Reviews and plot summaries of Moffett's novels are being prepared and will appear on this page later. Currently, the comments included here refer mainly to how Moffett's novels have dealt with religious groups which she uses as central subject matter.
It is interesting to note that Moffett's depiction of religious groups is rather unusual when compared to that found in most genre fiction. In science fiction, most writers have used various religious groups as subject matter central to their writing. But often their portrayal is informed less by reality and actual observation than by the author's own thematic concerns. Thus, a novel with extensive depictions of Catholic culture, for example, may not be about Catholicism at all, but about a subject the author is interested in writing about: environmentalism, cryogenics, censorship, etc. The Catholicism from which the book borrows imagery and language may be philosophically unrecognizable, having been subsumed by forced directions the plot takes it.
Moffett's novels stand out in their informed, honest treatment of their subject matter. Moffett's characterization of religious believers and organizations is three-dimensional and has escape the stereotypes embraced unthinkingly by many authors. In the hands of most science fiction writers, Quakerism has been portrayed as almost purely good and Baptists as almost purely evil. Moffett's writing shows first-hand experience with the peoples she is writing about, as well as balanced research. She has been willing to explore spiritual personalities to depths other writers have been afraid to approach. The Quakers of Pennterra and the Baptists of Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream are neither unimpeachably good nor unrealistically evil. But neither are these groups treated as if their serious adherents are just like anybody else. Moffett's religious characters are different, but they are not caricatures.
First published: Congdon & Weed (1987)
Reprinted: Worldwide Library (1988); NEL (1988; first U.K. edition); Ballantine Del Rey (1993)
This novel, set on a Quaker-colonized world, is full of Quaker characters and references to Quaker beliefs, history, practices, etc. It stands out as one of the works of science fiction to most prominently feature Quakers. Although the culture, history, terminology and so many other things are handled respectfully and accurately by Moffett, not all people would find Pennterra an ideal introduction to Quakers.
In general, the portrayal of the Quaker society is unabashedly positive. But the Quakers of the future have changed in some ways. They have retained all of their distinctive characteristics such as extreme pacifism and tolerance, and their form of oft-silent "meetings," but they no longer consider themselves a Christian religion. The Quakerism in the book owes more to the teachings of George Fox than to the Bible, although the Quakers understand and respect the Christian culture from which their religion emerged. In fact, many of the Quakers in the colony are Jewish, and the whole community celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah each year. These Quakers also have an essentially agnostic stance on the nature of God. They do not generally believe in a personal God. In their history they have variously understood God as "the ground of being, the first over the life principle, humanity's best nature, entropy's creative antithesis, and on and on."
While some contemporary Quakers will be very comfortable with this version of the faith, more conservative and/or Evangelical Quakers may not feel it descriptive of the Society as they know it (or as they prefer it).
Many people, Quakers or not, may also be unappreciative of the novel's heavy emphasis on sex, beginning in Part Two, especially the frequent child-parent incest between the novel's central Quaker characters. These events have a science fiction explanation, and take place in an alien environment which has unexpected effects on people. Nevertheless, such elements will mean that many people will not consider Pennterra the best science fiction introduction to Quakerism.
The Ragged World
First published: St. Martin's (1991)
Reprinted: Ballantine Del Rey (1992)
Alien visitors insist that Earth clean up its polluted and damaged ecosystem.
Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream
First published: St. Martin's (1992)
Reprinted: Ballantine Del Rey (1993)
Sequel to The Ragged World.
One of the most thorough, balanced and sympathetic portrayals of Southern Baptists in a work of mainstream science fiction is Judith Moffett's novel Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream. One of this novel's two main characters is a devout Southern Baptist, as are many other characters. Well known Southern Baptists such as Jimmy Carter and Billy Graham are mentioned, and issues such as personal conversion, baptism, etc. (even "ABCs") are discussed. The novel is also free of explicit sex and mostly free of vulgar/profane language. Most Baptists science fiction readers will find the novel inoffensive and interesting. The author is not a Southern Baptist, but this novel demonstrates the same deep understanding of her subject matter and open-minded approach that she displayed with Quakers in Pennterra.
Additional Biographical Data
Source: Haverford College
Edward Burroughs Irving, Jr. [was a] a descendant of Morgan Morgan, a Quaker who came to Pennsylvania in the late 17th century from Gwynedd, Wales... In 1982, he married Judith Moffett, a poet and teacher at the University of Pennsylvania. Ted and Judy enjoyed many common interests, including gardening, traveling and, of course, literature. They spent a year in London, England as visiting teachers. After his retirement in 1993, Ted and his wife moved to Salt Lake City where they enjoyed hiking and cross-country skiing. "Gaffner," as he was known by his grandchildren, made regular visits back East to see his family. They moved to Cincinnati, Judy's home town, in December 1997. They had also bought a tract of land in Kentucky where they were planning to build a log cabin home.
Web page created 24 August 2000. Last modified 11 January 2002.