Authoring the Sacred

Humanism and Invented Scripture in Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Simmons

Authors

  • James H. Thrall Knox College, Illinois

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.v17i4.509

Keywords:

humanism, science fiction, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Simmons

Abstract

In Octavia E. Butler’s novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, teenager Lauren Olamina writes her own scripture, The Books of the Living, as a guide to a way of life she calls Earthseed. The Books of Bokonon, written by a self-styled holy man, provide Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical Cat’s Cradle with the often absurd tenets governing the invented religion of Bokononism. And in Dan Simmons’ four-book Hyperion Cantos series, an eponymous epic poem penned by a misanthropic poet relates the “sacred history” of events leading humanity to a critical juncture. These creative works and their invented scriptures invite readers to immerse themselves in worldviews and value systems laid out along similar themes. Each considers possible outcomes of catastrophic crises, and comments realistically if despairingly on the nature of human failing. Each, in contrast, endorses the power of language to advance human thriving, and makes an ultimate virtue of simple human compassion and empathy.

References

Bainton, George, ed. 1890. The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners. New York: D. Appleton & Co.

Butler, Octavia E. 1993. Parable of the Sower. Reprint. New York: Warner Books, 2007.

———. 2000 [1998]. Parable of the Talents. Reprint. New York: Warner.

Canavan, Gerry. 2014. There’s Nothing New/ Under the Sun, / But There are New Suns: Recovering Octavia E. Butler’s Lost Parables. Los Angeles Review of Books. June 9. https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/theres-nothing-new-sun-new-suns-recovering-octavia-e-butlers-lostparables/?print=1&fulltext=1

Cobb, Jr., John B. and David Ray Griffin. 1976. “Foreword.” In Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition, 7–11. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

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Self, Will. 2006. The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future. London: Bloomsbury.

Simmons, Dan. 1995. Endymion. Reprint. New York: Bantam, 1996.

———. 1990. The Fall of Hyperion. Reprint. New York: Bantam, 1995.

———. 1989. Hyperion. Reprint. New York: Bantam, 1995.

———. 1997. The Rise of Endymion. Reprint. New York: Bantam, 1998.

SolSeed website. http://wiki.solseed.org/ and linked webpages. Accessed June 20, 2014.

Terasem website. http://terasemfaith.net/ and linked webpages. Accessed June 20, 2014.

Vonnegut, Kurt. 2006 [1963]. Cat’s Cradle. Reprint. New York: Dial.

———. 1991 [1969]. Slaughterhouse-Five. Reprint. New York: Dell.

Published

2014-12-12

How to Cite

Thrall, J. H. (2014). Authoring the Sacred: Humanism and Invented Scripture in Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Simmons. Implicit Religion, 17(4), 509–531. https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.v17i4.509

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Section

Articles