Saturday, 31 May 2008


Sometimes I’ve felt as though the decision to study a sci-fi series for my dissertation on the emerging church was a bit too wacky! So I was greatly encouraged by Mike Alsford’s work on ‘Religious Themes in Science Fiction’, especially as he describes the way in which this particular genre encourages us to face both hope and dread.

'To contemplate a destiny amongst the stars whilst at the same time recognising our capacity for greed and self destruction; to aspire to new levels of existence, transformations to ever more blessed states of being, while acknowledging our equal potential to create and become monsters; to look forward to a future paradise or to dread the end results of urban decay and social collapse: hope and dread –these are indeed two of the poles that define us.'
Alsford, M, What If? Religious Themes in Science Fiction, (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2000) pp2-3.

Maggie Burns seems to take this a step further by declaring that Sci-fi makes us face our hopes, fears (=dread) and the truth.

‘… the highest goal of science fiction is to tell us the truth about ourselves. We find it in every sci-fi work that has ever tried to say: “This is how it is. Don’t pretend, don’t turn away, don’t lie. This is who you are. This is what we are.” … Firefly … sets out to show us our world through a created one.’ Burns, M, ‘Mars needs Women’ in Espenson, J (ed), Serenity Found: More Unauhorized essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe, (Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, 2007) pp15-16.

This belief, in the power of story to touch us at a deep level, is my starting


Rach said...

you are wacky!

but I do think it is a very interesting topic, and may even read the finished document!


Rach said...


not really linked but have a look at these!

426 is fresh expressions!


Rach said...


Am I the only one who comments on this blog?

This is a wacky link, but at the train station last night - when I was buying a sandwich and a cookie I saw a drink called 'firefly'

just thought I'd tell you


Julie said...

Further note on this post about the significance of sci-fi - see

'Alter reality — and see what new results you get. Which is precisely what sci-fi does. Its authors rewrite one or two basic rules about society and then examine how humanity responds — so we can learn more about ourselves. How would love change if we lived to be 500? If you could travel back in time and revise decisions, would you? What if you could confront, talk to, or kill God?

Teenagers love to ponder such massive, brain-shaking concepts, which is precisely why they devour novels like Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, the Narnia series, the Harry Potter books, and Ender's Game. They know that big-idea novels are more likely to have an embossed foil dragon on the cover than a Booker Prize badge.

Adults and serious intellectuals used to love ruminating over this stuff, too. Thought experiments formed the foundation of Western philosophy — from Socrates to Thomas Hobbes to Simone de Beauvoir.

So, then, why does sci-fi, the inheritor of this intellectual tradition, get short shrift among serious adult readers? Probably because the genre tolerates execrable prose stylists. Plus, many of sci-fi's most famous authors — like Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick — have positively deranged notions about the inner lives of women.

But the worm is turning. For whatever reasons — maybe the reality fatigue I've felt — a lot of literary writers are trying their hand at speculative fiction.'