mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

Today's Mind Meld Discussion: Science Fiction and Religion

Once again, the kind folks over at SF Signal asked me to participate in their Mind Meld discussion. This time, the question was, "Is Science Fiction Antithetical to Religion?"

I'm not going to restate here what I said there; if you'd like to read it, you can click on the following link: Mind Meld: Is Science Fiction Antithetical to Religion? They got a lot of fascinating people to respond to the question, including Mike Resnick, Lou Anders, Ben Bova, Gabriel Mckee, Jay Lake, James Wallace Harris, Carl Vincent, Adam Roberts, Larry Niven, Andrew Wheeler, D.G.D. Davidson, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., John C. Wright, and James Morrow.

I'm amused to note that Mike Resnick "outed" me in his own response to the question, listing me as one of the Orthodox Jews in science fiction (along with Avram Davidson). He also notes that Gene Wolfe is a devout Catholic and that Ray Lafferty was a devout Catholic. What he doesn't note, however, is that there's a big difference between being observant Jewish and being observant something else in science fiction circles.

Basically, the question is: why do people in the science fiction community know that I'm religiously observant? Certain parts of American society tend to play religious observance and feeling close to the vest. We consider it something personal, and tend not to discuss it in depth with others unless invited to.

But when you're trying to observe Judaism at an Orthodox level, especially at a science fiction convention, you're faced with a lot of issues that push your observance to the forefront. Most of that has to do with the restrictions you place on your activities during the Jewish sabbath, which means not participating in certain convention events. Some of it also has to do with keeping the laws of kashrut, requiring you to bring your own food to the convention and to avoid the hotel restaurants. So you find yourself missing out on some of the social networking that takes place at a convention.

And of course there's the kippah (or yarmulke) that I wear. For conventions, I have a special kippah that shows a rocket ship flying through the universe. It was a birthday present given to me years back by vettecat, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I would always wear it at conventions. It gets a lot of attention; many fans have approached me at cons to compliment me on it – come to think of it, that's how I became friends with Farah Mendelson – and at the Nebulas last year, I even overheard Norman Spinrad commenting on it.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with the Mind Meld topic. Do I think science fiction is antithetical to religion? You can probably guess my answer at this point, but you might as well go over to Mind Meld and see for yourself.
Tags: conventions, jewish, personal, science-fiction

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