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61. How Does Edgier Science Fiction Challenge Christian Readers? | with Kerry Nietz

Christian-made sci-fi tends toward the softer side, leaving an opening for more complex futuristic tales that engage with controversial themes.
Fantastical Truth on May 4, 2021 · 7 comments

Secular science fiction often explores darker themes such as gene-editing and consciousness-uploading. Christian-made sci-fi, however, tends to lean on the softer side, emphasizing worlds without Earth or its cultures. How might this leave an opening for more complex futuristic tales that dare to engage with controversial themes? Novelist Kerry Nietz, who is no stranger to bold sci-fi themes, joins us to discuss how edgier science fiction can challenge Christian readers.

Kerry NietzIntroducing Kerry Nietz

Kerry Nietz is an award-winning science fiction author. He has over a half dozen speculative novels in print, along with a novella, a couple short stories, and a non-fiction book, FoxTales.

Kerry’s novel A Star Curiously Singing won the Readers Favorite Gold Medal Award for Christian Science Fiction and is notable for its dystopian, cyberpunk vibe in a world under sharia law. It  is often mentioned on “Best of” lists.

Among his writings, Kerry’s most talked about is the genre-bending Amish Vampires in Space. AViS was mentioned on the Tonight Show and in the Washington Post, Library Journal, and Publishers WeeklyNewsweek called it “a welcome departure from the typical Amish fare.”

Kerry is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits, first as one of the principal developers for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates’s minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff.

Concession stand

  • This topic opens many others, like definitions of sci-fi, male/female readers
  • Yes, we emphasize a certain sci-fi here. But we enjoy all fantastical stories.
  • “Edgy” doesn’t mean sex, violence, cusswords. We mean edgier ideas.

1. What edgier themes tend to appear in Kerry Nietz’s sci-fi stories?

  • Such as: explicitly religious groups in futuristic worlds, creatures, oppression
  • Stephen can say some about how this differs even from “liter” Christian sci-fi
  • Stephen: mention his intro to The DarkTrench Saga and early nervousness!

Amish Werewolves of Space, Kerry Nietz2. How do these compare with the edgier themes explored in other sci-fi?

From Kerry Nietz’s article for Lorehaven, “Finding Truth in Science Fiction“:

As a Christian, I find science fiction the perfect medium to explore greater truths. It gives us a chance to speculate about God’s creation and explore its purpose. Sci-fi also provides an excellent way to shine light on cultural trends by extrapolating them to their potentially dangerous ends.

Unfortunately, a fair share of science fiction today is written from humanistic and in some cases anti-Christian perspectives. But Christian writers like me hope to change this by crafting stories of exceptional quality and timeless truth.

  • Example: Star Wars is fantasy in space; Star Trek is more traditional sci-fi.
  • Edgier sci-fi explores, say, eugenics, cloning, humanism, AI, mad science.
  • Sci-fi with Earth may have aliens but focus on very human issues by name.

3. Do most Christian fantasy fans prefer, well, fantasy over edgier sci-fi?

  • Depends on the type of sci-fi: is is “softer” (more like fantasy) or harder?
  • If so, how does this leave us better or less prepared to engage our world?
  • If so, how could Christian fans (including authors) help to share these stories?

Fantastic fans

Amy K. wrote to us after listening to episode 60, “Why Don’t Real Researchers Heed Sci-Fi Warnings Against Mad Science?

I really enjoyed this podcast. So needed today. Plus, entertaining, insightful, and full of wonderful references.

The only ones you missed mentioning (or didn’t wish to) that I could think of, was the movie “Cherry 2000” and an episode of Star Trek Voyager.
Cherry 2000 is movie about a sex bot sci fi adventure where the main character tries to reclaim his favorite sex bot after it’s recalled, and finds he’s actually in love with the pilot who helps him (played by Melanie Griffith).

Plus, the episode of Star Trek Voyager where a young Vulcan struggles with his Pon Farr and tries to mate with B’elanna. When she rejects him, the doctor (hologram) tries to create for him a mate in the holodeck. He fools the doctor into thinking it worked, then goes down to the planet to find B’elanna to complete the Pon Farr. A very strange and interesting episode.
All of that to say, it was a wonderful episode.

I look forward to listening to more interesting topics and breakdowns. Fiction is the mirror helping to reflect our nature and learn from it.

Next on Fantastical Truth

“Hey, did you hear about the new Christian movie or book or thing that’s coming out? Let’s all shamble together to Support this thing (even if it’s not very good). That way, we can Send a Message to our churches, or our unsaved friends, or to Big Hollywood! Support. Support. Blargh …” How can Christian fans avoid this rather undead-sounding complex, even while we share the Christian-made stories we truly enjoy?

Fantastical Truth
Fantastical Truth

Lorehaven explores fantastical stories for God's glory: fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

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    In the Fantastical Truth podcast from Lorehaven, hosts E. Stephen Burnett and Zackary Russell explore fantastical stories for God's glory and apply their wonders to the real world Jesus calls us to serve.
    1. notleia says:

      One sore spot for me is that A Star Curiously Singing has unexamined white supremacist ideas as the basis of the plot, i.e. the Great Replacement and how that will bring about a dystopia should anything other than European-ish culture be in charge.

      Like, whoa bruh, the bad optics is the LEAST of the problems here.

      • Hallo again, notleia! It really doesn’t, though.

        • notleia says:

          Long time no see!
          How do you figure it doesn’t, then? That’s some pretty big oofs to handwave away.

          • Notleia, let’s be honest: casually dropping “white supremacist” these days is pure slander.

            • notleia says:

              I’m struggling right now. Should I match your dismissive and flippant tone? Should I try to respond seriously, if not for your sake, then for the sake of the audience? Is that even worth my time?

              But I take offense at that implication: slander is verbal. LIBEL is written. But I’ll take a moment to stop quoting the Sam Raimi Spiderman movie (spits) and add that it’s also not libel if it’s true.

              • No, it’s not true what you said about Kerry’s ideas. At best, it’s uncharitable. All that accusation accomplishes is to poison the well. So I’m not taking it seriously, because it’s not a serious argument.

                • notleia says:

                  I’m not claiming that Nietz is totes a white supremacist or whatever. I make no claims as to his intentions. All I’m saying is that there’s some mouse turds, intentional or unintentional, on the buffet table and I don’t like it.

                  Also he made HardCandy a tsundere when she is CLEARLY a kuudere. Tsundere are trash-tier waifus and he did HardCandy dirty.

    What say you?