Three Different Mormon Futures

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.

About Eric James Stone

A Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominee, and winner in the Writers of the Future Contest, Eric James Stone has had stories published in Year’s Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Blood Lite anthologies of humorous horror, among other venues. One of Eric’s earliest memories is of seeing an Apollo moon-shot launch on television. That might explain his fascination with space travel. His father’s collection of old science fiction ensured that Eric grew up on a full diet of Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. While getting his political science degree at Brigham Young University, Eric took creative writing classes. He wrote several short stories, and even submitted one for publication, but after it was rejected he gave up on creative writing for a decade. During those years Eric graduated from Baylor Law School, worked on a congressional campaign, and took a job in Washington, DC, with one of those special interest groups politicians always complain that other politicians are influenced by. He quit the political scene in 1999 to work as a web developer in Utah. In 2002 he started writing fiction again, and in 2003 he attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. In 2007 Eric got laid off from his day job just in time to go to the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He has since found a new web development job. In 2009 Eric became an assistant editor for Intergalactic Medicine Show. Eric lives in Eagle Mountain, Utah.
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8 Responses to Three Different Mormon Futures

  1. Orson Scott Card’s _Folks on the Fringe_ is a much more apocalyptic view on the Mormon future (at least temporarily). I think this really the kind of future a lot of Mormons believe in, from what I’ve picked up in conversations at least. When that future comes, though, is a matter of debate.

  2. Sarah Dunster says:

    There were actually four finalistst in the category of futuristic fiction. You left out Mark Penny’s Defection of Baby Mixo .

  3. Nevermind. Mark has informed me that his story was 21st century. But I think it deserved a mention here, anyway. Anyway.

    • Sarah, you’re right — it did deserve a mention, so I’ve added it to the original post. (I must confess I had only read the 22nd Century entries in the contest.)

      • Mark Penny says:

        So now you know: Never mess with Sarah’s friends.
        Thanks, Sarah. Thanks, Eric. Good analysis.
        By the way, Anneke Garcia’s 21C entry, Oaxaca is science fiction, too. The SF element is subtle, but it’s there and it’s significant to the story arc. Apocalyptic, I reckon.

  4. Jonathan Langford says:

    I’m sure that I’ve read various Mormon futures, but the post-Thanksgiving (and mid-cold infection) haze has settled over my brain. For those who haven’t read it, though, the collection Washed by a Wave of Wind (edited by Shayne Bell) offers a variety of possibilities.

  5. I think it’s interesting in light of this discussion that Avek won the contest (by quite a wide margin over any of the end of the stories by the end of the voting).

    The story probably won in part because it’s a great story. But I wonder whether its position in the optimistic camp also played a role. My sense is that optimism runs pretty deep in LDS culture–we’re predisposed to love Star Trek, Avek, and an expansive vision of what good the future may bring.

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