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Sacred Space: The Quest for Transcendence in Science Fiction Film and Television Paperback – July 29, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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"An intriguing and entertaining look into some of the questions that science fiction raises, especially what it means to be human, and sometimes more than human....[E]ven casual Trekkies and sci-fi buffs will be engaged by Cowan's interpretations and possibilities."―Publishers Weekly

"From the 'millennial dreams' and 'apocalyptic nightmares' of alien contact to the Buddhist visions of Neo's matrix, Doug Cowan weaves a grand adventure for fans and students of religion and science fiction. If the hope for transcendence is the universal human religious question, as Cowan ably presents, then science fiction film and television are the blank screens most qualified in our media-rich culture to propel us on that journey."―Conrad Ostwalt, Professor of Religious Studies, Appalachian State University

"Cowan convincingly demonstrates that modern science-fiction films and television shows have made religious questions and answers central to the issues they raise about human identity, values, and purpose. By emphasizing the diversity of religious ideas present in these media, Cowan shows how they are as multivariant as the nature of religion itself. In so doing, he sheds light not only on what religion is, but also on what it might be."―John Lyden, Professor and Chair of Religion, Dana College, and author of Film as Religion: Myths, Morals, and Rituals

"Highly recommended. Here we learn that science fiction is more than bug-eyed aliens and saucers―and that it often reveals our quest for the sacred."―John W. Morehead, editor, www.theofantastique.com

"Cowan's in-depth exploration of the religious content of science-fiction films and television shows is a great step forward for the study of religion and popular culture. By taking fictional religions on their own terms, he uncovers complex meanings within some of science fiction's best-loved films and television shows. His discussions of the role of religion in War of the Worlds, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Stargate SG-1 are the most thorough you'll find."―Gabriel McKee, author of The Gospel According to Science Fiction

"Sacred Space is a valuable exploration of the place of God through a particular genre. It is an original contribution to an underexplored subject, and it establishes an important reference for future research on this element of life."―David H. Pereyra, Religion and the Arts

About the Author

Douglas E. Cowan (Ph.D. University of Calgary) is Professor of Religious Studies at Renison University College, University of Waterloo.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (July 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602582386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602582385
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,575,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on May 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
Science fiction has long been a useful vehicle for debating core issues in society. And it has also long been a place for the discussion of faith, spirituality, divinity, and yes, even transcendence. Transcendence, as used by Douglas E. Cowan, professor of religious studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada, emphasizes God's relation to the world. Taking an Aristotelian view of God as the prime mover--a non-material self-consciousness that is outside of the world--Cowan suggests that humanity seeks to understand and to pursue a transcendent quality and that this pursuit is often displayed in science fiction.

Although there are introductory and concluding chapters, extended discussions of War of the Worlds, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Stargate SG-1, Babylon 5, and Battlestar Galactica make up the bulk of the analysis contained in Cowan's Sacred Space. Essentially he seeks to explore some of the most germane themes in human philosophy about life, the universe, deity, creation, and meaning. Each of these science fiction dramas explore these questions through their characters and circumstances. Most of these fictional works reaffirm dominant paradigms about humanity and deity, but some question in deep and moving ways those dominant beliefs. Few add seriously to the exploration of great thinkers in human history even as they broaden public consideration of key components of the debate.

That's good as far as it goes. But there is quite a lot more in this intriguing book. Perhaps the most interesting chapter deals with the various reimaginings of the relationship between God and humanity as expressed in War of the Worlds. H.G. Wells was an avowed atheist who promulgated his beliefs in his novels.
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Douglas Cowan has produced a thoughtful look at various science fiction films and television programs. This is not a definitive look, but a detailed look at a few selected films and shows. Each movie or television program is chosen to present a different concept, and you will probably like certain chapters better than others based upon your own preferences. I especially enjoyed his chapters on Babylon 5, The War of the Worlds and Contact.

Since science fiction has always commented on present day issues, but in a way that usually doesn't feel threatening to society as a whole, this is a terrific way to look at humanity's universal quest for transcendence. This book doesn't try to be the last word on the subject, but instead to be a detailed look at the various ways the quest for transcendence is shown in popular films and shows. I think the author has chosen his subjects well, and displays quite a depth of knowledge about the specific shows and films and the ways transcendence has been approached in them.

From the usual suspects such as Data in the Star Trek: The Next Generation to perhaps less widely known characters as Delenn in Babylon 5 the author shows how these characters attempt to transcend their beginnings and how that affects them and their relationships to others. The chapter on War of the Worlds is quite fascinating because he contrasts how the original atheist author HG Wells' intentions were drastically and completely changed in the movie adaptations of the novel to fit the times they were produced: George Pal's 1950s version and Steven Spielberg's 2000 version.

If you enjoy delving deeper into a science fiction movie or show looking for other meanings, I highly recommend this book.
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By lonmow on September 5, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent book!
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Format: Paperback
Science Fiction has always been looking into the future for a better time. "Sacred Space: The Quest for Transcendence in Science Fiction Film and Television" is an analysis of modern science fiction on television and what it means to modern culture and philosophy, the hope that technology will help readers win the day in the many problems humanity faces, and the reality that some of these problems will never be done with. "Sacred Space" is a fascinating read on the ideas that go behind today's science fiction television.
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