Science Fiction Theology
Beauty and the Transformation of the Sublime
Imprint: Baylor University Press
328 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in
- Published: July 2015
Science fiction imagines a universe teeming with life and thrilling possibility, but also hidden and hideous dangers. Christian theology, often a polemical target for science fiction, reflects on the plenitude out of which and for which the universe exists. In Science Fiction Theology, Alan Gregory investigates the troubled relationship between science fiction and Christianity and, in particular, how both have laid claim to the modern idea of sublimity.
To the extent that science fiction has appropriated—and reveled—in the sublime, it has persisted in a sometimes explicit, sometimes subterranean, relationship with Christian theology. From its seventeenth-century beginnings, the sublime, with its representations of immensity, has informed the imagining of God. When science fiction critiques or reinvents religion, its writers have engaged in a literary guerrilla war with Christianity over what is truly sublime and divine.
Gregory examines the sublime and its implicit theologies as they appear in early American pulp science fiction, the horror writing of H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction narratives of evolution and apocalypse, and the work of Philip K. Dick. Ironically, science fiction’s tussle with Christianity hides the extent to which the sublime, especially in popular culture, serves to distort the classical Christian understanding of God, secularizing that God and rendering God’s transcendence finite. But by turning from the sublime to a consideration of the beautiful, Gregory shows that both Christian and science-fictional imaginations may discover a new and surprising conversation.
1. Sublime Fiction?
2. Pulp Fiction, or the Sublime Subversion of the Boy-Engineer
3. Wells and Stapledon: The Evolutionary Sublime
4. Philip Dick versus the Sublime
5. The Apocalyptic Sublime
6. From the Sublime to the Beautiful
The spiritual dimension of science fiction has been ignored for too long, but here Alan Gregory gives us a pioneering account of how science fiction emerged from the tradition of the sublime. This suggestive new study combines historical insights into the context of the fiction with detailed analysis of particular works.~David Seed, Professor of American Literature, Liverpool University
Alan Gregory’s absorbing book is a significant investigation into the links between the aesthetic of the sublime, science fiction, and the Christian ‘sense of wonder.’ ‘Science fiction has never steered clear of Christianity,’ Gregory asserts. His book is a stimulus for thinking through some of the consequences of acknowledging this claim.~Roger Luckhurst, Professor of Modern Literature, Birkbeck College, University of London
Science Fiction Theology situates science fiction, from its earliest literary expressions to its modern cinematic ones, within the broader context of an approach to nature that is itself a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. In the process, Alan Gregory reveals the profoundly theological underpinnings and implications of the unexplored depths of sci-fi’s most characteristic components. He guides the reader through these subjects with an insightful eloquence that deserves to be widely read and widely quoted.~James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature, Butler University
An argument that deserves to have a wide readership.~Pierre W. Whalon, Anglican Theological Review
...deploying the sublime as a prism through which to compare and contrast science fiction and theology is a master stroke.~John Saxbee, Church Times
This is a wholly praiseworthy book of Christian engagement with the contemporary world of the arts, with some brilliant insights to bear in a consistently sustained argument. Its apologetics fulfils the twin poles of such engagement: both science fiction and the Christian tradition receive accurate description, appreciation and love. Gregory is clearly extremely well read in other disciplines including the history of thought, literature, philosophy, critical theory and even information theory.~Stephen May, Modern Believing
- Book Award in Culture and the Arts