The three 22nd-Century finalists in the Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest showed three radically different visions of what might be happening in the Church in the future. The three stories correspond to some extent with three strands of science fiction.
“Avek, Who Is Distributed” by Steven Peck, which took first place in the contest, posits a future in which aliens and artificial intelligences not only exist, but can join the Church. It’s a future with highly advanced technology (even implied faster-than-light travel) and humans who live in a free society. This story fits within the grand tradition of optimistic science fiction, which was the dominant strand during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. The future is bright and shiny, and there’s no problem that cannot be solved by ingenuity.
“Release” by Wm Morris falls into the category of dystopic science fiction. Although the story takes place in a high-tech future, the society is highly oppressive, with surveillance even more intrusive than that in Orwell’s 1984. The Church is a prohibited entity, and its members cannot openly practice their religion — or even, in some cases, acknowledge their faith to themselves. Sometimes such dystopic stories end on a thoroughly depressing note, and sometimes there’s a ray of hope, but the future portrayed tends to be dark, with technology generally used to oppress rather than liberate.
“Waiting” by Katherine Crowley, looking at a visiting teacher’s visit in the future, fits into a sub-genre called mundane science fiction. Basically, it’s science fiction in which the future is not radically different from the present: no artificial intelligences, no aliens, no faster-than-light travel — just some reasonably projected technological development that doesn’t require any wild new scientific theories.
I’m glad the three 22nd-Century finalists approached the future of Mormonism from such different angles, because it allowed for a broader spectrum of story types. While I hope our future is more like the one in Steven Peck’s story, and fear it may be more like the one in Wm Morris’s story, my guess is that it’s most likely to resemble Katherine Crowley’s story.
What other Mormon futures have you read about?
Edited to add: As Sarah Dunster correctly points out in the comments, “The Defection of Baby Mixo” by Mark Penny, which was in the 21st-Century category, is also science fiction. Although Mark himself doesn’t consider it satire, preferring his neologism “compatire,” this story fits into a long tradition of satirical science fiction. The story uses two devices commonly found in such stories: taking a trend and extrapolating it to an extreme, and cultural role reversal.