Saturday, April 23, 2005

Left Behind for Atheists?

I just finished re-reading The Forge of God, by Greg Bear, and it occurs to me that what I've just read is a deity-free apocalyptic novel. To wit: in the beginning there are Signs that the end of the world is nigh, which only those with True Wisdom can see. Then there are made manifest many Wonders, which foretell terrible things to come. Then, as it begins to sink in that Armageddon is truly upon us, wondrous aliens reveal themselves to the Few Chosen, and explain that the Elect will be gathered up, taken bodily into the Heavens, and spared the Tribulation.

And then the last major chunk of the book is scene after scene of disaster upon slaughter upon ever more cataclysmic violence, ending with a beatific vision of the Elect living lives of peace and plenty in peaceful green unearthly fields.

Is that one of the true great appeals of "hard" sci-fi? That it provides a mechanism for writing horrific end-of-the-world stories without all that messy theology stuff?