Podcast #61: Science Fiction = Spiritual Non-Fiction?

This week, Ben and Rich take on the subject of science fiction. What (if anything) makes science fiction more interesting than other genres? What does biblical science fiction look like? What can we learn from science fiction and what should we watch out for? Also, we count down our top five science fiction book and video games!

Every week, Richard Clark and Ben Bartlett sit back and discuss the posts of the previous week on Christ and Pop Culture, acknowledge and respond to the big issues in popular culture, and give a sneak peak at the week ahead. We love feedback! If you’d like to respond you can comment on the website, send an email to christandpopculture@gmail.com, or go to our contact page. We would love to respond to feedback on the show, so do it now! Subscribe to us in iTunes by clicking here. While you’re at it, review us in iTunes! We’ll love you forever!

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  • peter bartlett

    woooo science fiction. It is my favorite genre and I thought you guys did a great job with it.

    I believe that you can “do” anything in fantasy that you can in science fiction. An author can choose to have similar plot mechanisms in fantasy(through magic) as science fiction(through technology).
    That being said, I would argue that science fiction is much more gritty, philosophical, and introspective than fantasy.
    Fantasy tends towards more artistic writing, and deals with themes like courage, honor, nobility, leadership etc more so than science fiction. Just my experience with the two.

    I think you are dead on when you say that the root of science fiction is humanism. Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov, who are generally considered the three fathers of modern science fiction(which is basically all science fiction) all had very humanistic worldviews and reflected that in their writing. Asimov in particular made that a theme of his books. In the foudation series(actually only read the first on so far) religion is used as a tool of the protagonist to control the masses. This is where science fiction is coming from.

    I do believe it is evolving to be a more complete genre, dealing with a lot of philosophical topics. Later in the Ender’s Game series is a book called Xenocide, where the main plot is deciding whether or not to eradicate a virus that threatens human life on one planet, but in doing so would also destroy a sentient species.

    Finally, my favorite sci fi book, possibly my favorite book of all time(never sat down to make a comprehensive list) is also from the Ender’s Game series, and is called Speaker for the Dead. An absolutely beautiful book that explores how we remember people, how we decide what they were all about, and how do we tell others about them. There is also a cool story in that book of scientist who is interacting with an alien race who they know very little about. I would argue that there is a lot to learn from that about how to understand and love people who are different from us. For example missionaries who are trying to learn about new people groups with strange customs.

    Ok, I am done. But yeah, go read sci fi.

  • Top 5 Sci-Fi Books
    1) Cat’s Cradle – This is really one of my favourite books period and tied for my favourite Kurt Vonnegut book (with Mother Night, which is not sci-fi at all). It’s pre-, mid-, and post-apocalyptic and is absolutely fraught with detached cynicism RE the world we’ve inheritied.

    If you’d like to check out some of Vonnegut’s great short fiction sci-fi, here’s a couple I found available gratis courtesy or the InterThing:
    Harrison Bergeron (1961)
    Euphio Question (1951)

    2) Frankenstein – I’ve always maintained that the best sci-fi demolishes the human pursuit by elucidating the human pursuit. Frankenstein was one of the early novels of the modern era to do so, taking man’s quest for immortality via scientific acumen to its conclusion. Apart from sci-fi fantasy adventures (a la Buck Rogers and John Carter), sci-fi has almost always given us a pessimistic look at the world we would inherit. Even Jules Verne and H.G. Wells made dire predictions (cf. Wells’ Time Machine). C.S. Lewis’ short fiction is no different in this regard.

    3) Y: The Last Man – Collected in ten volumes, Y tells the story of the only creature with a Y-chromosome to survive a worldwide plague. And it’s no chauvanistic fantasy either. It is utterly humanistic in that it demonstrates that whether male or female, we are prone to ruin the world. It also goes a long way toward dispelling numerous sexist tropes by playing with those very tropes. One of the best, most heartfelt studies of the human condition I’ve ever read. If given the opportunity, it’s one of a handful of comics I use to introduce people to the medium.

    4) Neuromancer – William Gibson created cyberspace. He created cyberpunk. He pioneered a whole sci-fi experience. And so much of that is now real. Neuromancer was the real deal way back way. It’s been about fifteen years since I read and twenty-five since I played the computer game version on my Commodore 64, but it sits fondly in my memory.

    5) Cloud Atlas – Mitchell’s vision of a corpocratic future (and its aftermath) is so indellible that I hope he’ll craft more tales in similar veins. He sees man as man is. It’s yucky and beautiful and there’s little hope there. But there’s still a little.

    Sidenote: While I adored Ender’s Game for it’s first two thirds, my level of interest waned so heavily after he leaves school that what could have been an awesome book for me merely becomes pretty cool. I realize he had to in order to finish off the story, but I was bored once his supporting cast was largely departed.

    Top 5 Sci-Fi Videogames
    1) Darwinia – Even the self-contained demo is cool. Play this. Some guy has created an artificial world but a malicious virus is corrupting his peaceloving Darwinians. It’s up to to run programs to fix it all. As far as real-time stragey games go, easily one of my favourites.

    2) The entire Half-Life series – That includes Half-Life, Half-Life: Opposing Force, Half-Life: Blue Shift, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, and Half-Life 2: Episode Two (and possibly Portal, since its all in the same universe and may lead into some crossover in Ep. Three). The series is a thoroughly realised exploration of the fallibility of science coupled with the hope that humanity may have the ability to overcome its penchant for self destruction (IF you’re good enough with a crowbar).

    3) Fallout 3 – Perfect execution of post-apocalyptic wasteland. If only Bethesda could take the best stuff from F3 and Morrowind to create the next Elder Scrolls series (to make up for Oblivion.

    4) The Longest Journey – You’re a struggling art student in a futuristic, utopian megalopolis whose tech-based society may be the flip side to a strange shamanistic alternate world. All very strange and very cool.

    5) Riven – And really all the Myst sequels, but especially Riven. I just had soooo much fun exploring the world of Riven and piecing together the story that it tells. One of my Top 20 gaming experiences. Still, I’m not certain whether it’s sci-fi or fantasy. Lot of tech, but the concept of writing worlds into existence is rather fantasy.


    5) Day of the Tentacle – LucasArts. Seriously. Why has this not been rereleased. Monkey Island? Sure, fine, whatever. But no DoT?

  • By the way. You should now have an article podcast whatehaveyou speaking to the unique tropes and human vices and virtues to which fantasy fiction plays.

    Which would of course cater to Top 5 Fantasy Books/Games/Movies and maybe for the adventurous, Top 5 Fantasy Poems/Musical Pieces/Sculptures. You could do an article or cast involving each of your contributors and their medium of specialty.

    Ben could do a Top 5 Fantasy Political Ideologies.

  • And as long as no one’s responding to comments these days, I might as well throw a few more in:

    1) Rich, I don’t know if you saw, but I asked about Cyndere’s Midnight. Any thoughts? Worth the time? Better than Auralia? Worse?

    2) What happened to CAPC recommends? Wasn’t that supposed to be every Saturday? Didn’t it only show up once? What up with that?