Writing Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy

This week on Hide and Create, Joshua Essoe, Diana Rowland, Moses Siregar and Jordan Ellinger talk about creating religion.

Religion and spirituality and questioning the meaning of life are part of the most basic part of being human. It’s in our nature to think and believe. We have faith. Even if that belief is that there is nothing to have faith in. A world can be made richer, deeper and more vibrant with the inclusion of the belief systems of its inhabitants.

So how can you create one?

4 thoughts on “Writing Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy

  1. One point to make…. Writing a story which uses elements of religion(s) that people recognize will immediately allow a set of your audience to engage at a much deeper level. You’ll have their attention and won’t have to “teach” them about a new thing – they’ll be able to appreciate subtle nuances because they’re familiar with the topic. Your audience has suddenly grown without trying. The risk is – insulting someone’s religion can lead to you becoming highly unpopular (ask Salman Rushdie). Either way, using an existing religion in your stories can be a powerful tool. Just be conscious of how you tread….

  2. Thank you for the episode. Just commenting upon what Michael said, one of the useful things about making use of an existing religion, especially, a very old one…or one very old in the context of the story being told, even if religious themes are not actively pursued in the story, is that it adds depth/texture to the world being created. Abbys and monasteries, and bishops, and pilgrims off to visit shrines are the stuff of old culture. If handled well they give the world a very lived in feel. Consider classic works like Les Miserables, or The Brothers Karamazov. The Church in them while present, sometimes strongly present in their agents (the good bishop)/(Elder Zosima) mostly serve as part of the moral/philosophical backdrop of these books…they inform lives of the central cast of characters…have shaped the world the characters live and move in, but are not in themselves main actors of the story. Take out the religious backdrop of these stories and the cultures they are set in make no sense and the stories themselves fall apart.

  3. You spent some time discussing writing gods into your fiction. A modern writer that handles this very well is N.K. Jemisin in her novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. The gods are very much characters in this story, and their alien-ness and relationship with those around them is addressed through the course of the story.

Leave a Reply