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