July 20, 2011

Aliens in Christian Fiction

A commonly-seen element in science fiction is the existence of aliens. They show up in a variety of ways and forms, from Star Trek-style aliens (different enough to be noticeably alien, but still human enough to be attractive to one of the main characters), to deceptively human-looking spies sent to scout planet Earth, to utterly inhuman monsters bent on devouring everything. It's a broad idea, and writers have basically unlimited room to work.
But how do aliens fit into Christian fiction?
First, let's make sure we're clear on what an alien actually is. I'm sure most people probably visualize a rather scrawny, huge-brained, big-eyed creature something like the little guy on the right (couldn't help myself--I thought he was kinda cute). Really, the word "alien" just means "foreign, not native, etc.". "Extra-Terrestrial" means "from outside of Earth". That's all there is to it. Neither of those terms suggest anything more by their definitions. Pretty cut and dried, right?
Yes... and no. With accounts of UFO sightings, alien abductions, events like the Roswell incident calling into question the Genesis account of creation, and even (more recently) the notion that a highly intelligent extra-terrestrial race was actually responsible for 'seeding' the beginnings of life onto our planet and kick-starting the evolutionary process, the whole alien issue can become difficult.
Difficult, yes, but thankfully not complicated. For writers and readers alike, the important thing is to know where you stand--and make sure it's on a biblical worldview.
If you don't know where you stand, or you're not sure what a biblical worldview of aliens would actually be, I advise you to read Gary Bates' book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection. Click Here to watch the author's YouTube discussion of the book, or Here to order it from Amazon. You'll come away from reading Alien Intrusion with a much better understanding of the reality behind accounts of UFO sightings and abductions, and what the Bible actually says about 'aliens'.

Really, the issue is more complicated for those who are just reading science fiction than for those who are writing it. A Christian reader trying to discern godly use of aliens and related concepts in fiction from ungodly is probably in for quite a time of it.
For writers, though, it's much more simple (especially if you just stick with the dictionary definition of 'alien'): establish a biblical worldview, keep your writing solidly within those bounds... and go for it! Whether you're creating an entirely fictional universe with creatures and characters from multiple planets, writing a civilization of intelligent beings into a far-flung corner of our own Milky Way, or bringing in visitors from a parallel dimension, you have an entire universe's worth of space to play in. There are countless ways to execute this. One of the most unique I've seen is in Tom Pittman's online novel, Lazir, in which aliens have come to Earth from an alternate dimension--a world that never suffered the Fall, as ours did--as missionaries. You can Click Here to read Lazir on Tom Pittman's website. (Be forewarned: the book needs a sequel desperately. I've been lobbying for one since I read the book, but so far no luck.)

While the alien/ET/UFO thing has grown into somewhat of a monster in our culture, it's not something we need to be afraid of as writers and readers. Sure, it can get touchy and weird in the hands of the right (or wrong) people, but if we have a godly and biblical worldview to stand on, it's a pretty simple matter with a lot of potential. Let's not treat it like a case of leprosy. Let's take it captive and use its potential for God's glory.

What are your thoughts on aliens in Christian fiction? Do you have a favorite example?


  1. MRP: "you have an entire universe's worth of space to play in. There are countless ways to execute this."

    You are not kidding.
    I try to explain this to some of my romance writer friends from ACFW and they just look at me blankly.
    You can set up stories any way you want to. You can tell a story on any subject, and like Aeasop, tell it so that some of those who are reading it can't tell that you are talking about them. And then their defenses are down and they might learn someting. ;)

    I love having things wide open like this.

  2. Good post! I thought C. S. Lewis really handled it well in his Space Trilogy; but his is really the only sci-fi I've read, besides a few H. G. Wells (by the way, War of the Worlds creeped me out when I was younger; I think it was the illustrations).

  3. I've always liked the way Stephen Lawhead handled aliens in his Dream Thief novel.
    Those books sounds excellent--thanks!

  4. And if you really aren't comfortable with aliens in sci-fi at all, don't rule the genre out--some stories, such as Firefly (I recommend caution with it on other ground) don't even have aliens.

  5. I'd love to see an essay that focuses more on aliens and redemption. How do non-humans fit with the Gospel in fiction?

  6. Losterial, there might be a discussion about that on Speculative Faith


What are your thoughts on this post? I'd love to hear your comments, questions, or ideas, even if you don't agree with me. Please be aware that I reserve the right to delete comments that are uncivil or vulgar, however.