Special Issue "This and Other Worlds: Religion and Science Fiction"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 October 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Laura Ammon
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy and Religion, Appalachian State University, 287 Rivers St, Boone, NC 28608, USA
Interests: colonialism; futurism; cultural history

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issues of Religions brings the study of religion to the limitless possibilities for world-making, soul-saving, god-imagining, community-forming, and human-being posed by science fiction (and broadly, “speculative” fictions). This issue welcomes papers that address issues raised in the genre, across all media, engaging questions across the religious studies spectrum, from theology to teleology to ways that Science Fictional thinking informs religious studies theorizing. As the genre of infinite possible worlds and human and superhuman becoming, SF has a unique ability to ask, examine, and suggest answers to the most profound questions and to envision transcendence beyond traditional realist literature or religious interpretations of the world.

This journal issue invites religious studies papers from any perspective that engages science fiction in any medium.

Prof. Dr. Laura Ammon
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • religion
  • science fiction
  • futurism

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Re-Defining the Villain in A Song of Ice and Fire from the Aspect of Totemism
Religions 2020, 11(7), 360; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070360 - 16 Jul 2020
Abstract
The confrontation between good and evil is one of the essential aspects of the fantasy genre. In George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF, 1996–2011), he approaches this conception from a critical point of view. Whilst [...] Read more.
The confrontation between good and evil is one of the essential aspects of the fantasy genre. In George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF, 1996–2011), he approaches this conception from a critical point of view. Whilst Martin creates deep and challenging characters in his novels, he introduces the White Walkers to the audience as almost one-dimensional, classic antagonists. It can therefore be questioned whether this contradicts his approach towards the medieval ethos. In order to answer this question, I will approach the narration from the aspect of totemism, and will use totemic signs and values for my analysis. Firstly, I will establish a relationship between totemism and the Old Gods. Conceptions such as ‘sacred totem animal’, ‘totem as an emblem’, ‘restriction of incestuous intercourse’, and ‘spirits’ will be useful for comprehending the Old Gods. Furthermore, I will try to analyze the narration with the elements of totemism. Lastly, in the light of this examination, I will try to explain what theWhite Walkers represent within the narration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue This and Other Worlds: Religion and Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle
White Womanhood and/as American Empire in Arrival and Annihilation
Religions 2020, 11(3), 130; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030130 - 16 Mar 2020
Abstract
American science fiction stories, such as U.S. historical narratives, often give central place to white, Western male subjects as noble explorers, benevolent colonizers, and border-guarding patriots. This constructed subjectivity renders colonized or cultural others as potentially threatening aliens, and it works alongside the [...] Read more.
American science fiction stories, such as U.S. historical narratives, often give central place to white, Western male subjects as noble explorers, benevolent colonizers, and border-guarding patriots. This constructed subjectivity renders colonized or cultural others as potentially threatening aliens, and it works alongside the parallel construction of white womanhood as a signifier for the territory to be possessed and protected by American empire—or as a sign of empire itself. Popular cultural narratives, whether in the world of U.S. imperialism or the speculative worlds of science fiction, may serve a religious function by helping to shape world-making: the envisioning and enacting of imagined communities. This paper argues that the world-making of American science fiction can participate in the construction and maintenance of American empire; yet, such speculative world-making may also subvert and critique imperialist ideologies. Analyzing the recent films Arrival (2016) and Annihilation (2018) through the lenses of postcolonial and feminist critique and theories of religion and popular culture, I argue that these films function as parables about human migration, diversity, and hybrid identities with ambiguous implications. Contact with the alien other can be read as bringing threat, loss, and tragedy or promise, birth, and possibility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue This and Other Worlds: Religion and Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle
Facing the Monsters: Otherness in H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and Hellboy
Religions 2020, 11(2), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020058 - 22 Jan 2020
Abstract
What happens when we imagine the unimaginable? This article compares recent films inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos with that author’s original early 20th century pulp horror stories. In Guillermo del Toro’s films Pacific Rim and Hellboy, monsters that would have [...] Read more.
What happens when we imagine the unimaginable? This article compares recent films inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos with that author’s original early 20th century pulp horror stories. In Guillermo del Toro’s films Pacific Rim and Hellboy, monsters that would have been obscured to protect Lovecraft’s readers are now fully revealed for Hollywood audiences. Using the period-appropriate theories of Rudolf Otto on the numinous and Sigmund Freud on the uncanny, that share Lovecraft’s troubled history with racist othering, I show how modern adaptations of Lovecraft’s work invert central features of the mythos in order to turn tragedies into triumphs. The genres of Science Fiction and Horror have deep commitments to the theme of otherness, but in Lovecraft’s works otherness is insurmountable. Today, Hollywood borrows the tropes of Lovecraftian horror but relies on bridging the gap between humanity and its monstrous others to reveal a higher humanity forged through difference and diversity. This suggests that otherness in modern science fiction is a means of reconciliation, a way for the monsters to be defeated rather than the source of terror as they were in Lovecraft’s stories. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue This and Other Worlds: Religion and Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle
Ted Chiang’s Asian American Amusement at Alien Arrival
Religions 2020, 11(2), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020056 - 22 Jan 2020
Abstract
In the 2016 movie Arrival, aliens with advanced technology appear on Earth in spaceships reminiscent of the black obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film presents this arrival as a serious problem to be solved, with the future of human [...] Read more.
In the 2016 movie Arrival, aliens with advanced technology appear on Earth in spaceships reminiscent of the black obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film presents this arrival as a serious problem to be solved, with the future of human life and interplanetary relationships in the balance. The short story, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, on which the film was based, takes a different, amusing route that essentially depicts an ideal vision of the era of colonialism. To articulate this reading, this article will compare Chiang’s science fiction (SF) to the genre in general and will take Isiah Lavender III’s positionality of otherhood to reveal how Chiang’s work expresses a Chinese American secular faith in a moral universe. It will analyze the narrative form in Chiang’s collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, and will use it to compare the prose and film versions of “Story of Your Life.” It will also explain how Chiang may be using a nonlinear orthography and variational principles of physics to frame multileveled humor. It utilizes theories of humor by John Morreall and analyses of Chinese American secularity by Russell Jeung and concludes that Chiang’s work reflects concerns and trends of Asian Americans’ secularized religions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue This and Other Worlds: Religion and Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle
Altar Call of Cthulhu: Religion and Millennialism in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos
Religions 2020, 11(1), 18; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010018 - 30 Dec 2019
Abstract
Religion suffuses H.P. Lovecraft’s (1890–1937) short stories—the most famous of which, “The Call of Cthulhu,” has led to a literary subculture and a shared mythos employed by Lovecraft’s successors. Despite this presence of religion in Lovecraft’s work, scholars of religion have paid relatively [...] Read more.
Religion suffuses H.P. Lovecraft’s (1890–1937) short stories—the most famous of which, “The Call of Cthulhu,” has led to a literary subculture and a shared mythos employed by Lovecraft’s successors. Despite this presence of religion in Lovecraft’s work, scholars of religion have paid relatively little attention to Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos, with a few notable exceptions. This article offers a close analysis of millennialism within Lovecraft’s thought, especially as expressed in three of his “Cthulhu mythos” stories: “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Dunwich Horror,” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” This article considers Lovecraft’s formative experiences and non-fiction writings so as to contextualize his approach and millennial outlook. Tied to his nativist views of social decline, I argue that Lovecraft expresses in his fiction a peculiar form of millennialism, “anti-millennialism,” which entails the reversal of traditional millennialism, offering no hope in a collective salvation, but rather expectation that the imminent future would bring only decline. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue This and Other Worlds: Religion and Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle
“What I’ve Seen with Your Eyes”: Relational Theology and Ways of Seeing in Blade Runner
Religions 2019, 10(11), 625; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10110625 - 12 Nov 2019
Abstract
This paper examines the theme of relational theology in the Blade Runner science fiction franchise by exploring the symbolism of eyes and sight in the films. Using the work of ecofeminist theologian Sallie McFague, we explore the contrast between the arrogant, detached eye [...] Read more.
This paper examines the theme of relational theology in the Blade Runner science fiction franchise by exploring the symbolism of eyes and sight in the films. Using the work of ecofeminist theologian Sallie McFague, we explore the contrast between the arrogant, detached eye of surveillance (what we call the “gods’ eye view”) which interprets the other-than-human world as instrumental object, and the possibility of the loving eye of awareness and attention (the “God’s eye view”) which views the other-than-human world as an equal subject with intrinsic value. How the films wrestle with what is “real” and how the other-than-human is regarded has implications for our present time as we face enormous upheavals due to climate disruption and migration and the accompanying justice issues therein. We make the case that the films are extended metaphors that provide a window on our own dystopian present which present us with choices as to how we will see the world and respond to the ecological and humanitarian crises already upon us. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue This and Other Worlds: Religion and Science Fiction)
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