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SF Subgenre Guides
Christian Science Fiction
What is Christian Science Fiction?
Christian literature and Science Fiction may seem like opposing genres, and the sub-genre is certainly more obscure than others, but it is growing. Sci Fi and science are not necessarily diametrically opposed to Christianity. Indeed, science seeks understanding about the cosmos and ponders the future, as does Christianity. The sub-genre of Christian Sci Fi is best thought of along a spectrum.
There are hard Christian stories taking place in the future and then there are subtle elements of Christianity woven into Sci Fi stories—and all sorts in between. This variability, of course, makes defining the specifics of the sub-genre a bit difficult.
There are common problems that every author of this sub-genre faces. Sci Fi is a potentially limitless genre—really, the possibilities are endless. However, exploring science within a creationist framework can be rather limiting. Also, speculating about the future can be very difficult within a worldview where everything is divinely ordered. One of the things Christian Sci Fi does well is provide an answer to questions about humanity's place in the cosmos, about the future, and about the possible redemption of humanity. If we're all plugged into the internet in the future what does that mean? What does that mean for society? For individual identity? For our souls? Christian Sci Fi is one way writers and readers can explore personal spirituality, individual experience, and popular culture.
Other Features of Christian Science Fiction
- Level of Real Science
Variable. The emphasis on science will vary greatly in Christian Sci Fi. Low, or no real science is not uncommon—for fairly obvious ideological reasons. Indeed, there is a very real risk in Christian Sci Fi that rationality and the scientific method will not be the response to scientific problems, but rather biblical authority or fundamentalist ideas of humanity. However, the variance does not mean that there cannot be high levels of real science. Science is not always at odds with Christianity—in fact, some Christians see science as a study of God's intentions.
- Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications
>High. Christianity and Sci Fi are natural partners in a common goal of making sense of humanity's place in the cosmos. So, the sub-genre created by the literature of Sci Fi and the beliefs of Christianity is going to be theological, philosophical, sociological, and probably any other kind of -ological.
Sci Fi often asks and tries to find the answers to big questions, questions that Christians are also invested in—questions about the meaning of life, the end of all things, big why questions—and one way to answer these questions in Sci Fi is through the lens of Christianity.
- Level of Characterization
Variable. In a story that is overtly Christian, characters may merely be stand-ins for biblical characters, without any individual identity or motivations. For example, using Noah as a character archetype provides strength and instant recognition, but not necessarily depth. In other stories though, characters may be very well drawn—a character who is trying to reconcile their personal Christian worldview with the problems of the future will have a rich internal life. There is definitely lots of room to play with characters in this sub-genre.
- Level of Plot Complexity
Variable. With such an emphasis on ideas plot development can sometimes take a back seat. But, plot can also be a complex and interweaving storyline—there are adventures to be had and heroes to be discovered, and the plot will lead readers there.
- Level of Violence
Variable. Jesus turning water to wine is not at all violent—Jesus' crucifixion is very violent. The stories and images of Christianity exist along a whole spectrum of violence, and the images and stories that are used in a Sci Fi story will vary based on the point the author is trying to make.
Related Science Fiction subgenres
Religious Science Fiction. Christian Science Fiction is just one type of religion.
Most others. The stories of most other sub-genres can incorporate Christian themes, ideas, or imagery. Not every “Christian” story is overt, some are more subtle.
Christian Science Fiction isn't for you if...
Christian themes, tropes, worldviews or ideas are opposing to your own worldview—or if you don't want the stories you read limited to this worldview. One of the things Sci Fi does really well is open up possibilities—and sometimes, when a story frames the possibilities through a specific worldview, the literary magic can be lost.
- 1 Circle
By Ted Dekker. There are direct representatives of Christian theology in this pre-apocalypic/post-apocalyptic tale. The series begins with a man who can be in the present day, then fall asleep and wake up in the future—both worlds are filled with evil, but different evils.
- 2 The Cosmic Trilogy
By C.S. Lewis. Often dubbed the most influential Christian sci fi author, Lewis' trilogy is a thought-provoking collection that approaches the cosmos with a Christian worldview—but not in a preachy sort of way.
- 3 The Illustrated Man
By Ray Bradbury. This is a collection of short stories that describe the future—one story depicts the arrival of Christ on another world and in another story Earth missionaries encounter aliens without sin.
- 4 Empyrion
By Stephen Lawhead. This two-book set is about two separate societies that have dealt with a past tragedy in disparate ways. They are at odds with each other. Pretty heavy on the Social Sci Fi side, but poses some theological questions as well.
- 5 Left Behind
- 6 We All Fall Down
By Brian Caldwell. A Christian apocalyptic novel about a man who lives through the end-times, but refuses to accept Christianity because he does not want to hypocritically accept it out of fear of damnation.
- 7 A Wrinkle in Time
By Madeleine L'Engle An award winning, YA series of books that present, at least in part, a Christian world-view.
- 8 Behold the Man
By Michael Moorcock. A story that is inspired by the Gospel of John and is about a man who travels back in time with the intent of meeting Jesus.
- 9 A Canticle for Leibowitz
By Walter M. Miller. This post-apocalyptic store is set in a Catholic monastery where the monks preserve scientific knowledge.
- 10 A Case of Conscience
By James Blish. A Jesuit investigates an alien race. The aliens have no religion, but have an innate sense of morality.