Science Fiction . . . and Our Brokenness

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I know a lot of people who don’t like fiction in general, and some who don’t like science fiction (sci-fi) in particular.

I’ve heard the genre of sci-fi scorned as cold, escapist, and downright evil.  Personally, however, I have found that many scifi stories are compelling studies on the brokenness of humanity, the ways we try to fix ourselves . . . and how we all somehow know deep inside that it will take something greater than us to set us free.

Science fiction is actually a study in irony

“Science” fiction is often the turf of atheists and others who declare that humanity (given sufficient time and technology) can build/think/formulize its way out of any problem.  AND YET it’s a genre which demonstrates the limitless ways we are broken and how our technology might be used to enslave or destroy all of us. While appealing to our desire to find immortality . . . sci-fi repeatedly demonstrates the dreadfulness of a fractured personality that might live forever.

And think of it.  Nearly all sci-fi stories have a “spiritual” element, a faith or belief in some unverifiable, un-provable (unscientific) thing that is ultimately necessary to save the characters from their worst-case scenario (as in Star Wars).  Adding to the irony is that all the best-loved science fiction stories involve robots, androids, or aliens from other worlds that desire to be human—with all the emotion and fragility that entails (I Robot and Star Trek would be classic examples).  Those who eschew the “illogical” nature of human emotions, will feast on sci-fi stories that show us the horrors of an existence devoid of it.

In short, Sci-fi continually shows us the scars of man’s imperfections and limitations, yet recognizes that there is something ultimately valuable in the midst of our humanness.

Methinks that many of the crusty science fiction lovers out there are inwardly longing to escape humanity’s ills and to touch eternity—and they somehow know that human solutions won’t be the answer, that there is something beyond nature or what we can touch, calculate, and prove.  As far as I am concerned, that’s a great place to start a journey.

[Jesus was . . .] Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am . . . Self-help is no help at all. . . . What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”  Mark 8:35-37  The Message

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  1 Corinthians 1:28-29 NIV

Currently blogging on technology—prior to the publication of Breaking the Silence (a scifi book on love and life in the future) by Stephanie Bennett.

3 responses »

  1. I’m one of those people who doesn’t have much of a taste for sci-fi. Just as you mention, I find it terribly cold. And disturbing. To me, it’s like the opposite of escapist. I want to escape FROM the dark, cold, metallic world of science fiction (though not all science fiction is alike in this regard, I acknowledge). I just connect so much better with the biological world–plants, animals, sunlight, human skin–and so much sci-fi is devoid of those things.

    I can, however, think of one sci-fi narrative I’ve immensely enjoyed: Carl Sagan’s CONTACT. Both the book and the movie. I think that it helped that the characters were living in a world recognizable as our own, even though they were beginning to communicate with something from the beyond.

    I’m actually very intrigued about the reasons so many people connect so strongly with sci-fi, which is why I clicked on your post. Your explanation was very helpful! (Would you say that your connection to sci-fi is primarily intellectual or emotional?)

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    • Thanks for your comments/questions!

      Short answer: My first connection with sci-fi was both emotional and intellectual. My current interest is spiritual.

      Not so short answer: I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My father was an atheist who talked about extraterrestrial life, ESP, and overpopulation of the world. He was very intelligent, a “glass half empty” kinda guy . . . and yet, looking back at him, I see what I describe in this blog post. Part of him LONGED for something greater, something beyond.

      I’m dyslexic, so I hated reading when I was little. But when I was in the 7th grade, my science teacher read the book John Carter aloud to the whole class in the final few days of school. I was fascinated. When I was in the 8th grade, someone gave me the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury and that was the first book I ever read of my own free will. After that, I read more things by Bradbury, and then I started reading all kinds of books, discovering that I actually loved to read. (I’m still a s-l-o-w reader, but that doesn’t bother me. I think of it as savoring the story.)

      When I was in my twenties, I became a Christian. I was away from home and I quickly realized I didn’t know another saved person where I lived. When I got home, I devoured the Bible and began reading “Christian” books. Lots of them. Books on theology, prayer, Christian life, and “Christian Fiction.” Much of the fiction was . . . sooooo . . . fluffy. If I would have given one of those books to any of my non-Christian friends (and IF they had ever gotten past the first two pages) they would have scoffed themselves into a coma!

      But my heart was broken by all the people I knew who lived in darkness because that was all they knew. They weren’t going to slip quietly into the door of a church or be won by some guy on the corner yelling about how lost they were. From their perspective, they were living in the cold, dark, metallic world you describe. That was their reality, and they were trying to lay hold of some means to escape it–but they were pretty sure the answer wasn’t found in some old Salvation Army song.

      YES, we were made to live in light, in community with others, surrounded by the majesty of nature (and some part of every human knows this) . . . but people are increasingly surrounded (and shrouded) by the walls, gizmos, and other things man has created. It’s MUCH easier deny God when we are shuttered away from any evidence to the contrary. Worldly Sci-fi is merely a reflection of where many of the “thinkers” of this age believe we’re headed. And yes, that’s a scary thought.

      But what if light was allowed to pierce the darkness of the story? What if the very things that the characters seek has been hidden within the plot of so many of their stories all along? I believe God gave me the story of SWORDSMAN (more than 35 years ago–YIKES!) to reach into that place and show a different option. The technologies and scenarios I wrote about were far-fetched (and dark) for the time . . . but now here we are and most of those things are reality or just around the corner. The book isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and there are Christians who don’t like it. But that’s okay. I believe that God has (and will) use it to touch people who are ready, but don’t know how to get from where they are to where Jesus is.

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      • Thank you so much for this thoughtful reply. I enjoyed getting to know you better through it. 🙂 And I’m glad that you (and so many others) find sci-fi so rewarding, even if I don’t, for whatever reason.

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