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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended October 27, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 25Oct00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Dallas Morning News Explores Boom in Mormon Science Fiction

DALLAS, TEXAS -- A feature article in Saturday's Dallas Morning News looks at the surprising number of Mormons who write science fiction. A website that tracks religious affiliation counts 175 Mormon science fiction writers, and many of the writers credit LDS Church theology for the strong showing. According to the article, the trend started with a BYU literature class started in the late 1970s.

"Mormons are theologically not so far removed from science fiction," said well-known LDS science fiction writer Orson Scott Card. "We literally believe that God has created sentient beings on other worlds, that there really is faster-than-light travel and that God can go hither and yon. ... In many cases, we are writing about a universe we have already thought about from childhood on."

Preston Hunder, a Dallas, Texas computer programmer, has compiled a list of 175 Mormon "Speculative Fiction" (includes fantasy as well as science fiction) writers which he has posted on his website. He says it is not surprising that so many Mormons write speculative fiction, "Mormon theology does dovetail with science fiction quite nicely. They have similar outlooks on God and the universe that other Christian churches do not." The list of writers includes Card, Tracy Hickman, Anne Perry, Zenna Henderson and Russell Asplund.

BYU Professor Marion K. Smith is credited by some writers with starting the boom in Mormon speculative fiction writers. In the late 1970s, Smith came to BYU to teach a class in science fiction writing when Card decided not to teach there. The course has been offered every year, and alumni include published authors M. Shayne Bell and Dave Wolverton, both of whom took the class in its first year.

Smith says that there are three elements of Mormon theology that are easily described in speculative fiction. First, the Mormon belief that human beings are literally God's children. Second, the Mormon belief in a pre-mortal existence and in "eternal progression," and third, the sagas of wars, lost tribes and vanished civilizations in Mormon scriptures. To Dr. Smith's reasons, Card adds a fourth, the Mormon experience of being an alien or outcast in a larger culture. "So the concept of lost civilizations, of alien races and other cultures is not foreign to us," Dr. Smith said. "And that is a backbone of science fiction, that there are people who have unusual knowledge and act upon it."

Scott R. Parkin, an LDS writer who has compiled a speculative fiction bibliography, says that this genre gives LDS writers more flexibility to express Mormon thought. "Science fiction gives you more philosophical breadth" than mainstream fiction. "Because we can work with allegory and metaphors in science fiction, we are able to reveal more of what it is we believe or hope in a direct narrative that doesn't have to be about being Mormon."


Fantastic journeys
Dallas TX Morning News 21Oct00 A2
By Kimberly Winston: Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
Mormon authors say faith informs their science fiction


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