Science Fiction and Catholicism
The Rise and Fall of the Robot Papacy
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Christian StudiesNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books in Science FictionNew Books Network November 8, 2019 Carrie Lynn Evans
Ah, science fiction: Aliens? Absolutely. Robots? Of course. But why are there so many priests in space? As Jim Clarke writes in Science Fiction and Catholicism: The Rise and Fall of the Robot Papacy (Gylphi, 2019), science fiction has had an obsession with Roman Catholicism for over a century. The religion is the genre’s dark twin as well as its dirty secret. In this first ever study of the relationship between Catholicism and science fiction, Jim Clarke explores the genre’s co-dependence and antagonism with the largest sect of Christianity. Tracking its origins all the way back to the pamphlet wars of the Enlightenment and speculative fiction’s Gothic origins, Clarke unveils a story of robot Popes, Jesuit missions to the stars, first contact between aliens and the Inquisition, and rewritings of the Reformation. Featuring close readings of over fifty SF texts, he examines how the genre’s greatest invention might just be the imaginary Catholicism it repeatedly and obsessively depicts, a faux Catholicism at odds with the religion’s own intriguing interest in both science and the possibility of alien life.
Jim Clarke is Senior Lecturer and Course Director of English and Journalism at Coventry University, where he lectures on Science Fiction and Fantasy literature. He is the author of The Aesthetics of Anthony Burgess, and has written extensively on JG Ballard, Doctor Who, and Iain M Banks. He is principal investigator on the “Ponying the Slovos” project, which investigates invented languages in translation.
Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.