Special Issue "So Say We All: Religion and Society in Science Fiction"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 August 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. James H. Thrall

Knight Distinguished Associate Professor for the Study of Religion & Culture, Knox College, 2 East South Street, Galesburg, 61401-4999 IL, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: religion and science fiction; religion and film; religion and media; religion and popular culture; theories of religion; world religions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Science fiction wanders perennially in realms traditionally considered the purview of religion, asking questions about the ordering of the universe, the nature of existence, and the proper basis for human (and non-human) relations. When the speculative force of science fiction is directed toward imagining societies shaped by distinct sets of values, often those systems of value are or could be understood to be religious. This Special Issue will explore the ways science fiction constructs social systems of meaning that are either explicitly or implicitly religious, both in recasting received religious forms, and in imagining new forms of its own. What wider social assumptions are being rehearsed when the crew on Battlestar Galactica joins in the ritualized affirmation “So say we all”? Or when any imagined community functions according to shared (or at least enforced) general principles that take on the power of religious norms? What religiously motivated processes of refinement, recalibration, or rejection might be at work in resistance to those social foundations? Our focus will be on the issues—aesthetic, ethical, spiritual, practical—raised by science fiction as it invents social frameworks for answering the religious question “How shall we live?” and its concomitant, “How shall we not live?” Articles addressing science fiction in any form, including written texts, film and television, are welcome.

Prof. Dr. James H. Thrall
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. 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

  • Science fiction
  • Speculative fiction
  • Imagined societies
  • Religious values
  • Social values
  • Ethics

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Dark of the World, Shine on Us: The Redemption of Blackness in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther
Religions 2018, 9(10), 304; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9100304
Received: 14 August 2018 / Revised: 25 September 2018 / Accepted: 7 October 2018 / Published: 8 October 2018
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Abstract
Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film Black Panther portrays the heroes of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda as godlike. They possess otherworldly sophistication by virtue of their blackness, in contrast to longstanding tendencies in mainstream film toward tokenism, stereotyping, and victimhood in
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Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film Black Panther portrays the heroes of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda as godlike. They possess otherworldly sophistication by virtue of their blackness, in contrast to longstanding tendencies in mainstream film toward tokenism, stereotyping, and victimhood in depictions of people of African descent. The superhero the Black Panther, a.k.a. King T’Challa, learns to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, even those in whose oppression he has been unwittingly complicit, such as the children of the African diaspora. As a result, the film can function as catalyst for reflection on the part of viewers in terms of how they might perceive more clearly the complexity, variety, and ambiguity represented by blackness, whether others’ or their own, and how they, too, might identify with the Other. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue So Say We All: Religion and Society in Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle Love Thy Extra-Terrestrial Neighbour: Charity and Compassion in Luc Besson’s Space Operas The Fifth Element (1997) and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
Religions 2018, 9(10), 292; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9100292
Received: 13 August 2018 / Revised: 19 September 2018 / Accepted: 20 September 2018 / Published: 27 September 2018
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Abstract
The role of romantic love in cinema–and its redeeming aspects–has been extensively explored in film studies and beyond. However, non-romantic aspects of love, especially love for the neighbour, have not yet received as much attention. This is particularly true when looking at mainstream
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The role of romantic love in cinema–and its redeeming aspects–has been extensively explored in film studies and beyond. However, non-romantic aspects of love, especially love for the neighbour, have not yet received as much attention. This is particularly true when looking at mainstream science fiction cinema. This is surprising as the interstellar outlook of many of these films and consequently the interaction with a whole range of new ‘neighbours’ raises an entirely new set of challenges. In this article, the author explores these issues with regard to Luc Besson’s science fiction spectacles The Fifth Element (1997) and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017). Both films have divided fans and critics and it is indeed easy to dismiss them as mere spectacle with little depth or message, as many reviewers have done. Yet, as this article demonstrates, beneath their shiny, colourful surface, both films make a distinct contribution to the theme of neighbourly love. What is more, Besson’s films often seem to develop a close link between more common notions of romantic love and agapic forms of love and thus offer a perspective of exploring our relationship to the alien as our neighbour. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue So Say We All: Religion and Society in Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle The Blackness of Liet-Kynes: Reading Frank Herbert’s Dune Through James Cone
Religions 2018, 9(9), 281; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9090281
Received: 1 August 2018 / Revised: 14 September 2018 / Accepted: 17 September 2018 / Published: 18 September 2018
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Abstract
Frank Herbert’s landmark science fiction novel Dune has received numerous sequels, prequels, and film treatments. Detailing the saga of humanity’s far future beyond our present solar system, the work plays successfully with religious, political, and ecological themes. This essay deals with the social/theological
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Frank Herbert’s landmark science fiction novel Dune has received numerous sequels, prequels, and film treatments. Detailing the saga of humanity’s far future beyond our present solar system, the work plays successfully with religious, political, and ecological themes. This essay deals with the social/theological implications of two figures within the story-world of Dune: Its protagonist and visible hero, Paul Atreides/Muad’Dib and the lesser figure of the “Imperial Planetologist” Dr. Kynes, also known to the Fremen as “Liet”. By reading these two figures through the theology of James Cone, we discover that the obvious hero is not a messianic figure but a demonic one. Further, it is the lesser character of Liet-Kynes who actually fulfills the messianic role in Cone’s theological system. This essay is preceded by and makes use of Jeremy Ian Kirk’s work with the film Avatar that provides similar analysis. Where Kirk’s principal concern is with the ethical considerations of Avatar, this essay will more closely bear on Cone’s dynamic of redemption and conversion, specifically his notion of dying to white identity to be reborn in blackness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue So Say We All: Religion and Society in Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle “A Fourfold Vision: Nature Religion and the Wages of Scientism in Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘Newton’s Sleep’”
Religions 2018, 9(9), 279; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9090279
Received: 13 August 2018 / Revised: 8 September 2018 / Accepted: 11 September 2018 / Published: 15 September 2018
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Abstract
Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1991 short story ‘Newton’s Sleep’ begins in a utopic society that escaped the environmental and social calamity of a near-future Earth and created an enlightened culture on a space station. The group, led by a scientific elite, pride themselves
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Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1991 short story ‘Newton’s Sleep’ begins in a utopic society that escaped the environmental and social calamity of a near-future Earth and created an enlightened culture on a space station. The group, led by a scientific elite, pride themselves on eradicating the irrational prejudices and unempirical mentality that hamstringed Earth; but chaos blossoms as the society struggles with the reappearance of religious intolerance, and becomes confused by an outbreak of mass hallucinations of the Earth they left behind. This narrative trope of the necessity of nature for the survival of humanity—physically, mentally, and spiritually—represents a new and relatively common allegory in contemporary science fiction in an era distinguished by separation from the natural world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue So Say We All: Religion and Society in Science Fiction)
Open AccessArticle Writing a Moral Code: Algorithms for Ethical Reasoning by Humans and Machines
Religions 2018, 9(8), 240; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9080240
Received: 31 July 2018 / Accepted: 7 August 2018 / Published: 9 August 2018
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Abstract
The moral and ethical challenges of living in community pertain not only to the intersection of human beings one with another, but also our interactions with our machine creations. This article explores the philosophical and theological framework for reasoning and decision-making through the
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The moral and ethical challenges of living in community pertain not only to the intersection of human beings one with another, but also our interactions with our machine creations. This article explores the philosophical and theological framework for reasoning and decision-making through the lens of science fiction, religion, and artificial intelligence (both real and imagined). In comparing the programming of autonomous machines with human ethical deliberation, we discover that both depend on a concrete ordering of priorities derived from a clearly defined value system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue So Say We All: Religion and Society in Science Fiction)
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