An apostate instauration : religion, moral vision and humanism in modern science fiction
Since the characteristic logicality of most science fiction can overshadow its debt to Romantic, or more properly, Gothic literature, the humanistic 'science fiction of aspiration' is a rather neglected element of the genre. This study offers evidence of a distinctive, often quite fundamental current of Gothic feeling which runs through some early science fiction; and traces the changing presentation of scientific materialism and the first strains of anticlericalism in later texts. As religious writers also have used the themes and conventions of science fiction astutely in attacking 'profane' science and 'secular' morality, especially in the context of the scientific or materialistic 'utopia', their stories are of considerable interest and are also discussed in detail. A reader by turns reminded of human sinfulness and then again confronted with the imputed inadequacies which the Romantic humanist seeks to transcend may well wonder why religion and science clash so recurrently in science fiction. The provenances, contexts and discourse of the moral perspectives which are commonly encountered in this popular genre are identified and discussed. These are particulary significant in the light of the apostate quality of humanistic texts, and their teleological concerns. Several influential critiques of institutionalised religion and clerical hypocrisy are examined fully; they reveal how the central device of the factitious religion developed from its generic beginnings in Butler's first satire, Erewhon, and emerged as a distinctive feature of science fiction. From the outset, the utilization of Faustian, Promethean and Messianic protagonists in this 'science fiction of aspiration' is scrutinised. Other intertextual features, whether conceptual, structural or thematic, are also elucidated. The study concludes with an examination of the most hubristic, sublime and teleological of the many themes of contemporary science fiction: the self-transcendence of man, the ultimate fulfilment of humanistic aspiration.