Karina Fabian on Catholic Science Fiction and Writing What You Know
Science Fiction! Is this something you’ve always enjoyed?
I’d never even heard
of Catholic SF until I started writing it. Now, I’m just amazed at the
number of writers who are Catholic or were raised Catholic. Just as we’ve
seen a growth of Christian genre books, we’re seeing a growth of Catholic genre.
So I like to think of myself
as a trend setter.
what do you enjoy?
Science fiction and fantasy,
without a doubt. Historical fiction. Mystery. Comedy, like Dave Barry and Erma Bombeck. I’ve
tried exploring other genres, spent a whole summer reading stuff from the NYT best seller list--but I can’t get into
them. If I’m going to read about someone’s angst, there’s got
to be a dragon or a spaceship.
Even so, I don’t
care for stories that don’t have strong characters. Novels that spend too
much time on the plot or on deep descriptions of the setting turn me off. So
does sloppy writing. Rob, my husband and editing partner, has a higher tolerance
when the plot is good, but not me. Time’s too short.
about religious fiction?
A couple of fictionalizations
of Biblical characters, which were interesting stories, but otherwise, nope. It
seems contradictory, I know, but when I read, I want to escape to somewhere that stretches my imagination. The story of how someone “finds Jesus” and has his life change can be important and maybe even
compelling, but they’re not for me.
I also tend to shy away
from the idea that once a character has “true faith,” life just falls together.
Even in fantasy, that doesn’t ring true.
how do these attitudes shape your writing and your anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite
though a large percentage of my characters are Catholic or Christian, they tend to express their faith in their actions rather
than proclaim it with their words. For example, in “These Three,”
(in Infinite Space, Infinite God) Peter, our main character is severely injured, yet must make his way across the ship in
order to get to Auxiliary Control. He’s being escorted by an apparition
of the Blessed Gillian of L5 (Blessed means she’s not yet a saint.) In
order to distract him from his pain, she suggests they recite the Stations of the Cross, a Catholic ceremony that recalls
the journey Jesus took down the Via Dolorosa while carrying his own cross to his crucifixion:
“…We'll do Stations. Come on, now.
Hand over hand."
Wearily, Pete obeyed, though his hands trembled
and slipped. The progress seemed unbearably slow, but just like Sister Linda, the vision was patient, praising each tentative
effort. Unlike Sister Linda, the vision pushed him whenever he faltered. After awhile, the numbness began to set in, but he
also felt himself slipping into a kind of hazy non-being. He could hear a woman's voice intoning something--the Stations of
the Cross. Three rungs and a station. Jesus faltered, so can you. He got up again,
so can you. Three more rungs, and we'll pause for another station. Automatically, he murmured the responses, ingrained
from 12 years of Catholic school, but he couldn't quite hear them. It became a dizzying drone. He shook his head to clear
it and moaned.
"Talk to me," the vision urged. "Tell me why
you wanted to be a spacer so badly."
we selected stories for Infinite Space, Infinite God, we wanted stories that had strong characters who were Catholic, though
not necessarily strong Catholics. Some are lapsed, some are having problems with
their faith, some are having problems because of their faith.
Sherer’s detective is a lapsed Catholic seeking a madman who’s murdering priests.
As he seeks to understand the murder’s motives, he starts to understand his own conflicts about the Church.
Rob’s and my “Daily Bread,” when the Communion Hosts start mysteriously multiplying on an asteroid mining
station, it causes conflicts among those who believe in the miracle and those who think it’s a set-up staged by the
station’s Catholic deacon.
Drippe’s Catholic character gets chosen for an extremely risky trip back in time because his supervisor thinks it’d
be funny to send a Catholic back to see the crucifixion.
Bohnhoff’s Catholic terrorist hides behind his faith to justify his murdering a busload of Protestant children, but
when an experimental medical procedure removes those defenses, it’s the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation that
saves his sanity.
the rest, faith sustains them through the crises in the story.
other thing we insisted on was that the stories be really good science fiction, which meant that the science had to be plausible
and believable regardless of how fantastic it seemed. Adreinne Ray gave us a
unique and disturbing method for teleportation. When I read Ken Pick’s
and Alan Loewen’s scene where the ship jumps into hyperspace, I felt like I was on the bridge. Lori Scott checked her cloning science with a professor of genetics, and it shows.
it was top-quality writing. After all, I knew I’d be reading these stories
over and over again, whether to edit, proofread, or to refresh my memory before interviews.
I wanted to be able to enjoy them each time.
then, how do you feel about the saying “write what you know”?
have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I do tend to write in the genres I enjoy
and my characters do have a lot of personality aspects I’m familiar with--like being Catholic.
On the other hand, I find
it limiting. I didn’t know anything about asteroid mining or wresting in
zero gravity, but I learned them because my story needed it. And I discovered
in editing this book, that there were a lot of things I didn’t really know about my own faith. Maya’s story taught me a lot about the nature of confession, and Rose Dimond, the dear woman, had
to re-write parts of her story as she and I both came to understand the reasons behind some of the more controversial Catholic
issues in her story.
So don’t write what
you know--write what you’re willing to learn.