Essentially, the Heaven’s Gate cult believed a science-fiction version of Revelation, replacing religious imagery with icons more often associated with science fiction. For example, beasts and the antichrist are replaced with alien races, Jesus with T.E.L.A.H., and the rapture with transport onto a spaceship. To be politically correct, it would be inappropriate to call the Heaven’s Gate belief system “science fiction,” it merely uses much of the same imagery. The ideas preached in their literature are just as much religious apocalyptic as the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of Daniel. However, they are also just as much science fiction as The War of the Worlds or A Canticle for Leibowitz. This incident provides some of the strongest evidence for science-fiction apocalypse and religious apocalypse having the same purpose in society.
It seems somewhat strange to group the two literatures by their current titles. “Religious apocalypse” has a very spiritual implication in it, while “science fiction apocalypse” seems like it might reject spirituality altogether. However, this is not the case; there are too many parallels between the two to divide them in such a manner. Instead, if they must be organized, it might be more proper to divide them all into subtypes based upon the time of their writing: ancient, past, and present, for example. Having titles that distinctly separate two things which are in fact the same is merely confusing and seemingly unnecessary.
The 1990s were a decade of apocalypticism, marked by an interesting blend of science-fiction and religion. The best-selling Left Behind series of Christian fiction novels told the story of a world after the rapture, where those remaining on earth await the judgment of God and fight the antichrist. Additionally, the Y2K scare panicked every person and business with a computer. The theoretical, mass technological failure was supposed to have ruined the world and to have been accompanied by God’s wrath, had it actually occurred. It was a time where apocalyptic omens could be found in the most natural occurrences.
Other science fiction novels deal with different themes, either in the nature of the apocalypse or in the method of revelation. Just as modern science has revealed a great deal more about the world, it has also revealed a great number of ways that the world, as it is presently known, may end. A number of different types of apocalypses have been presented in recent literature and film, including (but not limited to): alien invasion, cybernetic revolt, decline of the human race, ecological deterioration, rise of mutants, expansion of the sun, zombie apocalypse, and universal heat death. These are issues that were not distressing to early apocalyptic writers because they were beyond the scope of contemporary knowledge and concern of the time. One of the most important aspects of science fiction apocalyptic writing is the ability for authors to formulate “what if?” scenarios: possible futures that nobody has yet considered. These types of apocalypses and their aftermaths were not covered by the early writings.
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Science fiction found its popularity rising during the Great Depression with stories being published in pulp magazines like Amazing Stories. Many people looked to science fiction as an escape into a different, more pleasant world. However, the science fiction authors and audience primarily consisted of societal outcasts. These people dreamed of a utopian society where their ideas about running the world might be taken seriously. Science-fiction author Norman Spinrad describes the situation as one where “the literary world held science fiction in contempt, and the feeling was quite mutual” (Spinrad, iii). This situation is similar to that experienced by the “original” apocalyptic writers, who were writing to promote their beliefs and ideas in the face of direct opposition. It is unlikely that science fiction writers were being tortured or killed for their beliefs, but the underlying principle remains the same. Science fiction was not taken more seriously with respect to either content or artistic merit until after an apocalypse-like event had transpired: World War Two.
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Examines the context of the essay `Apocalyptic Realism: The Science Fiction of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky,' by Yvonne Howell. Summary outline; Intertextual allusions.
Science Fiction has come a long way from the days of Jules Verne
Science fiction and religious apocalyptic literature are both designed to give hope and comfort for their intended audience. However, their intended audience may be separated by differences in time, space, social caste, and/or personal anxieties. Science fiction has merely expanded on the core concepts of religious apocalypse, making them more palatable for different kinds of people. Religious apocalyptic is limited by its nature: being religious. Science fiction can appeal to people across belief systems and to people with no belief system. Both the weak and the powerful can be affected by its message. At their core, they are both literatures of hope, and should be viewed as such until the end of times.
Something is striking and strange about apocalyptic writings. Almost all of the stories seem to involve dreams and messages within them. In contrast, most science fiction literature takes place in the real world or, at least, the waking world. It is curious to think whether this was a stylistic choice or due to the time when religious apocalypses were written. The “dream apocalypse” might be stem from the fact that religious apocalyptic was not a mainstream art form. Apocalypse is strange and hard for many to deal with, but it might have been more palatable in dream form. Because science fiction is much more mainstream, it is able to write apocalyptic stories in the setting of a real world.The most important difference between science fiction and religious apocalyptic literature, as exemplified by the previous two examples, is the target audience. Religious apocalyptic is meant for the oppressed and the downtrodden, whereas science fiction can be targeted at an audience completely removed from the situation. Conversely, it may also be written for a more general audience because the subject may be a universal threat.: Both pastors and academic theologians have struggled with the place of apocalyptic language and imagery within the modern worldview. Many have dismissed apocalyptic as escapist and have alleged that it is divorced from the political and social concerns at the heart of contemporary theology and practice. Yet, contemporary critical theorists have overcome similar suspicions about science‐fiction and now embrace it as a unique vehicle for thinking about the ills and the promise of contemporary culture. This essay suggests that within contemporary critical theory one finds useful tools for reading and using apocalyptic language and imagery as a means for engaging a world threatened by sin and violence.: Both pastors and academic theologians have struggled with the place of apocalyptic language and imagery within the modern worldview. Many have dismissed apocalyptic as escapist and have alleged that it is divorced from the political and social concerns at the heart of contemporary theology and practice. Yet, contemporary critical theorists have overcome similar suspicions about science‐fiction and now embrace it as a unique vehicle for thinking about the ills and the promise of contemporary culture. This essay suggests that within contemporary critical theory one finds useful tools for reading and using apocalyptic language and imagery as a means for engaging a world threatened by sin and violence.