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Infinite Space, Infinite God Paperback – August 15, 2007
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about ISIG II: While fun and imaginative, the anthology forces the reader to confront some serious issues...filled with mind-bending imagery... --New York Book Reviews
From the Author
From the Intro:
Humanity has before it two modes of development. The first involves culture, scientific research and technology.... The second mode involves what is deepest in the human being, when, transcending the world and transcending himself, man turns to the One who is Creator of all.... The scientist who is conscious of this two-fold development and takes it into account contributes to the restoration of harmony.
--Pope John Paul II
Catholic Science Fiction. Not exactly a household phrase. Some might even call it an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or military intelligence. It's a common misperception that the Church is anti-science, even archaic, and that Catholics would rather look backward than forward. Nonetheless, the Church is active in promoting science and research and, according to one survey, more science fiction writers are Catholic than follow any other religion.
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Many popes have been interested in science, even Pope Urban VIII, who disagreed with Galileo. Pope Pius IX established the Pontifical Academy in 1847, which consists of scientists around the world chosen for their contributions to science without regard to their particular religious beliefs--or lack thereof. Although independent of the Church, the Holy See supports its research financially, and its academicians research and publish papers on a variety of topics from theoretical mathematics to molecular biology.
For two millennia, the Church has shown its ability to adapt and change as science and society have grown, from the understanding that Scripture does not explain the scientific workings of our universe to the evolving roles of its clergy. It continues to support science while exercising its duty as Christ's earthly authority to provide moral guidance on its application....
It's certainly true that in the last millennium, western culture has seen an explosion of scientific inquiry and understanding without peer anytime else in the history of the world. Many of the centers of inquiry were in Catholic nations, and many of the scientists involved were Catholic.
It's equally true that in the last century or so, scientific discovery has often been preceded by science fiction. Jules Verne, a Catholic writer way ahead of his time, suggested space travel in 1865; we made it reality a century later. In the 1940s, Isaac Asimov postulated intelligent robots, with positronic brains and the ability to interact with people and their environment. Robot maids aren't here yet, but Kevin Ashton, vice president of ThingMagic.com, told Popular Science that they're only a decade or two away. ("Where's My Robot Maid?" Popular Science, March 2006). Meanwhile, today's children are growing up with interactive toys that teach songs, react to movement, and laugh, cry, or growl according to input. Even Star Trek's warp drive has spurred serious study by mathematicians and physicists like Chris Van Den Broeck of the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium. The Planetary Society and the Russian Babakin Space Center and Space Research Institute (IKI) are working on the first solar sail spacecraft, which started appearing in science fiction as early as the 1950s. Want to know more? Check out Science Fiction and Space Futures, edited by Eugene Emme (Univelt, 1982). It's been said that what the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve, and in no other genre do we see that as clearly as in science fiction.
Unlike many other genres, however, science fiction has often been a way to make a statement or project the outcome of a political, moral, or even technological issue. Star Trek was well known for using the future to bring up issues of the day. George Orwell's 1984 warns what would happen when people willingly give up their independence for comfort and security. Larry Nevin's books are littered with societal and ethics questions, particularly the question of where society's needs outweigh individual rights, and vice versa. Heinlein's Starship Troopers brings up serious issues on the role of the military in society. Science fiction provides an excellent forum for examining the ethical questions arising from new technologies. In fact, Rosalyne Berne of the University of Virginia and Joachim Shummer of the Technical University of Darmstadt and the University of South Carolina have suggested using science fiction to teach the societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology ("Teaching Societal and Ethical Implications of Nanotechnology to Engineering Students Through Science Fiction," Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, Vol 25, No. 6 (2005)).
Little wonder, then, that the Catholic Church has often been a player in science fiction. For one, it's an easily identifiable icon: whether you need a pro-life morality, a place receive sanctuary, or a scene of religious peace and grandeur, or (unfortunately) someone to balk against scientific progress, the Catholic Church comes to mind for many authors, regardless of religious affiliation. It's been played in every conceivable way. Ben Bova used the Catholic Church as the ideal place for the storing of bodies held in stasis for his story "In Trust" (included in Twice Seven by Ben Bova, Avon, 1998). In Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (Spectra, 2000), computer programmer Juanita Marquez studied under the Jesuits as a way of inoculating her mind against a linguistic virus that re-writes the brain. James White wrote an award-winning novelette, "Sanctuary," (Analog, December 1998), in which an Irish nun protects an alien from secular powers, including the press. Star Sapphire by Joan Fong has strong Catholic characters and deals with the sacrament of marriage and adapting to the absence of the temporal Church in a faraway world. Some are just fun, like Poul Anderson's High Crusade (I Books, 2003), in which crusaders balk an alien invasion and start an intergalactic Catholic empire; or Robert Frezza's SF comedy VMR Theory (Del Rey, 1996), which has an alien priest for the dual purposes of housing the heroes and getting in a few Notre Dame jokes. In many SF stories or novels, the Catholic religion is there in the background for contrast against secular progress, to stand as a moral compass with others of different faiths, or to cover the fullness of human experience--spiritual as well as physical. For a truly complete list of SF that deals with the Catholic Church, check out "Speculative Catholic" at idlefellows.com/speculativecatholic/2005/09/catholicism-in-science-fiction.html
Very few books deal with the Catholic Church itself and its future role, however. Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter Miller (Spectra, 1997) is, of course, unsurpassed in its depiction of the role of the Church in preserving information and wisdom in a post-nuclear world as well as fighting for the higher values of life in a world where once again, expediency and comfort become supreme. Robert Hugh Benson's 1911 novel Dawn of All (Once and Future Books, 2005) projects a future Church that has brought most Protestants back to the fold but which faces the challenge of Socialism. James Blish's Case of Conscience (Del Ray, 2000) is another classic for its depiction of the Church seeking to understand the salvation status of aliens. Lynden' Rodriguez's Drumwall (available from her geocities.com/lynden_us/) also deals with extra-terrestrial evangelization.
And now, Infinite Space, Infinite God.
The fifteen stories included here not only project Catholics living and working in the future, but depict a Church still alive and influential. They also bring up hard questions, the kind that keep catechists dreaming and theologians debating.
But after all, that's what good SF does.
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Karina Fabian's anthology "Infinite Space, Infinite God" is a collection of Christian sci-if short stories that show faith various futures in a positive light, whether the morality affects the ethical decisions technology creates or simply involves a priest or nun or religious person as a major character who isn't the generic bad guy.
I give Infinite Space, Infinite God five stars.
The answer is a resounding, YES!
Never before have I regretted the end of a story as much as I did after I finished each of the fifteen stories included in Infinite Space, Infinite God. Each story drew me in with the depth of its characters, uniqueness of its plot, and its powerful endings. I never knew what to except in the next story, but I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.
Infinite Space, Infinite God opens up with The Harvest by Lori Z. Scott. A smart choice since it is one of the most thought-provoking stories. Dr. Barry Martinez joins the Moon Project Base, living amongst a mix of humans and HuNomes--genetically altered people stemming from the Human Genome project. While HuNome #17 longs to be free of her oppressors, the Catholic Church debates whether the HuNomes have souls--making the harvesting of their organs and birthing of new HuNomes unethical. Dr. Martinez's exposure to the HuNomes he does his best to avoid leave him with some questions too. It it those questions that put him in danger and the answers which allow him to find his true calling.
Our Daily Bread by Robert and Karina Fabian finds Deacon Ray McHenry struggling to decide if he will continue his work at the Blair Mining Station or return to earth and his wife, Connie. When the supply of eucharistic hosts is lost, Deacon Ray must do everything in is power to help his congregation accept the loss of the most important symbol of the Last Supper. Attempts to secure a new supply are unsuccessful, but suddenly new hosts keep appearing. Is it a miracle? Is it the work of a good samaritan? And will Deacon Ray ever be able to leave the Blair Mining Station after the curiosity over the duplicating hosts increases the size of the congregation?
Ken Pick and Alan Loewen collaborate on an intriguing tale filled with mystery and suspense. Mask of the Ferret brings together a variety of humans and lifeforms on the Free Trader Coventry--a freight runner bound for Alorya. Its passengers include Father Eric Heidler, a human woman and her daughter, a Selkie, and a construct named Jill Noir. Unbeknownest to the Captain and her crew, someone has snuck an ancient artifact onboard Coventry and he/she/it is being tracked by an agent of the Order of St. Dismas, who is posing as a passenger. As the artifact slowly destroys the minds of the Coventry's crew and passengers, it is up to Father Eric to find a way to help all of them, including the one passenger who has put them all at risk.
In August, when I interviewed Karina during the Infinite Space, Infinite God Virtual Book Tour, I asked her why such diverse stories worked in this anthology. She sited the talented writers, their different approaches to science-fiction, and their varied science-fiction styles.
While I have to agree, I would also say that another reason Infinite Space, Infinite God is winning awards and garnering fabulous reviews, is that all the stories are about more than the Catholic Church and outer space. When broken down to their barest bones, these stories are all about people--their relationships with one another, how their beliefs affect their personal and professional relationships, and the impact that faith has on believers and non-believers alike.
I highly recommend Infinite Space, Infinite God to all my readers. You don't have to be a Catholic or a lover of science-fiction to enjoy these stories; you just have to be a living, breathing person who struggles and appreciates their place in the world.
Of course, I am being facetious here. I write Biblical cyberpunk and receive a similar reaction whenever I mention it! And, so to my review . . .
The backbone of ISIG is the editorial commentary. The Fabians introduce ISIG with a commentary on science and the Catholic church. While there are those Christian legalists who would dissect the Fabian's argument, I found it interesting, however, unnecessary to apologize for writing sci-fi, whatever one's beliefs. It is fiction, fantasy, written by authors glorifying Him with their talents. But I digress. Within the book itself, the Fabians introduce each segment of stories with thought-provoking discussion: "The Catholic Church and Humanity," ". . . Evangelism," ". . . its Servants," etc. The result is a well-organized survey of well-crafted and entertaining Catholic sci-fi.
Some of my favorite stories in ISIG:
In Karina Fabian's "Interstellar Calling," Frankie, a sixteen-year-old is tired and disillusioned with her life--and like many folks in this position, blames God. The author lulls the reader seemingly into a romance story or at best, a growing-up story. But Fabian changes gears smoothly to provide the heroine a chance at a cool life-changing event.
Every anthology needs a good spy story and in "The Mask of the Ferret" (Ken Pick and Alan Loewen) we have an intergallactic version of secret agent (priest) on the trail of a fugitive smuggler. The ancient artifact the priest seeks is dangerous cargo for the interstellar craft and its unusual group of travelers and crew. The storyline is enjoyable and the characters a real kick (sorry real fans of intergallactic-ness) though I have to say my imagination isn't developed well enough to clearly envision the disparate group assembled on board!
"A Cruel and Unusual Punishment" (Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff) is the fascinating journey of a Sein Finn soldier, slated for death row, who gains redepemption through the Zagorsky experiment. A must read!
And finally, Simon Morden's "Little Madeleine." I was eager to read a sample of Dr. Morden's work. I'd recently read his essay Sex, Death and Christian Fiction and wanted to determine for myself where his fiction fit . . . in the 10% or the ninety (you'll have to read his essay to decipher this code) of Christian fiction. Like the rest of the stories contained in ISIG, "Little Madeleine" did not disappoint. The concept of the Joans, warrior-nuns who protect God's servants, is pretty darn cool. Morden is a talented writer who sends the CBA church-lady-protective filters flying, a la Little Maddeleine herself.
The Fabians have amassed a fine group of writers in ISIG. Besides being entertaining, these stories provoke thought, educate us non-Catholics, and give the reader a new take on commonly held suppositions about the the Catholic church. Pick up a copy of Infinite Space, Infinite God and see for yourself--but careful, this is hot stuff!