Contemporary Paganism, Utopian Reading Communities, and Sacred Nonmonogamy: The Religious Impact of Heinlein's and Starhawk’s Fiction
Keywords:Contemporary Paganism, utopian novels, science fiction and fantasy, Robert A. Heinlein, Starhawk, sexuality, ethical nonmonogamy
AbstractContemporary Paganism’s emphasis on sacred story and narrative has led to an interdependent relationship with popular media. Pagans draw inspiration from fiction and also bring their practices to life in popular novels. Robert Heinlein’s 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land has had a major impact on the practice of ethical nonmonogamy in the Pagan community, an impact that is reflected in Starhawk’s 1993 The Fifth Sacred Thing. Along with liturgical echoes from Stranger, Starhawk’s novel contains sacred sex practices similar to those Heinlein describes. Unlike Heinlein, however, Starhawk is writing from life; The Fifth Sacred Thing reflects the developing real-life norms of her San Francisco-based Pagan community. Both novels also follow the generic conventions of the American utopian novel, a literary form that has influenced communal and millennial movements of the past. Together, Heinlein and Starhawk’s novels demonstrate how fiction can inspire religious practice that then appears again in fiction.
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