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Why is Christian Sci-Fi Scarcer than Fantasy?

Forums Group Forums Sci-fi Writers Why is Christian Sci-Fi Scarcer than Fantasy?

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  • #145323
    Isaiah
    @allertingthbs

    The fantasy thread on SE has tons and tons of topics and active discussions. Why do you think that Christian sci-fi (on this site at least) seems to have so much less engagement? My short-story WIP can be considered sci-fi, and I think we all enjoy the genre in our media. Just curious.

    "Only a Sith deals in absolutes"
    -Quipmaster 2005

    #145474
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    @allertingthbs A very good question, mine brother.

    I think there are a couple reasons.

    Fantasy (at least in constructed world) allows you to go crazy in your worldbuilding. You don’t even need to assume physics work the same way as in our world, if you don’t want to! You can create magic systems and fantastical races without worrying about the cosmological implications of adding to the Bible’s description of reality.

    Also, Tolkien and Lewis primarily wrote fantasy in their spec fic. The most foundational work of modern fantasy was written by the most famous Christian writer of all time.

    But scifi also asks questions that are either boring or uncomfortable for Christian authors. Scifi asks “What if?” questions about our world, usually. Even Star Wars’ A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… assumes our reality as a frame of reference. A scifi writer not only has to ensure they’re accurate to some understanding of real world logistics but also needs to consider the implications of whatever speculative elements they introduce.

    A Christian who believes aliens are actually just demons trying to make us think aliens exist have only a small handful of options for interstellar scifi.

    1. Humans find no extraterrestrial life.
    2. Humans engage with demons pretending to be aliens.
    3. Create a universe “like our own” but with aliens in it.
    4. Ignore their beliefs about real-world cosmology so they can write about aliens.

    Most of these are extremely limited options within the scifi genre space. Hopefully I didn’t strawman too hard.

    Another common, difficult question: Could robots, AI, or clones of humans ever deserve human rights? How about sapient animals? Many Christians would say the easy answer is “Of course not.” Considering these are some of the most evergreen questions of scifi, Christians have little way of meaningfully engaging with these ideas unless they’re writing explicitly for a Christian audience who agree with their presuppositions.

    I know people for whom this extends to stories which take place hundreds or thousands of years from now, or which involve climate change or evolution in their worldbuilding. If a Christian believes we’re living less than a century from the end times (and I don’t think I know more than one or two Christians who would disagree with that), they may take theological issue with the concept that human existence could extend far beyond that period of time.

    For some people, this is akin to the arrogance of Babel. For some people, this is literally the arrogance of Babel, because they believe the tower was actually a space ship and God really, really doesn’t want us leaving Earth.

    Scifi asks explicit questions about the nature of existence and humanity. Christians tend to believe we have easy answers to all those questions in the Bible, so why bother writing scifi stories to ask those questions?

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    #145695
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @taylorclogston *blinks* People believe the tower of Babble was a space ship?

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    #145698
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    Your points raise good questions though, Taylor. That’s the way things are. But should it be?

    For instance, I don’t believe in aliens, but does that mean I can’t include them in fiction? I tend to think I can. Fiction is, by definition, not real.  I also tend to doubt that AI will ever be able to fully mimic human intelligence, but I would have no problem writing that story.

    The hitch with aliens is I don’t want to promote an idea I disagree with. But because aliens are such a staple, I don’t think including them in your fiction has to be a statement. It depends on how you write it.

    It would depend for me what you get out of adding aliens. As much as I adore Speaker for the Dead for a million other reasons, I don’t really care about it’s philosophy of how to treat alien species because I don’t believe humans will ever meet alien species. However, they built out the exploration of the theme of empathy quite nicely–something I can get behind.

    Also, “what if” questions work both ways. Many popular sci-fi what if questions Christians (and many scientists in general) find highly improbable. But if you ignore all those, you’re still left with thousands of plausible or semi-plausible scenarios. You don’t need to believe that the internet of things will develop consciousness for the internet of things to turn the world into something almost unrecognizable.

    (btw, totally planning to write a sci-fi short story set hundreds to thousands of years in the future.)

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    #145994
    Isaiah
    @allertingthbs

    Scifi asks explicit questions about the nature of existence and humanity. Christians tend to believe we have easy answers to all those questions in the Bible, so why bother writing scifi stories to ask those questions?


    @taylorclogston
    This is a very decent point that comes to the core of the answer, at least from where I sit. Sci-fi is a place to ask questions that we have to use imagination to find answers for. What will a space WWII look like? Star Wars 4-6. What would it mean if we aren’t alone in the universe? History Channel @ 11:30pm.

    For instance, I don’t believe in aliens, but does that mean I can’t include them in fiction? I tend to think I can. Fiction is, by definition, not real.


    @daeus-lamb
    . This right here is a fantastic viewpoint on writing. We have control over what we do and don’t write. The author’s moral compass influences this but it’s also down to personal convictions. Some Christian writers don’t like to even use the word “magic” because it brings to mind evil powers as described in the Bible, and that’s perfectly fine. Others use the same word and they have no moral issues with it. It’s down to each writer what they feel okay about using.

    I think the reason I tend to think of most, as to why more Christian Sci-fi doesn’t exist, is that it’s not nearly as easy to build a God-centered sci-fi novel as it is a fantasy one. And that’s okay. Authors will be passionate about their projects and if it’s upsetting to write a narrative that doesn’t have God at the center, they certainly won’t go through the mental pain just to “have done it.” Obviously we make what we do for His glory ultimately, but personal comfort and conviction lie very deep and very early in the writing process as well.

    Perhaps a better approach to my question would have been to post in a different thread something like “Why do you feel more comfortable writing genre than you do Sci-fi?” Perhaps I won’t find a decent answer. But at least we can agree that aliens are the best part of late-night television.

    "Only a Sith deals in absolutes"
    -Quipmaster 2005

    #146039
    ScoutFinch190
    @scoutfinch190

    Maybe one thing I’ve noticed from what little I’ve read/seen of sci-fi is that there isn’t a need to address the existence of God like there can be in Fantasy. Not that people can’t create fantasy worlds that have no blatant God-figure, (I’ve seen that several times) but there’s almost always some sort of Supreme power/being that exists. (power of love in Harry Potter, magical words in Eragon besides please, the spirits in the movie Spirited Away, etc.)

    Advances in technology are dependent somewhat on man, versus mysterious powers/magic that’s existed for ages past that is dependent on an outer source of power. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems almost like Sci-fi has greater license to put dependability on man v. dependability on God, making it an attractive genre to the secular audience? Also, what ways would work to incorporate a God-figure in a sci-fi? Especially if it’s in the real world?

    Maybe it’s also less popular because from what I can gather most Christian/conservative young adults and teens (if they’ve grown up in Christian homes) might have a higher exposure and familiarity with Fantasy?

    Also, like you all said, in many regards (especially when constrained to a more realistic world structure) it is a fairly challenging genre to write in… especially for me with my fantasy bent.  My sci-fi — I think — barely qualifies for the genre. I have more of a focus on society and relational problems than exploring AI, Aliens, or something along those lines.

    I know that for me I get a little stumped figuring out a sci-fi as a new and unfamiliar genre that also has a really cool aesthetic I want to explore. Also, I have a sci-fi rookie question: Does it count as sci-fi if the story doesn’t take place in our universe?

    I’m not an authority on speculative fiction really, I mean, I’m pretty decent with fantasy stuff, but not really with sci-fi stuff.

    We crazy people are the normal ones.

    #146060
    Isaiah
    @allertingthbs

    Also, what ways would work to incorporate a God-figure in a sci-fi?


    @scoutfinch190
    Thanks for the response! I think that a good way to create a God-centered sci-fi story would be to focus on the “science” portion. Sci-fi doesn’t need aliens or world travel. Just some advanced tech and science advancements. If we used the idea “science furthers our understanding of God,” it opens up quite a few possibilities. For instance, an advanced AI system could conclude that the only way the universe was made was by intelligence and design, which is a solid place to start.

    On the flip side, sci-fi can be a fantastic tool to examine your own faith and beliefs. I’ve listened to some really solid books in this genre (Audible is great) and they’ve given me a chance to reflect and ask myself questions about creationism and universal timelines that I may have otherwise not.

     

     

    "Only a Sith deals in absolutes"
    -Quipmaster 2005

    #146145
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    Hey, I should mention, if anyone’s interested in writing Sci-fi, there’s this epic YouTube channel that can give you tons of inspiration. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZFipeZtQM5CKUjx6grh54g

    His channel basically exists to examine how Sci-fi could actually work.

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    #151138
    Jess R. Plowman
    @toljamedia

    Playing on the opposite side of the “famous Christians wrote famous fantasy” card, I think it’s also worth noting that conversely, some of the most famous science fiction has also been written by some of the most famous atheists. Douglas Adams and Isaac Asimov come to mind immediately. There’s that nasty preconception, so thoughtlessly assumed by today’s culture and even some Christians, that religion and science are in opposition.

    But that’s exactly why I am so excited about writing science fiction. It’s time to bring philosophy and theology back into science.

    But there is a spirit within people, the breath of the Almighty within them, that makes them intelligent.

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