SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM – SCIENCE FICTION
Following on from yesterday’s apostles of the goddess in science fiction, these are the genre’s saints of pagan catholicism
FEAST DAY SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM
ST. H.G. WELLS OF MORLOCKS & MARTIANS (FEAST DAY 21 SEPTEMBER)
My world of science fiction is still mostly Morlocks and Martians – and so is the world of science fiction in general, due to St. Wells. Just as St. J. R. R. Tolkien defined modern literary fantasy, St. H.G. Wells defined science fiction – but even more definitively. St. Wells gave science fiction its most archetypal themes and tropes, notably time travel and alien invasion (not to mention steampunk) – and he did so in just two short novels, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, which are arguably the still beating mythic heart of science fiction.
Bonus points for also giving science fiction its dark apocalypse of evolution and entropy – with humanity between the devil and deep black infinity.
ST. DOUGLAS ADAMS OF THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE (FEAST DAY – TOWEL DAY 25 MAY)
“In the beginning, the universe was created. This made a lot of people very unhappy and has widely been regarded as a bad move”.
St. Douglas Adams gave us The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a series of books (and other things) that is my latter-day Bible. (Well, one of them, anyway). After all, the Bible could well do with the same practical advice in large and friendly letters on the cover – Don’t Panic!
The Bible could also do with comic absurdity with which The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy leavens, well, Life, the Universe and Everything. (The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is of course 42). Not to mention God’s Final Message to His Creation, written in thirty-foot high letters of fire on a distant planet – “We apologize for the inconvenience”.
St. Douglas Adams played with religion throughout his works with his characteristic “devout atheism”, embodying the playful spirit of pagan catholicism.
Bonus points for the electric monk in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – a labor-saving device that believes things for you, “thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.”
ST. CHARLES STROSS (FEAST DAY – 18 OCTOBER)
St. Charles Stross is another characteristically humanistic writer of science fiction and hence prime candidate for canonization as one of my saints of pagan catholicism.
In particular, however, he earns his canonization as a follower of St. H.P. Lovecraft of the Cthulhu Mythos, updating that Mythos to twenty-first century bureaucracy. I’ve always held that religion is simply organized magic (in the same sense as organized crime) – and in St. Stross’ Laundry series, magic is simply higher mathematics, which applied in certain circumstances can open gates to other dimensions.
Bonus points for putting a dark Mythos spin on the apocalypse and rapture, if by rapture you mean something coming to suck out our souls – with increasing computational power and mathematical applications of the modern world (and of human minds) amongst other things (such as the position of our world in space), our world will inevitably be align or opened up to other dimensions (“when the stars are right” in the parlance of the Mythos). God is a hole in the heart of the world – and He’s hungry. (Omnipotent, omniscient, omnivorous). Of course, the British occult secret service plans to go down swinging – CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN and all that.
ST. ROBERT SILVERBERG (FEAST DAY – 15 JANUARY)
St. Robert Silverberg earns his canonization as a prolific writer of fantasy and science fiction – at his most prolific, writing a million words a year (holy crap!), a miracle worthy of canonization in itself.
A recurring theme in his work is of mystical transcendence, which lends itself to his canonization – as does his Majipoor mythos, a religion in which I sometimes believe, particularly its Lady of Dreams.
However, I have a soft spot for posthumous fantasy (particularly that set in heaven or hell) and it typically earns its writers canonization as saints of pagan catholicism. In this case, it is Silverberg’s To the Land of the Living, which evolved from his story “Gilgamesh in the Outback”, his contribution to the posthumous fantasy anthology series, Heroes in Hell. Everyone who has ever lived and died throughout humanity’s history – and prehistory – finds themselves reborn in the afterlife, neither hell nor heaven, but more akin to a mysterious and vague limbo. Bonus points for its hero and protagonist, none other than Gilgamesh (of the Sumerian epic), who sets out on a quest to return to the land of the living itself, mirroring the quest of his mythic epic to find eternal life.
ST. LARRY NIVEN & JERRY POURNELLE (FEAST DAY – ST. NIVEN 30 APRIL & ST. POURNELLE 7 AUGUST)
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle might well be canonized for their achievements in fantasy and science fiction. However, I tend to canonize any writer for posthumous fantasy – particularly this case when their posthumous fantasy is Dante’s Inferno, or as Norman Spinrad put it, “quite literally a cakewalk through hell”, literally updated in all its infernal glory of its nine circles of hell (and their various subdivisions), from the perspective of SF author John Carpentier (or Carpenter), who dies and finds himself in it, playing the role of Dante uncomfortably close to all its detail. Fortunately, he is somewhat familiar with Dante’s poem from studies at college, and even more fortunately has a guide to play the role of Virgil – with their quixotic quest to find a way out of hell. And perhaps preach a better gospel of salvation than any other version of Hell I’ve read. Bonus points for miracles, even in hell. (After all, they’ll need it).
SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM
ST. MICK FARREN
St. Mick Farren is canonized for his novel The Adventures of Jim Morrison in the Afterlife. Yes, that Jim Morrison. Need I say more? The title alone is enough to earn canonization – and the novel does indeed live up to the title, in which the Afterlife “is practically anything you wanted it to be…an environment out of our previous realities and fantasies”.
Bonus points for heroine Semple, one of the s€xiest female characters in science fiction – even more so as she is one half of former (and historical) evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. Bonus points also – the Beeman Cometh.