Authoring the Sacred

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


  • James H. Thrall Knox College, Illinois



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


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.


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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.