetism per se though. The Discovery Institute could I suppose be characterized that way. GBN’s promotion of Sufism was pretty cynical and not crankery, though I suspect they wanted to make other people into cranks. I think both you and I would agree that Bannon is a big crank magnet, and so were Evola and Guenon. I don’t know if you can say that for Traditionalism as a whole. The major reason it may seem to be associated with every weird idea under the kitchen sink is because of its embrace of perrennialism and perrenialism, though likely wrong-headed, is not really crankery either. Anyway, please forgive me for talking too much. Too cooped up right now.
The point about Niven is interesting. I would also note that the work, like a lot of Pournelle’s stuff, is fundamentally political first, and religious only second if at all (and you are right to point out that that would be even more likely when is cowriting with Niven). Plenty of proto-libertarians objected to Neo-Malthusian policies at the time, because they contradicted the belief of many libertarians in cornucopian economics. Julian Simon is a prime influence here, and he influenced a lot of libertarian economic and sci-fi ideas (he has also been very influential on evangelical anti-environmentalism through his association with E. Calvin Beisner. I agree that scholarship on Islam, due to political correctness, occassionally gives it to much of a free pass. However, this tends to be a much more minor problem than many people on the right realize. Also, much of the scholarship on counter-jihadism arises from a vein of scholarship that uses what is called “methodological agnosticism”. This means, basically, that the description of counter-jihadism as anti-Islamic is meant to be descriptive, not prescriptively saying whether being anti-Islamic is good or bad. I’m therefore fairly dubious of the charge that this scholarship’s criticisms of counter-jihadism’s own scholarly practices are without merit.
On the issue of creating a distinctively evangelical strain of Christian science fiction, I certainly do wish you luck with that. However, I think there are significant issues that a lot of evangelical writers are not thinking through very clearly. One of the most basic, to me, is this: Does an evangelical or Christian work have to be written by an evangelical or Christian in order to be considered alternately evangelical science fiction or Christian science fiction? If it does, I think that basically reduces evangelical science fiction down to the idea that what makes something evangelical sci-fi is simply that one has a certain nominal creedal commitment. From an Anglican (and I suspect from a Catholic) perspective, that is an impoverished view of what makes a work Christian. For instance, most of the Catholics and Anglicans I know, including conservative Catholics, would consider Gattaca a Christian work, but Ted Dekker’s 49th Mystic series a non-Christian, indeed heretical work. Gattaca, after all, is fully consistent with conservative Catholic and mainstream Anglican teachings (in many ways its even consistent with Broad Church understandings of theology). The 49th Mystic, however, would not be. You could make the same point, too, about Stephen Lawhead’s Bright Empires series. Anyways, sorry for another long post guys. Take care.
John, I feel that one of the most pervasive anti-Christian influences of speculative fiction has been simply to omit mention of religion, any religion. This as far as I know stems from an essentially materialist philosophy permeating much of early science fiction and becoming more or less a tradition. The power of futuristic speculative fiction stems in part from the fact that to a degree life really does imitate art–and I would say I do feel it’s a conspiracy to attempt to shape the future away from religion to omit religion from the portrayal of the future–though its primarily a spiritual one, i.e. Satanic, and not human. Not to say certain human beings haven’t tried to deliberately shape what they hope the future will be via science fiction. This was one of the primary motivations behind the creation of Star Trek, for example. But not everyone omitting all references to God or Christianity in the future thinks that way.
So simply including Christian characters in a science fiction story or including non-profane references to the name of God is actually a step forward for an awful lot of science fiction. This Pournelle and other Catholic writers I’m familiar with did without flinching. They put Catholics in the future, in space. Though so did numerous other sci fi writers, such as Arthur C. Clarke including Catholic characters at various times. Though Evangelical characters have been often erased from projections of the future–so while I would say there are other ways for Evangelicals to make use of speculative fiction, simply including ourselves in stories that will draw audiences broader than just our in-group is a worthwhile accomplishment in my opinion. In that sense, Gattaca is not a Christian work, even though it’s compatible with Christian ideals. Because no mention of God (as far as I can recall) occurs in the story.
Led in part by the influence of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, many Christian writers have preferred fantasy over science fiction, but modern fantasy is heavily influenced by modern neo-Paganism and related non-Christian views of spirituality, I would say. I would say a fair number of current Evangelicals, repulsed by old models of creativity-suppressing Fundamentalism that influenced the now-defunct CBA (and the fiction it supported), are careening the opposite direction and are de facto supporting anti-Christian mysticism and neo-Pagan beliefs without actually realizing it.
I don’t think an Evangelical work has to be written by an Evangelical to qualify as one, though I rather suspect non-Evangelicals would prefer to write other stories. But if a story has merit in its message, I feel I have no reason not to declare how much I like the story, but I’m not going to “baptize” it and declare it specifically Christian just because I’m in general moral agreement with it, as much as I may like the message of a tale (like Gattaca). Especially for stories who are devoid of positive references to God (like Gattaca).
I am concerned with works by professed (or actual) Evangelicals that represent heresy, such as the 49th Mystic. Though I have also supported the idea speculative fiction authors should be free to experiment with ideas that may not be true, just for story’s sake.
As far as my personal ability to influence Evangelical stories, it’s somewhat more than zero, but only a tiny bit. But I do believe the God who made 5 loaves and 2 fishes feed a multitude can make something out of nothing much if He chooses to do so.
Yeah, I personally don’t know all that much about how power really works–maybe that will change someday, maybe not.
As far as Islam is concerned, I’m not an expert by any means on modern scholarship concerning Islam. I am someone who has spent time in, um, 9 Islamic countries and 4 counties mixed Christian and Muslim. I’ve met many Muslims, mostly ordinary people, but on occasion dangerous ones. I’ve read far more than average about the populations where I worked–I’m an Army Reserve Civil Affairs officer (formerly an enlisted medic) and it has been my job to work with people from cultures other than my own during my 5 deployments to West Asia and East Africa. I feel I’ve been very successful doing so.
I don’t think Kerry’s books are a fair reflection on the whole of Islam, but I do feel they represent the worst of Islam at least as thought-provokingly as the way The Handmaid’s Tale criticizes the worst of Christian-influenced cults. Though Kerry’s vision of Islamic Dystopia is probably more realistic than Margaret Atwood’s vision of a Christian one.
I don’t think I should let you get away with saying that about Atwood until you actually read Handmaid’s Tale.
But I think the crux of your hangup about it is the in-story public sanction of effective polygamy. I mean, Mormonism did happen even without an implied nuclear catastrophe. It’s pretty similar beats to what you say is Nietz’s scenario, except much less in common with white supremacist memes. (It’s baaad optics, hun.)
And at least Atwood is talking smack about more or less her own culture. Nietz would have to be the equivalent of a mainstream Muslim to have the same amount of leeway to talk his smack. (More baaaaad optics.)
The fact I haven’t read Atwood and am offering criticism based on reading about her and knowing the premise of her story has some solid validity. However, I would say it’s a fantasy that mainstream Christian religious groups are seeking to gain control of women’s wombs at the present time. Yeah, I know that’s how many feminists react to anti-abortion rhetoric, but in fact, believe it or not, some people think killing fetuses is an unethical act. And are motivated by that, rather than a desire to control wombs (and I think the most ardent pro-lifers are women, anyway).
So, I think it’s fair to say that Atwood has projected a perceived desire of Christians to control women onto her story world. If that’s unfair, feel free to mention why its unfair. But if I’m right, what I’m saying about Atwood is spot-on criticism concerning her lack of realism, even if I haven’t read her.
This is opposed to real-world Islamic extremists, who are no-kidding trying to establish worldwide Caliphates of various flavors and are killing people who don’t fall in line with their vision. Yeah, they are a fringe group (or better said “groups”), but they are not a product of fantasy. They make the news, too. ISIS/ISIL are by no means the only ones. (And they also happen to hold women in sexual slavery…by the way…)
Kerry’s story errs, I would say, by inflating the power of these groups and putting an unrealistic focus on them. But isn’t it a totally legit sci fi question to ask–what if these guys, these very dangerous groups of Jihadists, really did take over the world?
I would say making this about brown-people-hatred is common Liberal, knee-jerk dreck. You may not have observed this yourself, but there are lots of light-skinned Muslims and many dark-skinned Christians. I’ve met light-skinned, blue-eyed Muslims from Central Asia and have worshiped with devout African Christians from East Africa. So the issue of religion does not in fact equal a racial issue. In fact, as you probably noticed at one point (yeah, I’m being somewhat sharp here), there was an entire major conflict that involved lighter-skinned Muslims slaughtering darker-skinned Christians that led to the establishment of the nation of South Sudan.
I honestly can’t say for sure what all of Kerry’s thoughts on race are. But in an era in which people do not hesitate to call someone a white supremacist for suggesting extremes of Islam might be bad, an era in which being called a white supremacist comes with significant negative social repercussions in most circles, daring to suggest Islam taking over the world might be a bad thing qualifies as courageous in a way a Liberal suggesting that Christian Fundies might make women into baby-making slaves does not. Atwood was roundly applauded for her work within her social circles as far as I know. Kerry Nietz has as far as I know received some quiet support, but mostly escapes from being verbally tarred-and-feathered as a racist by flying under the radar.
Yeah, what Kerry wrote would have more authority and be less prone to unreasonable criticism if he were Muslim or had been. Totally true–because of “optics.” But let me ask you this–was Margaret Atwood a member of a pro-life group or a Christian Fundamentalist / Mormon Fundamentalist before writing Handmaid’s Tale? No?
But anyway, I applauded Kerry’s story for originality in that he was not afraid to make bold statements about the nature of religion and shape a story world around it. He also in effect made the case that Catholics have historically made that Malthusianism is bad. He criticized the de facto population control currently found in Western nations as something that will eventually hurt these countries. Do I agree with that line of reasoning? Mostly no, actually. But throwing down bold questions that challenge readers to think about and discuss real issues is one of the powerful things speculative fiction can do. And should do, in my opinion.
Good for Kerry, even if he’s off-base in my estimation about what he focused on, for having the courage to put his ideas into a story!
Travis, the premise of Atwood’s novel isn’t farther fetched than Dark Trench.
I’m a prolifer who grew up going to prolife fundraisers and I have volunteered with a prolife organization. I’m also a mom and a NICU nurse with a pretty intimate understanding of babies from both sides of the womb.
If any of that gives me a shred of credibility in your eyes than I would encourage you to take a deeper look at the prolife movement before you argue again. The desire to control women is very much a part of it. Which isn’t to say that the desire to save lives isn’t also in heart of the movement, only that the one doesn’t negate the other.
Leanna, let’s say for sake of argument that the desire to control women is an inherent part of the pro-life movement. I don’t think it is; I don’t feel that way myself; but for sake of argument, let’s say I’m flat-out wrong.
Ok. Well, presumably pro-lifers are working through legislation to achieve that goal. They certainly are not capturing women and forcing them onto compounds to do the direct will of the all-male leadership.
ISIS of course literally /did/ capture women and make them into slaves.
ISIS doesn’t represent all of Islam, not even close. But they do represent something that has already happened–they are not theoretical or hypothetical. Atwood’s vision on the other hand /is/ hypothetical. What we could imagine could happen. Perhaps.
As opposed to Kerry imagining what has already happened in a limited way happening on a larger scale.
Though I suppose that makes the Dark Trench saga less imaginative than A Handmaid’s Tale…
I haven’t read Handmaid’s Tale, so I’m going to respond to this more as a general issue than based on that book itself.
An author’s premise doesn’t have to have to be super realistic in order to make valid points or be worth reading or discussing. In a way you seem to know this already, since you’re basically saying that Kerry’s book has worthwhile points even though the way he portrays Islam isn’t correct.
But your point seems to be that he’s at least somewhat realistic and worth listening to because you’ve pointed out a few fringe groups that have, or at least wanted, to make a world like the one in Kerry’s series. But there’s fringe groups that call themselves Christian, too. And back then when slavery was common and considered acceptable in day to day society, there were probably Christians ok with slavery, even though there would have been plenty of Christians AGAINST slavery too.
So if historical examples of creepy fringe groups or bad societal/cultural trends are enough to say that Kerry’s book raises good points(in spite of misrepresenting the religion it portrays), Atwood’s book is in the same boat. Especially since there’s a first time for everything(even if there’s never been a cult that runs like the society in her story, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen).
Just to be clear, I’m not trying to say that Atwood’s story world will happen, and it’s definitely not a realistic portrayal of Christianity. But you sound rather biased, like you’re dismissing the Handmaid’s Tale just because you think it criticizes Christianity or find its elements unrelatable. I agree that Christianity is good and I hate it when people misunderstand Christianity and spread lies about it as a result. But people calling themselves Christians have done lots of horrible things, so in many ways it’s realistic to write stories about those people and their horrific effect on society.
That said, I don’t know Atwood’s intent, and that does make it harder to comment with specific opinions. Was she actually trying to pick on Christianity and say it’s horrible/makes everything hell for women? Or is she picking on religion itself? Or maybe she’s just observed that women were treated badly throughout history, and wanted to start dialogue about that by writing a dystopian society that exaggerates what many women went through(especially in more ancient time periods).
Many writers exaggerate certain things so that they’re actually visible to readers. Much like how caricatures make certain traits larger so that the audience notices them later after seeing the real thing. In this case, Atwood could be using the dire situation in Handmaid’s Tale not only to get people talking, but to build empathy for women that way people are more likely to help them in real life.
IDK, I’m not saying that you have to read/watch Handmaid’s Tale, and I wouldn’t blame you for avoiding it(I get the impression that the sexual scenes in it are either very common or detailed enough to at least be worth skipping). But the grounds that you’re dismissing it on sounds biased. I mean, something like Jurassic Park never happened, but you seem to think it’s a reasonably worthwhile story. And I’m guessing you’d be willing to discuss some moral/ethical conversations that Jurassic Park raises.
But not only has something like Jurassic Park never happened(especially at the time of it’s writing), but even if someone did bring dinos back and use them in a theme park, there’s a very high chance that it wouldn’t turn out nearly that bad. But that doesn’t mean the book should just be dismissed, and you’re saying the same thing for Kerry’s series. So why not be willing to examine something like Atwood’s book the same way? Books are often a study of human nature and society, and can raise good points even if their premise happens to be completely ridiculous or hypothetical.
Autumn, what I’m in short doing is pointing out hypocrisy in a Liberal criticism of Nietz (voiced here by Notleia) that simultaneously thinks Atwood is brilliant. I think that’s garbage.
Their story worlds make a similar type of projection, based on a religion that the author does not share.
Notleia gave Atwood a break on any potential accusation of xenophobia by stating that she criticized her own culture (more or less), which isn’t actually true. Her story world is more about religion than culture as far as I know, but even if we say its about culture, it isn’t about any culture she ever lived in, as a secular Canadian.
Because it is a fiction to say white = Christian. It has never been true and isn’t true now. Uganda, Guatemala, and South Korea are each in their own way significantly more Christian than the USA, which is in turn significantly more overtly Christian than Canada.
The assertion you made that I could paraphrase as “whatever abuses have happened in Islam have happened in Christianity, too” suffers from the shortcoming of being not completely true. Not that there haven’t been conquerors and slavers and terrible people who did awful things in the name of Christ. But it has actually never happened in the history of Christianity that I have ever heard of that a group of Christians established their own republic and declared war on the nations around them and tried to kill all the religious minorities around them and took all young women captive for their sex slaves.
The closest I can think to that happening is certain peasant rebellions in Europe, especially the Munster rebellion of 1534, in which violent Anabaptist polygamists took over a German city. But as far as I know, they did not have the ambition of conquering the entire world for Christianity–just their piece of it. By the way, their rebellion was crushed within a year and nothing like it ever happened again.
What else would be most like the ambitions of ISIS? Maybe the conquistadors invading the empires of the Incas and Aztecs in the name of Christ and the king of Spain. But really that was war backed by a nation state combined with colonialism, bolstered by religious fervor, sure, but not exactly caused by it. With more in common with, say, the Turkish invasion of the Byzantine Empire than the approach ISIS and other Jihadists have taken.
Strident nationalism, open racism, colonialism–all these have been supported at times by “Christian” thinkers. But those Christians who have retreated to “the Bible plus nothing” groups (and there have been plenty of such groups over the course of history) have as often been pacifist as not (Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, etc.) and not one of those uber-Fundie groups have ever set out to conquer the entire word in the name of Christ. Not that I can think of. (Instead, they usually are awaiting the end of the world to come from heaven, at Christ’s return.)
I’m saying here there is a real difference between the extremes of Islam and that of Christianity. However, that doesn’t make me a fan of Christian extremists! Nor does it make me specifically anti-Muslim or anti-Islamic. I’m in fact significantly more in opposition to the ideas of neo-pagans and atheists, actually.
But anyway, all I have said isn’t really about what I think or believe–it’s about the false accusation that any criticism of Islam is ipso facto racist and that The Dark Trench is wildly unfair while The Handmaid’s Tale is totally legit speculative fiction. When they are in some ways quite similar, as far as I’m able to tell.
I would have an easier time believing the goal wasn’t controlling women if their solutions actually did much of anything to reduce abortions. Like, advocating sex ed or making birth control easy access. Or expanding the social safety nets so that people could afford to raise any/more kids.
There are Catholics I find vaguely respectable because even if they’re weird about sex, they support expanded social nets and oppose the death penalty and wars. Doesn’t entirely make up for the fact they’d override a person’s bodily autonomy, but they’re making an effort.
Pro choicers tend to paint Pro lifers with a very broad, demonized brush. (That’s a tendency for every side of every argument, but still).
I’m pro life, for example(except a few situations like where the mother will most likely die if she has the baby). And I actually am willing to put myself in the shoes of someone with an unwanted pregnancy(which is actually easy for me since I don’t like the idea of going through pregnancy or labor). And I believe that if someone disagrees with something, the best and most convincing thing they can do is propose good solutions/alternatives. Which I think about and try to do.
For the most part I don’t have a problem with birth control, for example. Maybe I’d have criticism for certain types or means of making birth control available, but that’s a different matter. Adoption (and improving the adoption system) is another thing I believe in, and if I do have kids there’s a pretty decent chance I’d adopt. At the very least adoption is very common in my stories in some way or other. Partly because it’s interesting and something I enjoy writing, but partly because it is an option I’d like people to consider.
I also believe in teaching people to treat each other more decently, and I explore a lot of that in my stories. Along with writing chars that show the importance of having more responsible attitudes toward sex and romantic relationships. If such responsible and considerate attitudes were more prevalent in our society, there’d probably be fewer unwanted pregnancies. I’m not saying it’s an ultimate solution, but it would actually be preventing a lot of the problems in the first place(which abortion doesn’t exactly do).
But people willing to approach abortion in a thoughtful manner aren’t exactly a rarity. It’s just that a lot of thoughtful people don’t shout their nuanced opinions from the rooftops. Even if they do try to engage in conversation, they can’t nearly always have a thoughtful, nuanced conversation on the topic because a pretty decent amount of pro choicers immediately get angry, demeaning or even downright hysterical whenever they see a pro life thing brought up. An instance with one of my friends comes to mind. She made a post on Tumblr with an analogy that arguably wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t remotely the horrible thing several pro choicers made it out to be. It’s hard to have a thoughtful conversation with people that freak out and misconstrue every little thing that’s said.
Also, just because someone isn’t good at reducing abortions doesn’t mean they want to control women. These issues are complicated, and all the right beliefs and attitudes in the world don’t immediately result in knowing how to fix an issue.
The anti-abortion movement has been mostly taken over by the Republican Party, which contains a coalition which includes anti-abortion but also anti-government strains. So it’s no surprise the Reps don’t support larger government safety nets. Or more intrusive government education of children.
But having said that, Reps in general have supported tax credits per child more than Dems have and the Earned Income Credit tax rebate that pays cash to people with a lot of kids at tax time. Reps have also in general resisted slashing WIC even while they’ve gone after healthcare and other social programs.
So the hypocrisy is caused by political jockeying more than anything else. Though lots of people do little to question their party line, true enough. (Quite the opposite, in fact.)
Likewise, certain Democrats are in fact anti-abortion in their personal sentiments, but tolerate a pro-choice platform because of other elements of the party platform they think are vital. Does it really make sense to be against the death penalty for murderers but in favor of allowing a mother to kill a fetus she’s carrying at any time for any reason, even if that fetus would be viable outside her body? No, it doesn’t.
By the way, in general I think choice is a good thing. But it’s usually considered at least a questionable choice if my decision winds up in someone else permanently dead. Or even something else, as in an animal. In most matters, other than abortion, the law intervenes to prevent or at least regulate killing (though of course there are regulations concerning abortion–but in some places, the regulations are very much laissiez faire concerning the fate of the fetus–ironically much more so in places that in general favor greater government control, like New York state).