Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
Catholics have reason to be wary of the science fiction genre, Sandra Miesel acknowledges, given that some of its greatest exponents such as H.G. Wells have “wielded their pens against religion in general and Christianity in particular.”
But, Miesel continues in this article published by Catholic World Report, just because an art form can be turned to a bad end is no reason for Catholics to abandon it only to those who would so abuse it.
Although fantasy and science fiction, which belong to the genre of “speculative fiction” (SF), can be hostile to Christianity, so can any form of literature. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about asking “What if?” We cannot afford to abandon this aspect of the human imagination to those who would misuse it in the service of atheism, blasphemy, nihilism, false cults, and New Age delusions. Our call to redeem culture is not limited to a few safe artistic forms.
Miesel applauds the contributions of Catholics like Murray Leinster, Clifford Simak, Anthony Boucher and illustrator Richard Powers, who were prominent pioneers of science fiction as it first gained popularity in the last century.
And she highlights the work of contemporary Catholic sci-fi writers like Gene Wolfe, whose 12-volume Solar Cycle “is fiction of dazzling virtuosity that presents two shocking Christ-figures: a torturer and a priest of false pagan gods. It is an epic of personal and planetary renewal that challenges readers’ capacity to follow non-linear narratives told by unreliable narrators. Those who persevere will see that man-made solutions cannot save Man. The Infinite alone can satisfy.”
Looking forward, Miesel writes:
How will Catholic SF fare in the future? One of the people shaping it may be John C. Wright (yet another Chesterton admirer), who published his first novel, The Golden Age, in 2002. As evident in his Chronicles of Chaos trilogy and The Last Guardian of Westernesse, he likes “large themes, thunder, fury, and wonder.” Wright’s latest effort is Null-A Continuum, sequel to the 1945 classic World of Null-A by A.E. van Vogt.
A former lawyer turned tech writer, Wright joined the Church only in 2008, about five years after accepting Christianity. Previously, he was an atheist of Stoic temper. His remarkable conversion story (available online at johncwright.livejournal.com) began with philosophical arguments and was sealed by mystical experiences. But in a 2005 interview at the website SF Signal, Wright said, “I have no idea how much, or if at all, my faith will influence my works.” After all, fiction is art, not propaganda.
Yet as long as faith infuses art, the Cross will stand—seen or unseen—beneath the stars of Elfland or in galaxies far away.