Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August CSFFBT: Offworld, by Robin Parrish (III)

This is the last of three posts (in keeping with the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour guidelines) about Offworld. Previously, I focused on technical details, story-crafting, and characterization; yesterday, I talked about the science and science-fiction aspects of the work and today I finish up with a post on the Christian elements.


Before I forget - added from yesterday: one more SF work that Offworld reminds me of: "Houston, Can You Read" by James Tiptree, Jr.


Faith, God, and Christianity in Offworld

- The faith and spirituality of Offworld is more subtle than other SF/F works carrying the 'Christian' marketing label (that I have read.) I'm good with this. I think it's vital that we have a range of spiritual expression in different works - if nothing else because people who might turn their noses up at the Creationist hero in The Enclave would cheer for Cordelia Naismith in Shards of Honor.

- Having said that - is it clear at any point that the God of Offworld is the God of Scripture? Is Christ implied at any point? I don't seem to remember anything (but I could be wrong.)

- If I was to pick a phrase that described the type of faith that was portrayed in Offworld, I would say something like, "Finding God in one another." The crew members, Mae, even Rowley and Parks - they all search for ways to serve something other than themselves. This is most apparent, I think, in the crew, and their continued bond to each other.

- The other theme that suggests itself is 'God works in mysterious ways.' I'm thinking particularly of Owen, who had been placed on Ares in case of some ill-defined contingency. That contingency never came - not during the mission, at any rate - but during the dash across the Gulf Coast, when a bad-ass super-genius was needed to save the world, there was Owen.

- I like travelouge stories. (Can't seem to convince the bookstores to sub-categorize stories as 'journey SF', though.) This links well with stories showing a person (or persons) traveling through a spiritual quest. Offworld contained not one, but two 'real time' journeys - one back from Mars, and one from Florida to Texas. I wonder if the crew thought of their trip to Mars - any of them, in any sense - as a retreat, a journey in to the desert.

- Mae - wow. The character and treatment of Mae - a soul, yes, but not a complete person, because she wasn't integrated into society. (Orphaned might be a good descriptor here.) I think I found this among the most affective of all the elements in Offworld. And - as I said earlier - I was impressed by the relatively low-key approach to the topic of abortion.

- Burke and his father: I wonder how much of a God-and-Christians analogy Parrish was going after, here. God as distant-seeming-father-figure, always demanding more work, taking the Christian child away from the fun in life, pushing the child towards a greater destiny that, in the end, the child will have to choose on their own. Even in my head, it's far from a perfect analogy, but I think it has some merit. I'm less sure this analogy resembles anything Parrish had in mind.

- Space vs Earth as Paradise: Depending on who is telling the story and when the story is taking place, 'Heaven' holds a shifting location. At least in the Western world 'Heaven' and 'paradise' is assigned to a stellar location. As our knowledge of physics and the solar system have increased, we shifted to a more extra-planar concept of God's domain. Still, the imagery of writing about space travel includes references to the concept of the stars as 'Heaven'. In the story, despite the hardships of the journey, the crew of Ares was ready to leave Heaven and come back to Earth. I wonder if future humans will continue to associate God's domain with planets or with the starry void.

- I find the attempt by Roston and his group to 'take away the causes of war and hatred' - in short, to create a paradise on Earth - laudable, but, in the end, tragically mistaken. Take away all the bombs, all the guns, all the tanks, all the swords...and we'd still have the rock that Adam's son used to commit the first murder. Joss Weldon used the movie Serenity to talk about a similiar thing - our impulse as humans (and irrespective of political stance) to legislate improved morality into people.


And that's all I've got. Next step, look for what other people wrote. That should keep me busy at the airport tomorrow.


Fine print:

Find Offworld at Amazon.

Robin Parrish’s Web site -
Robin Parrish’s blog -

Other CSFFBT participants:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Heather R. Hunt
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Mike Lynch
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Elizabeth Williams


Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Fantastic posts, all three. I love how much of what you read you take in. I'm always challenged to decide what elements of a book to comment on because I can't comment on them all; you seem to manage omni-commenting pretty well :).

Robin Parrish said...

Wow. I'm amazed at how much depth and thought your three posts contained. Amazing, fantastic stuff. Super insightful. I really love that you pulled intelligent interpretations out of the novel that I hadn't thought of when writing it -- every bit as valid as my own interpretations, and very, very cool.

I completely agree with your assessment of Roston, btw. Several reviewers have found Roston's machinations to be implausible, but they seem to forget that people in emotional turmoil don't do things that are rational. He really was trying to do a good thing, but his own pain blinded him to the fact that this elaborate plan of his would never have worked in the end, anyway, due to human nature.

I also greatly appreciate that you have an open mind for what kinds of fiction is acceptable for a Christian to write. Such a rare commodity.

Lastly, you won me over bigtime by invoking Joss Whedon. :)