Tag Archives: science fiction

Jesus in Science Fiction: The Course

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Recently, I started teaching a course that looks at the character of Jesus when he shows up in SJombsfcience Fiction.  Currently the course is only 6 weeks long and only taught at the UDLLI, the University of Dayton’s Lifelong Learning Centre for Senior Adults.  We are using the following short stories and novels in the course, and I will be placing the blogposts of the course here on Wrestling With Gods website because it’s become a great place to talk about religion and faith as it appears in science fiction and fantasy.

What happens to Biblical Jesus when the narrative is continued into the future?  Is it subverted?  Are writers appropriating Christianity to rewrite it and rob the narrative of its miracle, or do they instead seek to expand the notion of Jesus to its infinite possibility?  How does Jesus fare in science fiction and what can we learn about faith when science fiction writers write about him?  We look first at the life of Jesus in the Gospels to ground us in the ur-text, try to gather the importance of him as a character and iconic figure in history, culture and religion.  How is Jesus relevant in the future?  Then we look at how authors extrapolate the future of faith, or seek to tweak history, just a bit, to get the savior they want, and perhaps we can better see what kind of culture we are in the face of our chosen Saviour.

Come follow along with us here as we examine Jesus(es).  Already the class has been exciting as these students know a lot about religion, specifically Judaism and Christianity (UD is a Catholic institution) and many retired professors attend these classes for fun (they also can be quite mischievous).

The works we’re going to explore, and I will detail in blogposts are the ones below, and after the course is finished and the works looked at in the course, I will continue posting on the books and stories we didn’t get to.  Always I’ll have the Jesus in SciFi heading so you can follow along if you like:

The Works to Look at–and I will suggest places where you can get these works.

To get us oriented on Jesus the character in the Bible:

Jesus: the Face of God    Jay Parini9d572847c686ddac35e2ed178588231b

Then:

“The Man”     Ray Bradbury from The Illustrated Man

“Mecha-Jesus”     Derwin Mak from Wrestling With Gods

“So Loved”           Matt Hughes from Wrestling With Gods

“The Rescuer”      Arthur Porges

“The Traveler”          Richard Matheson

“The Real Thing”       Carolyn Ives Gilman

 “Let’s Go to Golgotha!”      Garry Kilworth

“The Gospel According to Gamaliel Crucis”   Michael Bishop (a longer work I may not use)

“Jesus Christ in Texas” W.E.B Dubois  (which isn’t exactly Science Fiction, but may prove useful in this study)

Then two novels:

Behold the Man, Michael Moorcock, 

Jesus on Mars   Philip Jose Farmer

 If we have time, “Farewell to the Master,” Harry Bates—Which becomes The Day the Earth Stood Still.  This would be delightful to show to students in a longer class.  To read the short story and then watch both films. Again, this isn’t QUITE Jesus, but there is a strong lean towards the character. 

I can also see adding these works to the syllabus for a longer class:

The Man Who Died         DH Lawrence

Jesus Christ, Animator   Ken MacLeod

All Star Superman       Grant Morrison

Jesus Christs                AJ Langguth

Only Begotten Daughter     James Morrow

If you have suggestions on stories, poems, or novels to add to this list, let me know. Specifically we are NOT covering characters who merely have a “savior-esque” quality to them, or those that have a martyr motif–or we’d get Neo from the Matrix, Starman, etc.  I want to look at places where characters are for all intents and purposes supposed to BE Jesus.

Researching and Writing Faith: Inspired by Tesseracts 18 Wrestling With Gods

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Tesnim Sayar is a Muslim punk. She wears both the headscarf and a mohawk and dreams of living of her own design. And like other supporters of the Muslim punk movement Taqwacore, she sees no contradiction between punk and Islam

“Tesnim Sayar is a Muslim punk. She wears both the headscarf and a mohawk and dreams of living of her own design. And like other supporters of the Muslim punk movement Taqwacore, she sees no contradiction between punk and Islam.”–PostModernismRuinedMe Tumbr.

This is fifth in a series of guestblogposts for the 18 days of Tesseracts.  Janet K. Nicolson wrote “A Cut and a Prayer” included in Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts 18.

 

by Janet K. Nicolson

I have talked in a few places about my experience writing “A Cut and a Prayer” for Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods, so I don’t want to delve into too much detail about how the story came about.

For those of you who haven’t read the story, it follows the tale of Samar, a doctoral candidate in sociology and religious studies who feels she has lost her once strong connection with Allah. She seeks futuristic medical intervention to try and tackle her depression. The story contains many references to Samar’s Islamic faith, and explores how Samar and her mother tackle their faith differently.

This August, I attended When Words Collide in Calgary for the first time, and presented on a panel about Faith in SF and Fantasy. One of the topics I discussed was the process of writing about a faith that is different from my own. How, someone asked, do you approach the research?

I want to share a few of the things I learned, so that hopefully if you, the reader, ever want to write a story about faith, you don’t feel scared about tackling the research!

Tips to researching/writing about faith:

  1. Assume everything you read is biased from one direction or another. Articles written by people of a faith will be different than articles written by someone of a different faith, someone who is a religious scholar, someone who is an atheist, etc. Also, don’t assume that bias invalidates information! Faith is a people based thing, and is necessarily a grey, complicated area where everyone has different viewpoints.
  1. Start with the Wikipedia article. I say this a bit tongue in cheek because Wikipedia can be as biased as anything, but it is also a great starting point. Wikipedia articles provide you with information about the history of a religion (from a non-faith standpoint), common cultural practices, geographic distribution, etc. It will help you root the religion in the real world.
  1. Pay particular attention to the pages about rituals, practices, if there are any. Most of the time, we base our perception of a religion on what we see on TV or in a book, because we don’t see what happens directly in a house of worship. In my instance, I knew Muslims prayed several times a day, but I didn’t know they had a religious “creed” commonly known as the 5 Pillars that they try to uphold as part of their faith.
  1. Check the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia article. Where do they go? Try and find a good combination of material, from other research articles, to interviews, to news articles. Start to branch out this way.
  1. Find an online forum for the faith and read what people are discussing. I found a great forum (the name escapes me now) for modern Muslims, and they had a thread where they were discussing the most inspirational quotes in the Qur’an. Many of the people were younger, and so after sampling quite a few conversations I had an idea of how Samar might be inspired by her religion’s teachings. Researching real people is an absolute must, especially if your protagonist is of the faith you are studying. It’s one thing to know the history of the religion; it’s another to know how people currently engage with it.
  1. Do a Google Image search! You can learn a lot about how people of a given faith dress/look in North America and around the world. You might be surprised by the variety of what you see.
  1. Read people’s opposing arguments to items of faith, whether they are from that religion or not. It’s important to understand the social environment around a faith, so you can either write an accurate present or extrapolate into the future. For example, I researched anti-Muslim bias in the USA, as well as modern Muslim discussions of Qur’an interpretations while working on my story. This helped me understand the world, and the racism, that Samar might live in.
  1. Talk to someone of that faith. In my case, I was lucky because I had previously taught three Muslim students (all women) who in the context of the class had discussed their faith and/or their lifestyles. They were all very different in attitude and dress (as we should expect of any 3 human beings, realistically), and so helped me understand Samar from various angles. If you don’t have this kind of opportunity, contact a local house of worship and ask if you can join a service. My local university does this as part of its religious studies classes and from what I’ve heard, no one has ever been turned away from any place when they’ve requested to attend and learn more. (You might learn about faith, you might also learn about new and tasty foods post-service!)
  1. Be open to understanding your own biases. We all have them. We are a social species and we develop opinions based on what we see and read. Look at your biases closely, and be aware of them so that when you write, you aren’t unconsciously writing your faith character from those prejudices.
  1. Check the spelling. Some words have different English spellings depending on how they are translated. Do your due diligence and triple check everything from multiple sources. And make sure words are spelled consistently throughout your story!

Finally, the most important point:

  1. Don’t be afraid to research or write about faith. My faith is complicated, but I’m not scared to write about faith in general because it is a fundamental and unavoidable part of the human condition. We all have faith in something, whether it is a religion or a science. Bringing faith into a story doesn’t make something a proselytizing creed. It just makes it realistic.

Happy writing!

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photo-nicolson-j-110x110Janet K. Nicolson was born in Regina and has lived in the ice and cold ever since. She currently works as a technical writer for a telecommunications firm. When she’s not watching her border collie herd her cat and husband around the house, she can be found searching the local book store for novels about Big Dumb Objects, rocking video games, or subjecting audiences to her piano compositions.

Nicholson’s work has previously appeared in On Spec Magazine, and will be appearing in two forthcoming issues.

Faith and Knowledge: How Can We Know?

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The Awakening, Autumn Skye Morrison http://www.autumnskyemorrison.com/

The Awakening, Autumn Skye Morrison

Mary-Jean Harris writes our fourth guest blogpost for the 18 days of Tesseracts.  Her Story, “The Shadow of Gods,” appears in Wrestling with Gods: Tesseracts 18.

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Questions of knowledge and faith have occupied the thoughts of philosophers since the Ancient Greeks, and still, we struggle to have a grasp of what it really is to “know” something.

In my short story, “The Shadows of Gods,” in the Tesseracts 18 anthology, Toulouse, a young man in the seventeenth century, is grappling with ideas of knowledge of higher worlds and magic. He wants to experience these for himself so he might come to truly know about God, about what lies at the foundation of our existence. He has learned about many different religions and gods, but, until the end of the story, has not experienced the truth of any of them himself. This involves an element of faith, for how is it that we can come to know something, and how, when we experience it, do we know it’s true? First, let’s think about faith (faith in a religion, or in any power beyond the physical world).

Having faith in something is to believe in it without having a logical reason, but that doesn’t mean it’s unfounded. It can be believing in something on an intuitive level that cannot be explained by reason. It is something we experience with an inner sense, and so it is not something you can point to or describe as you would describe a physical object.

Yet even without considering spiritual experiences, can we really know anything? Of course, we can doubt that our senses give us reliable information, but most people take for granted that what they experience is a real physical world. Even if they don’t have perfectly accurate perceptions of it, they still believe that these have some sort of correspondence to the world around them.

Many philosophers have debated such issues. In particular, Descartes concluded that the only thing we know that exists is our mind, which is, in essence, a thinking thing. Everything else that we can perceive, from our own body to the planet Pluto, can be doubted. In his Meditations of First Philosophy he said, “Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses. But occasionally I have found that they have deceived me, and it is unwise to trust completely those who have deceived us even once.” So if we submit to this standard of knowledge, that knowledge must be from something which we can never be deceived about, how can we know anything?

Read the rest of this entry

Why I Wrestle With Gods

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Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling With the Angel, 1865

Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling With the Angel, 1865

This is the second blogpost in our 18 Days of Tesseracts and though I frequently contribute here, this one is a more personal blogpost about why the wrestling is important.  I was one of the co-editors of Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts 18.

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Liana and I are asked quite frequently why we chose the topic of “Wrestling with Gods”–who came up with the topic, why the wrestling, etc?  I think we both had an interest in religion and speculative fiction.  But when we sat down together–thousands of miles away—on the phone, we decided that we didn’t want stories of the true believers or the die-hard skeptics.  They had their ideas about religion figured out.  They would both, in some ways, be evangelical—one preaching about the saving power of Jesus Christ or God or Krishna or Buddha–and the other preaching about how deluded we all were.  No, what intrigued us were the people in the middle: the large struggling subset of believers who had doubts and questions but who still had faith.  That’s where the tension was.  Tension makes better stories and better characters.  Assured characters who had no fear and who had a God that would get them out of any situation would make for boring stories.  But characters who faced difficulties, even huge questions to their beliefs, and struggled onward–they sounded interesting.  They sounded like us.

I don’t know why Liana loved this as much as I did–I will let her tell her story to you.

But I can tell you why I wrestle with gods.

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Writing Courageously Through the Lenten Season

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abstract trees grass sacred skyscapes photomanipulations 2560x1600 wallpaper_www.wallpaperhi.com_54Writing is a Sacred tradition in many cultures.  We revere the books that come from these cultures.  It’s also a very sacrificial act, one that takes a lot of courage, honesty, and time.  I’d like to talk about writing during Lent.

Traditionally, Lent gives some 46 days to prepare for Easter, a time of preparation for Christians for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross (and the subsequent cool resurrection part).  The idea was that you were not just shocked, surprised, pleased, and quickly through Easter, but that you could think –over 46 days– about the impact this one act of self-sacrifice did for your faith.  It’s mirrored in some ways by Advent.

But whereas Advent is about preparing for joy–a baby, a baby! Lent is about preparing for death and transition.

Christians often give up something for Lent–so that whenever they crave it, they will think of what Christ gave up for them.  Chocolate and Life are not comparable; however, the idea is to be aware of the season through this sacrifice.  Call it the best mindfulness exercise the Christians have come up with yet.

That said, whether you are Christian or not, we can take the Lenten Season to think about Faith, and perhaps, write about it.  Or at least ask ourselves to write with more courage, more honesty, and more faith than we have in the past.

Writers are plagued with insecurity and negative thoughts.  Let’s put those on the altar of Lent and say, hey, no more of these.  We are afraid sometimes of writing our Truth and giving it to others.  And we often have a lack of faith in our own abilities and ideas.

Lent leads us up to celebrating Life from Death.  I don’t want to co-opt Jesus’s very big moment, but he too had a very big mission, and it got harder and harder to be honest, to be courageous and to follow through on what his mission was.

What I want to do is to ask writers to write for 46 days– science fiction, fantasy, memoir, essay, poetry–and write with more courage, more honesty and more faith than you ever have before.  I also challenge you to write a little about faith.

It’s important for us as writers to believe in ourselves and our writing, to give up negative thoughts and insecurities, preparing our hearts to more honestly talk about Life.  There is a lot of struggling that goes on in writing if we are to be honest–and struggling with being honest–and so, for 46 days, let the honesty flow.  Be yourself.  Be creative.  Be courageous. Be honest.  GIVE UP negative thoughts that question YOUR mission, and Create and GIVE something honest and courageous to the world.

FEB 2: Facebook Chat with Authors, 99 Cent Sale on Kindle edition

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T-18-Cover-270x417-100dpi-C8Hey Folks,

Wanted to let you know that on February 2 we’re going to unveil the Table of Contents for the anthology Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts 18.  On that day, on a special Facebook page, you can chat with authors and party with us as we celebrate all things Wrestling with Gods.  You can also purchase on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca the Kindle edition for 99 cents.  So if you’ve been dying to read the stories and want to get the anthology for less than a buck, come on over on FEB 2 to this special event.

Please go on over to the Facebook page and join this amazing event!  We’ll see you there on February 2nd!

It’s our little Groundhog Day fun….

Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods Cover Reveal

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T-18-Cover-270x417-100dpi-C8Happy Bodhi Day!  Tesseracts 18 has a COVER!  We’re very excited to show you the new cover for Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods, the new anthology of science fiction and fantasy from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, latest in the long running, award-winning Tesseracts anthology series.

The Tesseracts Eighteen anthology is filled with speculative offerings that give readers a chance to see faith from both the believer and the skeptic point-of-view in worlds where what you believe is a matter of life, death, and afterlife.

The work is now available as an e-book download for Amazon Kindle, exclusively, until it’s available in print in March (Canada) and April (USA) and in other e-book formats.  Keep watching for more on Tesseracts 18 in the coming weeks!  Order your Amazon Kindle e-book today–just in time for some holiday reading.

We’re incredibly proud of this anthology! We think you will be too.

Click on the cover to take you to Amazon’s Tess 18 site.

Featuring works by: Derwin Mak, Robert J. Sawyer, Tony Pi, S. L. Nickerson, Janet K. Nicolson, John Park, Mary-Jean Harris, David Clink, Mary Pletsch, Jennifer Rahn, Alyxandra Harvey, Halli Lilburn, John Bell, David Jón Fuller, Carla Richards, Matthew Hughes, J. M. Frey, Steve Stanton, Erling Friis-Baastad, James Bambury, Savithri Machiraju, Jen Laface and Andrew Czarnietzki, David Fraser, Suzanne M. McNabb, and Megan Fennell.

About the Editors for Tesseracts Eighteen:
Liana Kerzner is an award-winning TV producer & writer who was also in front of the camera as co-host of the late night show Ed & Red’s Night Party, and is currently the host/writer of Liana K’s Geek Download, heard weekly on the internationally syndicated radio program Canada’s Top 20.

Jerome Stueart has taught creative writing for 20 years, teaches a workshop called Writing Faith and has been published in Fantasy,
Geist, Joyland, Geez, Strange Horizons, Ice-Floe, Redivider, OnSpec, Tesseracts Nine, Tesseracts Eleven, Tesseracts Fourteen,
and Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead. His novel,One Nation Under Gods, will be published in Nov 2015 from ChiZine.

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For more on Bodhi Day–the Day Buddhists commemorate the Enlightenment of Buddha– see this link.