Following on from Theological Science Fiction – Starting Points (Part 1) and Theology and Science Fiction here’s the second part of the starting points for theological science fiction.
The Sparrow (1996) and The Children of God (1998) – Mary Doria Russell
In the tradition of James’s Blish’s A Case of Conscience, these two novels feature a Jesuit expedition to the first intelligent alien life discovered by humankind. It is an intelligent treatment of not just the interplay of faith and reason, but on a deeper level of theodicy and divine providence. The title of the first book refers to Matt 10:29-31 and God’s omniscience:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (NRSV)
Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke (1953)
Developed from Clarke’s short story, Guardian Angel (1946), the story depicts the peaceful invasion (or conquest) of Earth by aliens known as Overlords. They usher in an apparent utopia, but ultimately human identity and culture suffer. One of the features of the story is the appearence of these benevolent overlords, whose appearence resembles demonic figures from human cultural memory.
In 2015, the SyFy channel produced a three-part mini-series of the novel.
Also, of note is Clarke’s short story, The Nine Billion Names of God (1953), available at the link below:
The Parafaith War (1996), The Ethos Effect (2003) and Adiamante (1996) – L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Prolific author L. E. Modesitt Jr. has a number of books that pick up on religious and ethical contexts. Modessitt isn’t overly religious as noted here in one of his blog posts but sees religion forming an unavoidable part of society for better or worse (Religion and Civilization):
So, as much as I may complain or point out the notable shortcomings of religion, and organized religion in particular, it appears that healthy societies require some theological basis, at least at the current level of human ethical development. The question then becomes to what degree religion should influence government, law, and behavior. Personally, I think the Founding Fathers got it right, but I mean it in the way they wrote the Constitution, and not in the activist way in which too many true believers seem to think that freedom of religion means the freedom to compel others to behave according to their religious beliefs or the freedom to enact laws that in some fashion or another effectively institutionalize those beliefs.
The three books of his that I’d recommend are:
The Parafaith War: Set in a future where humanity has colonised space but is divided between different approaches to society and government. In the novel the protagonist, who is from the “liberal, progressive” Eco-Tech Coalition, is sent to infiltrate and subvert the expansionist, “fundamentalist” society know as the Revenants of the Prophet. As he does that he discovers the human face of the enemy.
The Ethos Effect is set in the same universe as The Parafaith War but follows the journeys of a former Taran Empire officer who is recruited by Integrated Information Systems, an organisation that seeks to ethically shape the diverse human societies. The book explores both personal ethics, as well as wider social ethics.
The final book, Adiamante, continues the ethical theme, this time building a code of social ethics that is tested in the face of ireffutable force. A mixture of reflection on various developing technologies, as well as how that might shape human societies.