This World and the Next

Some—okay, a lot—of science fiction treats religion, and even spirituality, as pre-rational claptrap or dangerous authoritarianism. But jostling on the same shelves as the neo-imperialist space wars and the vampire-themed soft porn, there’s a universe of spiritually relevant good writing. Some examples from the last decade:

Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn

When a starship full of insectoid aliens crash-lands in a German village just before the advent of the Black Plague, the author gives credit and care to the parish priest’s training in logic, to Christian caritas, to the 14th-century European political and intellectual landscape, and to how they might interact with giant grasshoppers from space. (Tor, 2006)

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, by Octavia Butler

In response to a near-future U.S. wracked by environmental and social breakdown, young Lauren Olamina starts her own religion, Earthseed, whose scriptures proclaim that “God is change” and that humanity’s destiny is to reach the stars. Her vision leads her into deep family complications, somewhat manipulative behavior, and multiple run-ins with the nasty Church of Christian America. (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993; Seven Stories Press, 1998)

The Telling, by Ursula Le Guin

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Sojourners Magazine November 2008
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