On Sci-Fi: The Question of Religion
A guest post by Dr. George H. Elder
I know few Sci-Fi devotees who like the idea of shoving religious beliefs down the throats of readers, either covertly or overtly. Indeed, Sci-Fi is often used as an escape from such travails. Yet there are several examples of stories that have strong religious overtones, such as Dune and For I am a Joyous People. Even in Sci-Fi comedy cartoons we find the Robot Devil character in Futurama. The 50s are replete with numerous Sci-Fi morality tales with religious themes (e.g., The Nine Billion Names of God, The Last Question, The Reformers, Childhood’s End, Immortality, Inc., etc.). In contemporary times we have The Accidental Time Machine, Escape from Hell, Nothing Sacred, and many more. Religion and Sci-Fi are often conjoined for better or worse, and have been for many generations.
When writing Genesis, I thought religion a worthy area to explore—although not dwell on. For example, Kara is from a religious society with a strong idea of what God is and fairly advanced metaphysical concepts considering their stone-age technology. She is a Labateen, a tribe which views itself as God’s only chosen people. They are a rule-bound people who adhere to a religion that views physical and intellectual perfection as the ideal and the rule of the strong as only natural. Thus beating or killing someone who slights you is perfectly acceptable and being born with a birth defect warrants instant death. As for Kara, she firmly believes God has destined her to do great things, despite being an outcast.
Kara learns and experiences much during her adventures. Eventually she discovers her people are a manufactured species and her personal history is nothing more than a plaything of an advanced species. She is left adrift—without any guiding purpose or reason for being. She hates herself and the concept of God—whom she wishes to kill. It was a fascinating exercise to develop this descent into hopelessness, for being so reduced allowed a subsequent elevation that makes us care for Kara all the more.
As for the crew members who have taken Kara aboard their time/space craft, Anita has a strong belief in the “Great Maker,” but her guiding principles are a set of rigid moral values that go beyond religion. For example, she would rather die than harm another, and believes she has no right to live if her deeds or misdeeds cause the direct or indirect death of another. These beliefs are incompatible with Kara’s, and the two have a profound impact on each other’s views.
Ezra believes in his family above all else, and yearns to be back with his wife and children. They are his moral and ethical center, and function as a belief system in their own right. Ezra’s physical condition declines as the story progresses and his yearning to return to kith and kin increases. However, his inherent fear and reluctance to act wanes. He becomes a leader of sorts, and puts Anita, Ral, and Kara in their places when the need arises.
Ral is an artificial intelligence that finds religions interesting, but he does not subscribe to them. He finds the beliefs and views of most biological beings defective in one way or another, but in the end he falls in love. He even sacrifices himself to achieve an altruistic end, albeit an act that will come back to haunt the entire crew.
In a greater sense, the entire story revolves around the issue of being versus non-being, which allows us to examine the themes fundamental of all beliefs: is there life after death and what is the purpose of our existence? I will not claim to provide any definitive answers, but I believe the reader may come up with some ideas that go well beyond those stated in the texts. For example, it is implied throughout the text that adhering to strong beliefs and ideals in the face of circumstances that vitiate them is dubious. Conversely, beliefs form a large part of what we are, and when we lose them—we also lose part of ourselves.
Indeed, the title Genesis is what the story revolves around; although it certainly differs from the Biblical account in many respects. The accounts concerning God, destiny, free will, and many other issues stray from standard conceptualizations, and I hope they invite exploration on many levels.
Child of Destiny (The Genesis Continuum trilogy #1) by Dr. George H. Elder
The universe is nearing its inevitable end, everything is being rapidly devoured. The last hope of a dying universe is to awaken the Seeker, a legendary metaphysical being known only through ancient tales. The Seeker has the capacity to link the entire universe; they alone may be able to spark the rebirth of the universe.
Many of those that remain desperately want existence to continue. As the remaining races struggle to survive and fight over saving existence, lofty ideals give way to brutal pragmatism. Missions are sent out in search of the Seeker. One such mission encounters Kara an outcast noblewoman of the Labateen, a Stone-Age warrior culture. Kara is well versed in the Seeker’s litany, beyond what would be considered coincidence –to Kara the litany is simply the ways of God. Will Kara be able to help locate the Seeker?
Those who wish the universe to end in disorder, with no more than a whimper are not willing to sit by as others race to alter the end universe. As these opposing forces mount their defenses, racing to see their goals are achieved one question stands out…
Is Kara the key?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. George H. Elder has a Ph.D. from Penn State in Speech Communication and a Masters Degree in nonfiction Writing from UNH. He also has a very eclectic work and personal history. He has been a college teacher, custodian, upper-level scholar, drug addict, weight lifting coach, bouncer, and much more. He has authored numerous articles in the popular press and even a scientific text book that examines the neuropsychological basis of human communication. He has also addressed subjects such as philosophy, free speech, weight training, drug use, nutrient effects, street life, and a wide range of other issues.
His varied life experiences and education give him a unique and interesting perspective, and he often weaves philosophical insights and pathos into his texts. His books are action-oriented, but they do not have simplistic plots wherein good vs. evil or some other hackneyed approach is used. Instead, Elder employs plot shifts that allow the characters and readers to question the relationships we often take for granted. For example, a hero may do great wrongs while a species once perceived as malicious can be revealed to be honorable and wise. This offers refreshing and exciting perspectives for readers as they delve into Elder’s texts, for one never knows what to expect.