Sci-Fi with Muslim Characters in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture


The current issue (Volume 26, Number 1, Spring 2014) of Journal of Religion and Popular Culture has a couple of articles on Science Fiction with Muslim characters. Here are the abstracts of the relevant articles:

The Marvel of Islam: Reconciling Muslim Epistemologies through a New Islamic Origin Saga in Naif al-Mutawa’s The 99 
James Clements, Richard Gauvain

Since its inception in 2006, Islam’s most popular comic strip, The 99, and its creator, Naif al-Mutawa, have both been the subject of much media scrutiny. Despite eschewing references to the most significant texts, figures, and symbols of Islam—readers of the comic find no mention of the Qur’an or the Prophet—neither its fiercest critics nor its most fervent supporters doubt the essentially Islamic nature of The 99. Drawing on the responses of students at the American University in Dubai (AUD), this paper explores how and why, within this modern Gulf setting, The 99 resonates as a profoundly Islamic publication. Attention is paid, first, to The 99’s origin saga, through which Muslim history is smoothed over, then re-spun in ways familiar to our students; and, second, to a number of special editions of The 99, through which al-Mutawa offers a new understanding of Islam’s role—with remarkable implications for political leadership—in contemporary society, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

The Islamic Framing in Donald Moffitt’s Science Fiction Series The Mechanical Sky 
Susanne Olsson

American author Donald Moffitt’s science fiction (SF) series The Mechanical Sky, consisting of two books, Crescent in the Sky (1989) and A Gathering of Stars(1990), portrays a universe where various religious denominations exist, and where an Islamic caliphate is established, aiming at universal Islamic dominance. The purpose of this article is to analyze the series pertaining to its representations of Islam and Muslims, and to explain the Islamic framing in contextualizing the series in the historical situation when the series was produced. Moreover, another aim of the article concerns the methodological problems that such an analysis of the Islamic framing may entail. The article calls for the need to reflect seriously on interpretative perspectives when a scholar in the study of religions enters the field of SF, which has its own definitional problems and genre-specific traits that must be taken into consideration.

The full test of the articles are available on the website as well. Thanks Rebecca for the pointer!

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