Science Fiction and Faith

Joseph Otterstrom, Northeastern State U
“Limitation of the Finite Mind: Why SF still embraces Faith”

family watched Battlestar Galactica all the way through
daughter watched end where Pres. Adama lives out life in peace and said, “I don’t get it.”

This is a problem within sff and comm
Many times our sff shows delve into faith (irrational/illogical thought) and we lose our audiences.
But it’s a continual pattern.

Eureka… most serialized of dramas.
Christmas episode ends with maybe there is a santa claus

B5 Sheridan coming back to life…

Clear example and interesting twist on these tropes
Xfiles
Lost
Battlestar Galactica

Look at it through Campbell’s functional def of mythology

Battlestar Galactica polytheistic v monotheistic religion is subdued to faith

Irrational/unknowable but can still experience

The Alien Messiah … creature/character/person suddenly comes forth and saves us all
Starman, Luke Skywalker, Terminator movies
This awakens the sense of awe and reminds us that the impossible is possible.

Not the messianic figure found in each…
How we as an audience connect to the opposite of the messianic figure. The person who undergoes the journey of faith.

Not just AI, but Artificial conscious
Further validation of moral argument

Current state of AI and AC
Intro to AC depictions
Context: conversation on science and spirituality
Models (deptictions in science, sf and theo)
Examples of AC in sotries/movies
3 laws of robotics
intro to moral argument (Lewis)

Kurzweil 2006 The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
Chappie, human consciousness downloaded into robot
Our Final Invention: AI and the End of the Human Era, Barrat 2015
Musk and Hawking–dangerous
“Robots Can’t Dance” Carstensen
“Why SF helps engineering”

From ORU, 2015

Tolkien and Sanderson

Sarah Garelik, Univ of South Dakota
Meta-fantasy at Play: Tolkien’s ‘Secondary World’ and Sanderson’s Fantasy-Religion in Steelheart

Critics began to see the value of examining cultural assumptions through fiction…

In fantasy “man becomes a sub-creator” Tolkien
Invention of adjective… incantation…
(really long quote—hundreds of words)
rare that lit crit is so eloquent

sff authors are creators of new worlds and we are creators of texts when we read them (typical reader-response theory)

must be a basis for understanding
truths that transfer over may be ideas (gender, class) or simple concepts (food, horse)

Sanderson posits additional layer
Additional world beyond the created world. World in periphery of audience’s perception.
Magic alchemy and religion of survivors (hero of ages is another level)

Steelheart heroes against the epics (villain superheros)
Has one weakness
David as child saw Steelheart wounded in bank robbery.
Theme = power corrupts
Calamity = random red ball giving random powers to random people
Epics had lack of conscience. Why did they kill? Because amazing power twisted?


since 1939 even idea of fantastic has become commonplace
explosion of popularity of sff
more and more accustomed to their tropes
readers are seeking escape from those conventions


You catastrophe in Steelheart = Epics and humans can co-exist.
Power shared is freed of corrupting influence.

Increasing interest by popular culture in sff

from ORU, 2015

Female Cyborg

Nicole Atkings
Uni of Saskatchewan, ug in honors English
Living Dolls: Explicating the Female Cyborg

Focusing on cyberpunk fiction, not technically 1980s.

female characters in servitude
ship who sang = pilot, navigation, housekeeping, learn to sing to entertain

Wind-up Girl “the scientists gave her … doglike urge to obey” (Bacigalupi)
“her body performs just as it was designed” (Bacigalupi)
domestication of female sexuality

“woman as machine… already … some deformity… “ (Donawerth)
“crabbed claws… clubbed feet” (McCaffrey)

literalizing union of rational man and feminine machine—Donawerth

“Delphi… machinery of men’s desires” (Donawerth)
Tiptree breaks the fourth wall. Delphi’s experience with her own.

stereotype of women obsessed with romantic love
“The Real Girl”
longing is primarily focused on proper romantic love (Lewitt)

The Matrix
Oracle does not tell her she is the one.
Her role is to fall in love with the one.
Can’t even discover the one.


limitless options
but “cyberpunk is fairly intractable as far as the rep of gender relations is concerned” (Cadora)

From ORU, 2015

Slonczewski’s Religion

Andrew Lang, ORU
A Door into Progressive Theology: Creative and Destructive Expressions of Faith in Joan Slonczewski’s The Highest Frontier

Slonczewski =
Evolutionary biologist, Quaker, feminist, hard science fiction author

2-time Campbell Award Winner
A Door Into Ocean 1987
Advanced race on water world. Moon around alien planet. Genetically engineered planet and themselves, so all female.
The Highest Frontier 2012
I reviewed and she prompted me with questions.

On her blog:
“argues the cold equations:
No energy source on Earth, even wind or solar, will save our planet. In the long run, no power source is sustainable…
Democracy as we know it is finished… We’ll be tossing a coin—perhaps the only thing left a coin is good for. … we send our children to die. … planet that’s dying is their future. …“The Cold Equations,” with a twist—spaceship Earth is in the hands of [a] girl.”

She challenged us to reverse the roles… a female pilot and a male stowaway.

Not much talk about religion aspects.

That is the question she asked me to look at when she asked me to review it.
The religion is very stereotypical.
Centrist: politically conservative, literalists… First Firmament Church
p. 16 “Your last day on Earth, before heading up to college at the firmament.” Firmament, the Centrist word for hollow…”

Unity: politically liberal, theologically liberal (First Church Reconciled)
“brilliant ball of light drew attention to the podium. There stood a priest… Roman-Anglican Church. ‘Chaplain Clarence Flynn’- Father Clare.” P. 82 (This is the character I think is related to the author. She sees herself as Father Clare.)

“God the Father and Mother… bless the undertakings of all us humans here in orbit around our precious Earth… creatures of time. We begin at our beginning and place ourselves in Your loving care unto the end.” P. 83

president… even better than his spouse, the chaplain. p. 84

Notes from ORU 2015

Dustbowl Redux

Jeffrey Lamp, ORU
The Dustbowl Redux: An Ecotheological Reading of “Interstellar”

2014 film Interstellar
epic adventure, focuses on mission to save humanity from ecological disaster by traveling through a wormhole to find a new world for humanity
plausibility of film, father-daughter, and other discussions

ecological crisis
compare movie to Bible descriptions of Israel’s land abuse

what the movie portrays is a lesson not learned
read ecotheologically, it’s a prophetic call
what constitutes home for human beings?
What does it mean to dwell in a different place? Relationship of humanity to Earth.

Film begins: interviews, elderly woman who talks about father, “My dad was a farmer, like everyone else. Of course he didn’t start out that way.”
Shown with documentary interviews from an actual dustbowl set of interviews
Anthropomorphically caused ecology

Something so cataclysmic has happened on Earth that scientific advancements have been re-written in history.

Notes from 2015 ORU.

Progressive Theology: Highest Frontier

Andrew Lang, ORU
A Door into Progressive Theology: Creative and Destructive Expressions of Faith in Joan Slonczewski’s The Highest Frontier

Slonczewski =
Evolutionary biologist, Quaker, feminist, hard science fiction author

2-time Campbell Award Winner
A Door Into Ocean 1987
Advanced race on water world. Moon around alien planet. Genetically engineered planet and themselves, so all female.
The Highest Frontier 2012
I reviewed and she prompted me with questions.

What it’s really about?
On her blog:
“argues the cold equations:
No energy source on Earth, even wind or solar, will save our planet. In the long run, no power source is sustainable…
Democracy as we know it is finished… We’ll be tossing a coin—perhaps the only thing left a coin is good for. … we send our children to die. … planet that’s dying is their future. …“The Cold Equations,” with a twist—spaceship Earth is in the hands of [a] girl.”

She challenged us to reverse the roles… a female pilot and a male stowaway.

Not much talk about religion aspects.
That is the question she asked me to look at when she asked me to review it.
The religion is very stereotypic.
Centrist: politically conservative, literalists… First Firmament Church
p. 16 “Your last day on Earth, before heading up to college at the firmament.” Firmament, the Centrist word for hollow…”
“A Church with its spire pointed down… Leviticus 18:23” p. 52 (which means not to have sex with a beast. “It is confusion.”)

“science deniers are appropriating more—they are starting to deny physics as well as biology.”

A door into author’s faith?
Sees herself for force for religious good.

Jenny talks to Father Clare. How can you stand to be a Christian? I can’t not be a Christian. (author fits in with scientists, until they realize she is a Christian)
But look at all people do in the name of Christ….Leading our planet to death.
“that’s what most preaching is… WE preserve the word of God by scribbling prayers over something infinitely more valuable. It’s up to you to find the original. P. 205-206

Notes from ORU 2015

Ender’s Game: Love, Goodness

Speaker: Brent Gibson, U of Mary Hardin-Baylor (since 1999)
“Goodness, Innocence, and Love in Ender’s Game”

best authors know each story has a message of its own.
Some authors want to tell and interpret their story.
Problem when interpreter is not as strong as storytelling.
Places in text where author loses control of the text = misspeaking

Card’s interpretation problematic.
Ender Wiggin as a good person who loves his enemies.
Ender = Christ-figure
BUT Ender is not good, not innocent, and does not love his enemies. Plus, he doesn’t have to save the world.
Disparity between what said about Ender and what Ender does.

Barbara Johnson critiques Billy Budd “discrepancy btw character and action”


Love = feeling? Totally disconnected from actions.

Far from Aristotle’s definition and of Christian love.

Mt. 5:44 Jesus says “love your enemies.” Giving life for enemies is highest form of love.

Empathy followed by destruction.

Is he innocent?
To be innocent is to not know.
Ender does know.
Ender doesn’t know that he is committing genocide.
Ender did know that he was being called to commit genocide. Kill or be killed, said the generals.
“The real decision is inevitable. If one of us has to be destroyed, …”
Ender’s response makes clear he is committed. “As for me, I am in favor of surviving.”

What kind of person is Ender?
How do you read all the descriptions of Ender as good?

Goodness = virtue (Aristotle)? Ender doesn’t meet this.
Goodness related to intention? Ender doesn’t meet this.

Ender’s actions Nietschian

Notes from CCTE 2016: Literature 5 Biblical Themes

CFP: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Works

[UPDATE] CFP: Biology and Manners: The Worlds of Lois McMaster Bujold. Abstracts due 8 Jan 2016.
full name / name of organization:
Dr. Una McCormack and Dr. Regina Yung Lee
contact email:
[email protected]; [email protected]
Call for Papers:

Potential contributors are invited to submit an abstract for a chapter for inclusion in a forthcoming edited volume on the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.

This volume, arising from an inter-disciplinary conference held in Cambridge in August 2014, will explore the works of Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer Lois McMaster Bujold, encompassing both her science fiction and her fantasy novels.

Abstracts are particularly welcome that address issues related to any of the following theoretical perspectives or themes related to the works of Lois McMaster Bujold:

• Disability studies in the Vorkosigan or Chalion series
• Analyses addressing Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, especially in comparison with Barrayar
• The Sharing Knife as an example of North American future studies
• American Literature or Critical Race Studies analyses of the Sharing Knife tetralogy
• Subjectivity and multiplicity through possession (e.g. The Hallowed Hunt, “Penric’s Demon,” etc.)
• Racial politics in the Sharing Knife tetralogy
• Masculinity and race in Chalion
• Reproductive politics in the Vorkosigan series
• Inter-series comparative papers
• Readings that draw connections to Dorothy L. Sayers, the Brontës, and Georgette Heyer

Please submit 500-word abstracts for essays of a projected length of 5000 words by 8 Jan 2016. Abstracts should be submitted to the editors, Dr Una McCormack and Dr Regina Yung Lee.

Emails should be entitled Biology and Manners: Abstract, and should contain the following information:
a) Author, affiliation, title of abstract, body of abstract
b) A cv of no more than 2 pages.

Contacts:
Dr Una McCormack
Department of English, Communication, Film and Media, Anglia Ruskin University, UK
[email protected]

Dr Regina Yung Lee
Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Washington
[email protected]

CFP: Teaching Graphic Novels?

Teaching Graphic Novels in English and Literature Courses
full name / name of organization:
Dr. Alissa Burger
contact email:
[email protected]
In the last couple of decades, comics and graphic novels have made their way into a wide variety of classrooms, from science to the humanities. As Robert G. Weiner and Carrye Kay Syma argue in ‘Graphic Novels and Comics in the Classroom: Essays on the Educational Power of Sequential Art,’ “It is no longer a question of whether sequential art should be used in educational settings, but rather how to use it and for what purpose” (1).

This collection aims to highlight the diverse ways comics and graphic novels are used in English and literature classrooms, whether to develop critical thinking or writing skills, paired with a more traditional text, or as literature in their own right. From fictional stories to non-fiction works such as biography/memoir, history, or critical textbooks (such as Elizabeth Losh, Jonathan Alexander, Kevin Cannon, and Xander Cannon’s ‘Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing’), graphic narratives provide students a new way to look at the course material and the world around them. Graphic novels have been widely and successfully incorporated into composition and creative writing classes, introductory literature surveys, and upper-level literature seminars, and present unique opportunities for engaging students’ multiple literacies and critical thinking skills, as well as providing a way to connect to the terminology and theoretical framework of the larger disciplines of rhetoric, writing, and literature.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, using graphic narratives:
• To develop students’ visual literacy and critical thinking skills
• As a starting point for critical or creative writing and reflection
• Paired with a more traditional text to present a familiar/classic story in a new format, such as Classical Comics’ Shakespeare series or Fiona Macdonald and Penko Gelev’s graphic novel adaptation of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’
• As key standalone texts for the application of literary terminology and analysis
• To engage with varying perspectives of race, nationality, class, gender, or sexual orientation

Proposals are welcome addressing the incorporation of graphic novels in any level or type of English or literature class and should focus on a specific text or set of texts, the use of these works in the class, and the benefits to student learning.

Abstracts of proposed essays (500 words) and a brief CV should be submitted as Word attachments to Dr. Alissa Burger ([email protected]) by February 1, 2016.

I am particularly interested in this as I have taught using graphic novels and I am hoping to teach a graduate rhetoric course on the visual fall of 2017.

CFP: Comics and Pop Culture

Denver Comic Con’s Page 23 LitCon
full name / name of organization:
Denver Comic Con’s Page 23 LitCon
contact email:
[email protected]
Call for Papers, Panels, and Presentations

Page 23 LitCon
June 17-19, 2016

500-word abstracts for papers, panels, and roundtables offering a critical approach on comics and pop culture are being accepted for a scholarly conference at
DENVER COMIC CON

DENVER, CO June 17-19, 2016

Now in its fifth year, Denver Comic Con’s Page 23 LitCon seeks abstracts from all disciplinary and theoretical perspectives related to not only comics and graphic novels, but also gaming, television and film, anime, action figure studies—any pop culture topic is welcome!

We’re especially interested in:
• Presentations examining the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman
• Presentations and panels on Superstar Comic Creators of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, including guests of Denver Comic Con 2016
• Panels centered on pop culture pedagogy, aimed at current teachers at all levels
• Presentations and panels considering comics and culture, including representations of race, treatment of disability, women who changed the comics and pop culture industries of TV and movies, etc.

As Denver Comic Con attracts a wide range of guests, we will do our best to connect comics creators with scholarly presentations about their work. Editorial, interdisciplinary, and creative proposals are also welcome, along with traditional academic papers. Multimedia equipment will be available to all presenters, and we encourage and prefer visually engaging presentations. Page 23 LitCon has no registration fee and acceptance includes a three-day pass to Denver Comic Con.

Please email abstracts and a brief personal statement to [email protected] by March 1st, 2016

From UPenn.