In the recent Netflix series Daredevil (based on Marvel Comics superhero Matt Murdock), a character asks the blind protagonist whether he has advanced healing abilities, given the amount of punishment he can apparently take. He laughs, and says, 'No, that's just the Catholicism.'
Religion has played a role in speculative fiction for many years. Generally speaking, the works included in the list are based on a real-world religion. It's not uncommon for speculative fiction to build alternate modes of worship into their worlds, nor for protagonists to be introduced to those as they quest. Anthropological narratives, such as Kaaron Warren's Walking the Tree are often particularly strong in this area. But the Bokononisms of the speculative-fiction world are not the focus of this section. (That's not to say that a few might not creep in, where they make a particularly trenchant point on religious difference.)
Just as the section on physical, neurological, and sensate diversity tried to stay focused on the human body and not extend too far into transhumanism, this section wants to begin by mapping closely to human experiences of religious diversity.
Works included in this section fall into the following categories:
Not having started as a blog post, this is the most nascent of the four categories here, and we look forward to the possibility of expanding it in due course.
The works are divided into general sections, to make the lists easier to navigate. Click on a tile to open up the list. For the purposes of this list, a series is three works or more, so works that include a book and its sequel will appear under other categories.
Note: The links take you to the AustLit record for the works.
Often described as taking place in a 'feminist utopia', Dugdale's novel finds itself in this section because the time traveller emerges in a museum building devoted to 'what was once called the "Christian Era,"' subsequently designated by historians as "The Age of Blood and Malevolence"' (p.9).
Peter undertakes a mission to a distant planet, where his Bible seems a book of strange new things to the inhabitants. But can his faith survive survive both distance and his wife's own increasing despair? Rarely has science fiction nestled to closely to that most nineteenth century of genres, the crisis of faith novel.
Anneque Malchien's short story 'Our Cosmonauts Are Dying', appears on the short-story list on this page, so her interest in religion in speculative fiction isn't a one-off. Here, she creates Midgard, or at least her version of Midgard, where religion is quite literally a sport.
On a search for the biblical Tree of Life, cryptobotanist Chris Arlin takes as a partner Luke, a campus priest undergoing a crisis of faith: if Chris is searching for a cure to her father's illness and Luke is seeking his faith, what is the corporation on their trail in pursuit of?
'While drifting in space, lost, due to navigational failure, a mineral scout discovers God.'
What an opening to a publisher's blurb. But is this, in fact, God? That's what the academics, philosophers, and politicians scramble to the fore to debate.
Ailia is an outcast even though she dwells within the town: deprived of her second birth, she lacks 'skin', the belonging that is the core of her people's faith and of their lives. Can she even navigate her way through daily life, let alone become the wise woman that her people need if they are to survive the coming Roman invasion?
Published in 1879 by Tasmanian-born author Henry Crocker Marriott Watson, Erchomenon was intended by Watson–then a clergyman in New Zealand–as a denunciation of materialism. The society that it presents, some six hundred years in the future–posits humanity as its own religion, in opposition to the tenets of Christianity.
Central to this trilogy is the concept of the Estrattore, someone with the ability to draw out and distil human emotion. Once widespread, they were outlawed in the name of religion. So what happens when an Estrattore reappears?
A clashing of cultures lead to war, as three cultures are forced to come to terms with one another: trapped between the Circlians and the Pentadrians, the winged Siyee only want to preserve their lands from the encroachments of the 'landwalkers', but Pentadrians are determined to convert their heathen neighbours, by the sword if need be.
The joy in these books comes from the juxtaposition of the very modern (contemporary Melbourne) and the very old (the Grecian pantheon), as suburban Aussie girl Ophelia Lind balances daily life with her work as messenger for Olympus.
In this anthropological science fiction, the crew of a starship observe a planet from orbit, particularly the stable religion of the Sisterhood, which has been in place for 20,000 years. But that stability is about to be challenged by the rise of an opposing religion, the worship of the Serpent.
Only two novels in this series are out so far, but we already have a world rich in magic and the struggle for power against the constraints of a stratified society. So what happens to that society when a new religion, one centred on a not unfamiliar trinity, begins to rise?
Not many short story blurbs begin with the phrase 'the Jesuit starship St. Ignatius Loyola'. The ship and its crew are in exile from a post-religion age when they find an abandoned city on a distant planet.
A Philadelphian rabbi is sent to a distant planet, where a minority of the population claim to be Jewish–not converts, but a naturally evolving Jewish population light years from Earth.
Usually labelled by booksellers as 'horror' or 'psychological horror', Concentration is a collection of Jack Dann's stories on the subject of the Holocaust. It also contains one previously unpublished story, set in a dystopian future Australia, 'Trainspotting at Winesburg'.
After borrowing some technology from work, Stuart creates a race of telepathic teddy bears. But how does Stuart, a devout Catholic, cope with his intensely religious creations?
Perhaps one of the earliest Australian science-fiction stories to include a mention of Islam, this brief tale is set within a clearing station for the dead: Muslim and Christian faithful find their way to a blissful afterlife, but what happens when neither Heaven nor Hell are willing to take in a science-fiction fan.
When a comet is discovered on a collision course with Earth, it sets off a flurry of panic and an escalation of calls for blind faith in what is seen as divine punishment: how can a cosmonaut save the world when his family and the media are calling on him to accept the workings of Providence?
A clashing of modes of immortality, as a rabbi mourning the death of his daughter twenty years earlier creates a golem in her image, only to attract the scorn of Victor Frankenstein, who hoped for guidance in his own researches.
To the shock of the inhabitants, the Pilgrim returns to a generation ship that he should be unable to reach, to learn that an accident has shattered the faith of the Father in charge of the ship.
The religion is not named in the story and is explicitly described as fictional, but resembles Roman Catholicism in its terminology.
One of only two published short stories that we know of by Welwood, this one takes the legend of the Wandering Jew and puts him on Mars, where a permanent rest at last seems possible.
A novel as much about Australia's violent, often hidden, post-colonial past as it is about religion, No Such Country is not only centred on a prophetic figure, The Father, but draws its symbolism and even its title from Christian iconography and history.
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