Catholic parents want their kids to read books that will help them absorb Catholic values and ideas. They want books that will not just entertain but also instruct and edify. While spiritual reading and saints' lives are vital for a child’s religious development, fiction also plays an essential role in developing the whole person.
Good fiction draws readers in, immerses them in a different world, allows them to experience the world vicariously through the eyes of another person, and lets them rub shoulders with people of integrity—and see good and bad actions receive their proper rewards in the space of a few hours. It is impossible to not be affected by what you read, and children who read Catholic fiction will be developing a Catholic worldview while enjoying a few hours of escape from reality.
But why science fiction? Why fantasy? Why dystopian stories? A lot of parents wonder what the point of these genres are. After all, historical fiction provides relatable role models and helps kids learn history. And contemporary fiction, set in our present time, provides even more relatable role models. So why create a new world instead of using the one God made? Why write in settings that don’t help kids learn about their own world?
Speculative fiction is fiction that asks the question “what if?” It serves a purpose that other forms of writing don’t. We could almost say that Catholic speculative fiction can explore reality more directly than historical or contemporary fiction.
Just as a scientist changes parts of his experiment to be sure he understands what he is looking at, the writer of speculative fiction explores the question of what would remain the same if some things were different.
If humans lived on many planets instead of just earth—would God still love us? Would the truths of our Faith still be true? Would the same virtues be needed in that world as in ours? (Heaven’s Hunter)
If there were dragons and other mysterious creatures, would morality still apply? Would humans be the same—rational animals who need to worship, need to strive for virtue? (Elfling)
Do genetically modified humans have immortal souls that need to be saved? (Mandy Lamb)
What would it be like to live with dinosaurs? Would we need the same virtues in that world as we need in this one? What does it take to be a good human? (unSPARKed series)
These might seem like trivial questions that our children will never really need answers to. But what Catholic speculative fiction does by asking these questions is provide readers with a bulwark against relativism. No matter what happens, no matter how strange the world becomes, Christian morality will remain the same. Humanity will remain the same. God will remain the same.
Speculative fiction reminds us, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”