For as long as I can remember having read books, I have enjoyed science fiction. This is no surprise; my brother and I read what we saw my parents reading and what they had on the shelf, and a good portion of that was sci-fi.
Once I entered the Legionaries of Christ just before my 19th birthday, my reading habits changed considerably. Most of my reading time was dedicated to studying the spiritual life, philosophy, theology, or books considered classics of world literature. Science fiction didn’t fit this description. However, I did think back sometimes to those books I’d read in grammer school and high school. Having more intellectual and spiritual formation gave me a better vantage point to analyze those sci-fi books, and to realize that most of it either ignored God and religion completely, or took an agnostic or antagonistic attitude (especially to organized religion), and often proposed moral standards in more or less blatant conflict with Christianity.
Certainly, this was not true in all cases; there are books like “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter Miller, which portrays religion in a more sympathetic light, or Zenna Henderson’s stories about “The People” which – if memory serves – have less explicit reference to religion but involve a world-view which is compatible with theism (I haven’t read them in more than 20 years, so I may be off on the details). And, of course, there is C.S. Lewis’ “Space Trilogy”. However, the religion-friendly stories and those which contained positive, explicit references to religion in general and Christianity or Catholicism in particular were a small minority.
So, I was very pleased to discover that there are in fact Catholic authors out there who write scifi stories that include Catholicism as an important (and positive) part of the story. Thanks to a post on The Happy Catholic blog, I heard about Karina Fabian, and clicked on over to her webiste. There, I discovered the Catholic sci-fi anthologies “Infininite Space, Infinite God” volumes I and II. Volume I is available for the Kindle on Amazon.com at a very good price, so I went ahead and bought it, with some trepidation. I was afraid it might be work by enthusiastic Catholic apologist-sci-fi-writer wannabes with more good intentions than talent. Something like one of those “Hallmark Special” movies I saw on an airplane once, that had a nice message, but was so badly done that I felt embarrassed for the actors, screenwriters, and director.
I am now half-way through the book, and pleasantly surprised. Although the first story struck me at first as a bit preachy and stereotyped, that may just have been the jolt of having clearly Catholic content within the sci-fi genre. I certainly have not felt the same way about the other stories – some spiritually profound, others gripping and suspenseful – so perhaps if I were to re-read the first story I’d have a different impression. I’ll try to post a more complete review of the book when I finish.
Just from what I’ve read so far, I realize that there are skillful Catholic sci-fi authors who can write stories which incorporate elements of the faith without making that be the whole point of the story – in other words, they don’t read like someone saying, “Look, Mom! I can pretent to write sci-fi and really write a catechism!” Not that I object to catechism, or to evangelizing through sci-fi, but it should be good enough as sci-fi to stand on it’s own and be appreciated by people who don’t necessarily share the faith. Thankfully, most of “Infinite Space, Infinite God” is that good. I hope that their work gets out into the general reading public and is not limited to Catholic readers…