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Gods from Outer Space - Science Fiction as Theology

Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.


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Oct 26, 2007
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Transcendent Outsiders, Alien Gods , and Aspiring Humans: Literary Fantasy and Science Fiction as Contemporary Theological Speculation -- author Ryan Calvey mainly talked about visual-media science fiction.

After getting into more theology vs. less theology and how much science fiction involves superpowerful sentient entities, he get into his main categories. He goes into two of them, and I identify some additional ones.

Authoritarian and punitive. "The Day The Earth Stood Still" is a classic. Klaatu and Gort arrive in the Washington Mall in a flying saucer and they then play good cop bad cop with us. Their main message to us is "Behave yourselves -- or else!!!"

Friendly. RC discusses some examples in detail, like Carl Sagan's "Contact":
... the alien “Caretaker” she encounters provides her with a different, more sophisticated model for God. Contrary to her expectations of traditional religion/theology (judgment, intervention, commandments, etc), her encounter, while in surface ways similar to most human/transcendent outsider interactions, is far more in line with progressive and New Age spirituality than those we have discussed earlier.

... ‘It isn’t like that,’ he said. ‘It isn’t like the sixth grade.’ […] ‘Don’t think of us as some interstellar sheriff gunning down outlaw civilizations. Think of us more as the Office of the Galactic Census. We collect information. I know you think nobody has anything to learn from you because you’re technologically so backward. But there are other merits to a civilization’

... The emphasis in Ellie’s interaction with the Caretaker is growth, expansion, and development—humans have reached a point where they are on their own.
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is rather disjointed, with the ET's being friendly only near the end. Before that, they are more troublesome than friendly. "Starman" features a kind of virgin birth and sort of miraculous healings, and "Cocoon" also features such healings.

RC mentioned some UFO contactee accounts in this connection, and CS disdained UFO contactees as crackpots and fakers -- even though he hoped all his life that he'd find ET's as friendly and talkative as contactees' claimed contacts. He even wrote such ET's into "Contact". I'll mention some bits from contactee George Adamski.

From "Flying Saucers Have Landed" (1953), Space Brother Orthon about nuclear bombs and how destructive they are:
To this, too, he nodded his head in the affirmative, but on his face there was no trace of resentment or judgment. His expression was one of understanding, and great compassion; as one would have toward a much loved child who had erred through ignorance and lack of understanding. This feeling appeared to remain with him during the rest of my questions on this subject.
From "Inside the Spaceships" (1955), Space Sister Kalna about war and other such miseries:
It is a great pity that we must talk of such sorrowful things—and still sadder that such woe exists anywhere in the Universe. In ourselves, we of other planets are not sad people. We are very gay. We laugh a great deal.
Now to my categories.

Aloof. They interact with humanity, but they don't communicate with us very much, if at all. The black slabs in "2001: A Space Odyssey" are a classic of that. We see four of them in the movie, and they barely interact with us or do anything that tells us much about them. They are very powerful, but that's it about them.

In H.P. Lovecraft's stories, his Elder Gods also qualify. Very nightmarish, but not very involved with humanity.

UFO-abduction accounts have that quality, with the ET's acting like wildlife biologists doing catch, tag, and release. UFO surveillance of us also fits.

Apotheosis or becoming gods. Like Isaac Asimov's short story "The Last Question".

Absent or nonexistent. Humanity is at the top of the heap, or else shares that position with ET's with similar capabilities. Every more powerful entity is completely impersonal, like the force of gravity. Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, with its all-human Galaxy, fits this one.

Laer Carroll

Aerospace engineer turned writer
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Sep 13, 2012
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Los Angeles
In fantasy we classify beings more powerful than us as angels or demons depending upon whether they are nice to us or not.

In SF we classify them as aliens. Since nice aliens offer much less drama to exploit in our books we usually make the aliens not-nice. They are invaders who wage war on us or just plain old extermination. Sometimes they don't show their not-nice side right away, and appear angelic. "Beware Greeks bringing gifts."

In my Confederation Series I avoid bad aliens because they've become cliches to me. BO-O-Oring. Very advanced aliens are too wealthy and different to want to travel interstellar space to invade us. They don't want our too-hot/too-cold/too-heavy/too-light planet - with that awful OXYGEN atmosphere.

Very very very advanced aliens may or may not live inside stars, and are so advanced they can reach back in time to pinch off evolutionary trees which produce beings able to hurt stars. Hence they are labeled by humans as "star gods."

I also have friendly aliens who visit Earth who casually mention just in passing that advanced aliens already live in this Solar System: in Earth's molten core, in its ionosphere (where they appear as Northern lights). Beings like giant balloon-like sting rays float in the upper atmosphere of the gas giants.

Then there are the several-hundred ghost-like aliens who visited Earth 9000 years ago and took up residence in humans, turning their hosts into immortal shapechangers. Thus engendering my series-within-a-series Shapechanger Tales inside the Confederation Tales.

A series which includes such books as my recently published Twice-Dead Boy. And recently-started Thrice-Dead Girl who is reborn in late 1890s Texas Hill Country & becomes enamored with biplanes as a teen.


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Oct 29, 2017
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Oh, I thought this thread would be about Scientology or Mormonism.

Elizabeth George's book Write Away