I’m a Battlestar Galactica fan. I like the original recipe version — hey, what’s wrong with cheese? — but I love the reimagined version. So as you might imagine, I and friends have spent the past few days reacting to BSG’s stunning series finale. In particular we’ve been reacting to the explanation of some of the show’s greatest mysteries as the biggest deus ex machina I’ve seen since Medea.
I’m not going to say more about BSG for fear of spoiling things for those who haven’t seen it. But I’ve been noodling something in the wake of those discussions, which is whether there’s a difference between fantasydom and SFdom on the subject of religion.
Now, let me preface further discussion of this with several big caveats.
1) Though I mostly write fantasy, I also write SF; my planned next novel is YA cyberpunk. My reading tastes are roughly equal between fantasy and SF, though I’ll admit I avoided hard SF until I started discovering some writers within that subgenre whom I liked (specifically Kay Kenyon and Brenda Cooper — yeah, I noticed they’re both women). So I’m not trying to start some kind of fantasy/SF war here. I think fantasy and SF are like chocolate and peanut butter, two great tastes that taste great together. (Or kill you, if you have a peanut allergy… huh. Maybe that analogy doesn’t work so well. Sorry, couldn’t think of anything better.)
2) And I know I’m making some big assumptions here about the science fiction audience. In the absence of harder data I’m forced to rely on surveys like this one, which uses a truly odd methodology to imply that a hefty chunk — about 30%, by my count of this page — of SF writers are atheists, humanists, agnostics, etc. If there are better surveys than this out there, I’d love to know where to find them. But going solely on this and “fannish wisdom”, I’ve always heard/understood that most of SFdom leaned atheistic.
Yet I wonder whether that applies to fantasydom as separate from SFdom. I say this because, in an extremely informal survey of the folks in my personal and online circles, I noticed a pattern: the mostly-fantasy fans/writers got angrier about the BSG finale than the mostly-SF folks. Specifically, they seemed to be more offended by the use of God as a plot-resolution tool. The mostly-SF fans/writers were a little more laissez faire about the whole thing — I definitely saw some annoyance there, but not the levels of towering fury that I glimpsed among my fellow fantasyphiles. The SF folks’ attitude seemed to be, “Yeah, that was stupid. Oh, well, at least the rest of it was cool.” Meanwhile the fantasy folks were all, “RAGE.”
I don’t have enough data here even to conjecture, let alone hypothesize… but I’m going to conjecture anyway. (My old Research Methods teacher is going to hunt me down and beat me, I just know it.) I suspect that the reason the fantasy folks were angrier is because they interpreted the show’s use of God as somehow… disrespectful. God as BFG, basically, or the nuclear option in MAD scenarios; so powerful a “problem-solver” that its use pretty much ends the story by default. Or maybe a better comparison would be the “rocks fall, everybody dies” ending in roleplaying; it absolves the creators of responsibility for resolving the plot’s mysteries in more nuanced ways, and generally suggests they just got tired of trying.*
Anyway, all this got me thinking: what’s the religious/spiritual makeup of fantasydom, versus SFdom?
I don’t have the time or money for a proper survey, and to be honest I don’t have the inclination. Got books to write. But this is the Magic District! And lo, magically, I can produce a poll!
OK, obviously this isn’t meant to be scientific. If like me you’re a little of both, then it’s your choice as to whether you consider yourself primarily a fantasy or SF fan. And I’m not excluding SF fans because I don’t like them, but because the Magic District is a gang of fantasy writers talking mostly about fantasy, plain and simple. Nor is this discussion or poll meant to be offensive to either the religious or non-religious; I’m not trying to imply that X is better than Y or anything along those lines. I’m just curious. So let’s see what we can find out, hmm?
Commenters! Please be respectful of others’ choices and backgrounds in our house. I will shut down comments if this goes pear-shaped in any way. Oh, and if you mention BSG in the comments, please be respectful of those whose DVRs failed to record, etc., and either hide or talk around spoilers.
* I’ll admit this is my own feeling about the BSG finale, though I heard echoes of it from other people. I loved it, don’t get me wrong — cried at multiple points, sat on the edge of my seat, etc. — but I was really unhappy about some plot mysteries being resolved with nothing more than “God did it!” as the apparent answer. Also, if you’re wondering about my own religious bent, I’d have to classify it as “spiritual but not religious”. I believe firmly in the existence of God or some form of higher power, but though I was raised Baptist, I no longer follow that faith. I’m kind of a religious Goldilocks: this one’s too hot, that one’s too cold. Haven’t found the one that’s just right, but honestly? I’m not looking too hard.