Writing Science Fiction and Practicing Faith
I'm a science-fiction writer, but I'm also a Christian. These things do not have to be separate, as my love of science fiction is not in any way dampened by my faith in Christ. I'm sure there are a lot of you out there, people who are Christ-followers but are also in deep love with science fiction or some other genre.
However, as a Christian, I often find myself struggling with one of the tenets of my faith: "And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." - Colossians 3:17 (HCSB). I struggle with it, because like any human I want to write what I feel good about writing. I struggle against the flesh which wants to write just any old science fiction story, and even though I write a story that is by all accounts "secular", I end up subconsciously weaving in Christian themes without really trying to proselytize.
I remember Dr. Joe Hall at Oklahoma Baptist University developing a critical theory he called "Christian Irony". This was the idea that in Western literature, even if the author is not of any faith, they cannot escape Christian tropes, symbols and themes. I attended his symposium where he outlined his theory after publishing it, and found his ideas to be rather compelling.
I've written a couple of books that were intentionally trying to speak to the Christian experience, namely This Broken Earth and a novel I'd rather forget: The Transgression Box (Yeah, that title, though.). Starting with Come Apart (Yeah, I don't like that title either) I started to diverge away from blatantly Christian stories.
Being a Christian (for me, at least) is a very personal aspect of my life and it has, however, found its way into all that I say and do. I reject the political nature of American Christianity, for I feel that my faith is not political and does not belong on that stage. It is private, simple, and fulfilling. I do what I can where I am, following the golden rule: love my neighbor as I love myself, and love my God with all my heart, soul and strength. This means that I treat all people, regardless of belief, race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything, like I want to be treated. I don't find it difficult. It is, because of me trying to be a "little Christ", just how I live my life. It has been rewarding, and at the same time I have become a pariah to some whom I call "Cultural Christians" who think I should naturally worship the Elephant or whatever political party or policy they espouse.
I am, in every sense of the word, "not of this world."
I say I tried to diverge from blatantly Christian stories, but I was not successful. Like J.R.R. Tolkien who crafted his Middle Earth stories around a common mythos of Christian themes like the battle of good versus evil, the triumph of humility over pride, and the activity of grace, I didn't intend for them to be allegory. They just were. In Come Apart (Yeah, the title. I know.) I told the story of a broken man who finds redemption for his sin of forcing himself on his prom date many years ago. In my space trilogy beginning with The Terminarch Plot and ending with The Shibboleth Code, I told the story of a consummate jerk who is selfish by nature who through many adventures and hardships becomes a willing sacrifice to save what remains of the human race.
I suppose I've come full circle. Nearly 25 years ago I wrote a play for my church's youth group about a Roman soldier who was one of the men who crucified Jesus. It came from an idea I had to write a gritty and realistic depiction of a Roman soldier's view of what happened in Galilee and Jerusalem, the perspective of an unbeliever. I know there have been films made such as The Robe and others, but the novel I'm finally writing (one my mother wanted me to write for years) is a story about what it was like to be a Roman soldier, but also viewing the events of the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus from an outsider's perspective, someone who was a determined sceptic. It would be trite, I suppose to have him follow Christ in the end, but maybe he doesn't. Many don't. But it would be a way to comment on the strange cult of political nonsense that many of my fellow Christians have stumbled into from not reading their Bible.
My mission is clear. I'm going to finally write this "Roman Soldier novel" I've been talking about for years. I have studied all aspects of Roman soldier life down to the basic day-to-day activities of X Fratensis, the legion stationed in Judea at the time. I have tons of commentary, scripture translations, books on life in that time and mountains of scholarship at my disposal. It's not science fiction (even though some of you would argue that it is) but I have to get this one out of my system.
If you pray, pray that I don't give up.
How about you? Do you find your faith, if you have it, bleeding into your fiction? Write about it below!
Also, you might catch my latest podcast episode where I interview Ian Primeaux about his new book Emi. It was a lively conversation and I'm sure you can learn a lot from some of the things Ian and I talked about.