Moving Toward the Center of the Singularity: A Review of Religion and Science Fiction edited by James F. McGrath
Religion and Science Fiction
James F. McGrath, editor
Comedian David Cross once joked that the word penultimate is “a little goof. […] You know, you’re off by one” (as compared to misusing the word literally as exactly opposite its definition). The problem with penultimate, actually, is in identifying it. How does someone know when they are the penultimate, the one before The One? How do we identify a work as penultimate, the minor enterprise before the major breakthrough?
Religion and Science Fiction is the penultimate. It’s John the Baptist saying, “A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.” Or, just as appropriate to its subject matter, it’s the Morpheus telling Neo, “you may have spent the last few years looking for me, but I have spent my entire life looking for you.” Religion and Science Fiction, edited by James F. McGrath, is most certainly approaching something…a point, an imminent singularity, that others will have to realize.
This is not a knock against the collection, mind you; in his Introduction to the book, McGrath notes that “the aim has been to be representative rather than comprehensive.” To borrow his metaphor of there needing to be a bridge over the gap between approaches to religion and science fiction, this volume is a preparation of the land and tilling of the soil over which such a bridge will be built, but not its blueprint.
A number of the contributions to this collection are pylon-strong, suggesting that their authors will have some role in the expansion, manifestation, and actualization promising to come. The opening chapter by Joyce Janca-Aji peers ardently through the works of French director Jean Jeunet (best know in the U.S. for Alien Resurrection) and finds James Lovelock’s Gaia theory behind them. In other hands, this realization may seem like a loose, New Age cop-out, but with Janca-Aji’s careful, probing analyses, it feels more like a natural resolution and break-through. Similarly, Alison Bright MacWilliams’s investigation of Frankenstein and The Island of Doctor Moreau—in their numerous, multimedia expressions—could have easily degraded into a binary morality debate, but she maintains the discussion by remaining steeped in the works’ historicity. (Her only false note is in equating “playing God” with the act of creation by these “mad scientists” rather than considering that emulating God could also include embodying Love, Truth, Beauty, or any other number of ninety-nine-or-more features.)Continued on the next page