Volume 3, Issue 1

Summer 2021 — The Bible & Speculative Fiction


Shayna Sheinfeld, “The Old Gods Are Fighting Back: Mono- and Polytheistic Tensions in Battlestar Galactica and Jewish Biblical Interpretation,” 1–19

KEYWORDS: Battlestar Galactica; Abraham; Gaius Baltar; Monotheism; Polytheism; Second Temple; Rabbinics; Judaism

Abstract

The representations of religious tension between the polytheistic humans and the monotheistic Cylons in the Sci Fi (now Syfy) channel’s hit series Battlestar Galactica (2003–2009) is nowhere more evident than in the human “convert” to monotheism, Gaius Baltar, who struggles to proselytize his minority beliefs to other humans. Ancient Jewish literature also highlights the patriarch Abraham’s turn from a polytheistic past to a believer and follower of the one God. This article seeks to understand Baltar’s belief and actions in light of Abraham’s shift from polytheism to monotheism in ancient Jewish literature.


Rebekah Dyer, In You All Things”: Biblical Influences on Story, Gameplay, and Aesthetics in Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn,” 20–43.

KEYWORDS: Biblical reception; Video games; Horizon Zero Dawn; Guerrilla Games; Science fiction; Apocalyptic; Post- apocalyptic; Artificial intelligence (AI); Biblical imagery; Creation and re-creation; Genesis; Exodus; David and Goliath; Jesus; Revelation; Biblical plagues; Environmental ethics; Religion in video games; Storytelling in video games; Gameplay; Mythology; Myth-making

Abstract

This article considers several instances of biblical reception in the science-fiction role-playing game Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony, 2017). The game’s characterisation of technology, science, and religion has led some commentators to understand Horizon Zero Dawn as presenting a firm rejection of religious narratives in favour of scientific perspectives. However, closer examination of the game’s biblical influences reveals that Horizon Zero Dawn employs religious ideas of the past and present to articulate its vision of a post apocalyptic future. The integration of biblical material into the story, aesthetics, and gameplay of Horizon Zero Dawn provides multi-layered interactions with specific characters, images, and ideas from the Bible. The game engages with the narrative of David and Goliath, the plague imagery of the Exodus narrative, and New Testament apocalyptic imagery in order to tell a story of ecological collapse, global apocalypse, and technological re- creation. Investigation of its biblical influences demonstrates that Horizon Zero Dawn embraces religious narratives insofar as they may be integrated into the game’s discussion of human responsibility, environmental sustainability, and the existential concerns of its post-apocalyptic scenario.


Aaron Ricker, “Call it Science: Biblical Studies, Science Fiction, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” 44–73.

KEYWORDS: Science; Science Fiction; Apocalyptic; Popular Culture; Miracles; Wonder; Marvel Cinematic Universe

Abstract

In the virtual world elaborated in Marvel’s movies (the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” or MCU), “science” is creatively, strategically confused with “magic” and/or “religion.” Key supernatural/magical elements of the franchise’s comic-book source material are “retconned” (retroactively granted new narrative coherence and continuity) as advanced scientific marvels. I argue in the first section that a biblical studies perspective can shed valuable light on this contemporary sci-fi phenomenon, by highlighting the ideologically interested and culturally contingent character of “religious” phenomena like canons and marvels. The perspective thus provided can help elucidate the contexts and consequences of the MCU decision to retcon magical and religious cultural materials as scientific wonders. In the second section, I argue further that such reflection on science fiction and the MCU offers valuable perspective to biblical studies in return by opening new research avenues into the human and historical meaning of certain biblical traditions, in this case by recalling the sense of technology shock that must have sometimes accompanied ancient developments like the widespread use of war horses or the mass production of books—world-changing developments that modern biblical critics are not culturally primed to perceive and investigate as technological marvels.


Nicole L. Tilford, “The Women of Noah in Early Twentieth-Century Science Fiction,” 74–94.

KEYWORDS: Noah; Woman; Science fiction

Abstract

Modern science fiction writers often draw upon the biblical flood story as inspiration for their own narratives. It is not uncommon to find humans fleeing on space arks to escape some cosmic disaster. In the process of adapting the biblical narrative to contemporary circumstances, these writers also frequently transform the unnamed female characters in the biblical story. Noah’s wife, Noah’s daughters-in-law, and the daughters of men become dynamic characters that actively shape the narrative and are vital to the survival of the human race. This article examines the character type of the “Noahic woman” as it appears in three early twentieth century science fiction narratives. 


Lois Wilson, “Suspicion Is More Likely To Keep You Alive Than Trust:” Affective Relationships with the Bible in Octavia Butler’s Parables,” 95–121.

KEYWORDS: Octavia E. Butler; Alicia Suskin Ostriker; Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; biblical hermeneutics; feminist re-vision; Parable of the SowerParable of the Talents.

Abstract

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents provide readers with often radical re- visions and critiques of biblical texts. This article asks how the principal characters’ affective engagements with Scripture vary, and considers the extent to which fiction may “play” with the Bible, despite its authoritative distance. It employs Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s approaches from her 1993 monograph Feminist Revision and the Bible: a hermeneutics of suspicion, a hermeneutics of desire, and a hermeneutics of indeterminacy. Aligning these modes with the affect theory of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, this research finds that the position of a character’s ego (paranoiac versus depressive) affects how they may approach the “lost object” of religious authority. The more the reader is awakened to these different positions, the more they may eventually become comfortable with indeterminacy. Such freedom from a sense of the monologic permits creative engagement with the Bible that reflects recent aims of feminist and womanist theologies.