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Amish Science Fiction


Blind Man's Lantern story

Cover of Analog Science Fact-Science Fiction, Vol. 70, No. 4, December 1962, featuring the Amish-themed science fiction novella "Blind Man's Lantern," by Allen Kim Lang.
Cover by John Schoenherr
This annotated bibliography list, a subset derived from the Adherents.com Religion in Literature database, is intended as a resource for literary research. It lists mainstream science fiction and fantasy novels, short stories and movies (speculative fiction) which contain references to the Amish. It is not necessarily a comprehensive list of such literature, but all Hugo- and Nebula-winning novels have been indexed.

This list does not necessarily include every reference to the Amish within each work. Each novel or story is listed only once, with a brief explanation or sample quote. Most works include only one reference, which is given. If a work contains multiple references, this is noted in the listing.

It should not surprise most readers to learn that there are relatively few science fiction novels which refer to the Amish. Science fiction is most frequently set in the future and/or peopled with people involved in science or influential events. The Amish are not "futuristic," nor do they seek to influence the world outside their own community.

Other reasons that there are few Amish characters or references in science fiction include the fact that there are no Amish science fiction writers, and probably very few Amish science fiction readers. Religious communities such as Evangelicals, Catholics, Latter-day Saints and Jews all have many science fiction readers, and produce science fiction authors, some of whom write for the mainstream market. This has not happened with the Amish, nor is it likely to.

Perhaps the science fiction writer who has used the Amish most extensively as subject matter is Paul Levinson, in the story "The Mendelian Lamp Case," and in the 1999 novel The Silk Code which expands that story's plot and themes.

In the hundreds of science fiction and fantasy novels that we have surveyed, we have found only two works which refer to Mennonites (the broader denominational family the Amish are associated with): Gloss's Dazzle of Day has one passing reference, and Brackett's novel refers to Mennonites extensively.

Current number of novels, movies and stories in list: 24.

Related pages:
- Open Directory Amish links
- Mormon Science Fiction
- Literature, Mennonites in - from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online
- Is Yoda Amish? - table of similarities and evidences

   It was a farmer, certainly. Hamish to the core. He was almost a caricature of what a Trantorian farmer would be--tall and wide, brown-skinned, roughly dressed, arms bare, dark-haired, dark-eyed, a long ungainly stride.

- Isaac Asimov
Foundation's Edge

Author Title Approx.
year
Sample Quote and/or Description
Isaac Asimov Foundation's Edge. Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1982). (Hugo award.) 8000? It may surprise many to learn that among popular science fiction novels, one of the books with the most extensive references to the Amish is Asimov's Foundation's Edge. They are called "Hamish" in the novel, but are clearly based on the Amish. They are an agricultural society that emerges from the ruins of the galactic capitol world. There are many Hamish characters in the novel, and the group is very important in the storyline.

Example (pg. 106-107):

Gendibal saw him. It was a farmer, certainly. Hamish to the core. He was almost a caricature of what a Trantorian farmer would be--tall and wide, brown-skinned, roughly dressed, arms bare, dark-haired, dark-eyed, a long ungainly stride. Gendibal felt as though he could smell the barnyard about him. (Not too much scorn, he though. Preem Palver had not minded playing the role of farmer, when that was necessary to his plans. Some farmer he was--short and plump and soft. It was his mind that had fooled the teenaged Arkady, never his body).

The farmer was approaching him, clumping down the road...

For more information, read John H. Jenkins' review of Foundation's Edge (http://www.blueneptune.com/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/~tseng/review?262) or look up "Amish" in the Adherents.com literature index.
Jack Anderson Millennium. New York: Tor (1994) 1999 Pg. 100:
"I went into their PR office yesterday afternoon and told them I'd like to know more about this incident. Maybe a big write-up in the Trib would help them solve the mystery. I mean, maybe the body was Amish and was swiped by the family because they didn't want to have anything to do with our ways."

"Amish," Fran said. "That's good. I wish I'd thought of that."

Pg. 136:
"The most likely explanation," said Wrampe, "is that he was a functional but malformed American citizen. The disappearance [of the body] could be explained by the Amish theory. Or perhaps nobody could get a proper vital sign on him because of the deformity. Or maybe he somehow faked his own death and escaped."

"Good," Kiernan said. He wrote GENETIC, USA, AMISH?, ASSUMED DEATH, ESCAPE.

Greg Bear Moving Mars. New York: Tor (1993). (Nebula award.) 2176 The main character (a Martian colonist) visits Earth for the first time, on a diplomatic mission, and sees some of the sites in the Washington, D.C. area, where she is staying. Pg. 177:
Visits to schools in Washington and Virginia, usually over ed-nets from our hotel rooms... A quick train journey to Pennsylvania to meet with Amish Friends of Sylvan Earth, who had finally accepted the use of computers, but not thinkers [advanced artificial intelligence computers]. Back to Washington... A guided tour of the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Terry Bison Fire on the Mountain. New York: Arbor House/William Morrow (1988) 1909 Pg. 15:
By noon I had unloaded the fence posts while Dehl dickered and spat in Low German with the owner, and we started back with the new horse tied to the wagon; he was indeed a skittery character. His name was Caesar... The owner, a breakaway Amish, said he had bought the horse lamed from two Tidewater gentleman...
John Brunner Stand on Zanzibar. Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1968). (Hugo award.) 2010 In one passage the Amish are compared favorably to less desirable Christian groups. Pg. 160:
"...Christianity... from respected, well-integrated groups like the Amish..."
Leigh Brackett The Long Tomorrow 1965 Article: "Literature, Mennonites in" from Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia Online:
In the United States, Leigh Brackett wrote a science fiction novel about the aftermath of an atomic holocaust, The Long Tomorrow (1955). The conservative and skillful Mennonite farmers are among the survivors of the Great Destruction, virtually controlling the government. They seek to maintain a simple agrarian civilization, resisting any return to a technological and urban society. But human nature has not changed. Two young Mennonites, Len and Esau Coulter, are not satisfied with the drab and anti-intellectual life of their community. They discover the secret place where a large computer is hidden with the information necessary to rebuild the old technological world. Having developed a sense of curiosity, Len repeats the fall into sin, as it were, and is unable to return to the simple community from which he came. The novel ends with the suggestion that technology will again lead to disaster.
Diane Carey Best Destiny (Star Trek). New York: Pocket Books (1992) 2263 Amish farms can be seen from young Jim Kirk's home in rural Iowa. Pg. 38:
George fingered the kitchen curtains and looked out across the tenant farmland he owned and the two Amish farms between there and Riverside. Off to his left he could see the English River almost flowing out of its banks.
John Crowley Little, Big. New York: Bantam (1981) 1981 Pg. 94:
"So Claude Berry's dad got in trouble for keeping him out of the public school, and it became a case," Cloud was saying. "All the way to the State Supreme Court."

"Bent our bank accounts out of shape," Doc said.

"And eventually was decided in our favor," Mom said.

"Because," Cloud said, "It was a religious thing, we claimed. Like the Amish, do you know about them?" She smiled slyly. "Religious."

"A landmark decision," Mom said.

Esther M. Friesner Men in Black II. New York: Ballantine (2002) 2002 Pg. 78:
open his drawer and paged through the block plates of postage stamps, offering Elizabeth such stamps as Berlin Airlift, Amish Quilts, Opera Legends; all of which she flatly rejected.
Paul Gertz "Float Like a Butterfly" episode of TV series "Earth: Final Contact" ? Boone (Kevin Kilner) and Lili (Lisa Howard) are summoned to the small Amish town of Paradise to investigate the mysterious (almost alien?) deaths of several of its citizens.
Molly Gloss The Dazzle of Day. New York: Tor (1997) 2100 Pg. 9-10:
It was sects of the counterculture--Carsonites and bird-watchers and Rodale farmers, Quakers and Mennonites--who understood the microbial needs of a closed system...
Dean Ing Systemic Shock. New York: Tor (original 1981; 1st Tor edition 1992) 1996 Pg. 19:
...people who kept the old ways; living anachronisms who spun their own cloth, cured their own meat... There were still other repositories of ancient crafts and ethics in the north among the Amish, in the west among... Mormonism...
Allen Kim Lang "Blind Man's Lantern" in Analog Science Fact-Science Fiction (Vol 70, No. 4, December 1962); Reprinted in Analog 2 (1964, ed. John Campbell Jr.)   The cover of the issue of Analog in which this novella first appeared features an Amish couple in a horse-drawn buggy, riding away from a spacecraft on another planet.

Malcolm Farmer wrote to tell us about this story:

"It features an Amish couple sent out homesteading 180 lightyears from Earth. They go to a previously colonised world. The basic principle of the story is that cultures regress technologically during the struggles of colonizing a new world; Earth is sending out Amish, who can get by perfectly well at a low level of technology, to help bootstrap a more technological civilization." This reasoning is reflected by the following passage:

"Not so odd," the Captain said. "The Amish pretty much invented American agriculture, you know. They've developed the finest low-energy farming there is. Clover-growing, crop-rotation, using animal manures, these are their inventions. Aaron, by his example, will, teah the natives here Pebnnsylcania farming. Befoe you can say Tom Malthus, there'll be steel cities in this wilderness, filled with citizens eager to open charge accounts for low-gravs and stereo sets."
The story's other, more important reason for sending Amish is revealed in this passage:
"Nice guy, hell" the Captain said. That seventeenth century un-scientist has more feeling for folk-ways in his calloused left hand than you'd find in all the Colonial Survey. How do you suppose the Old Order maintains itself in Pennsylvania, a tiny Deutsch-speaking enclave surrounded by calkico suburbs and ten-lane highways? They mind their business and leave the neighbours to theirs. The Amish have never been missionaries--they learned in 1600 that missionaries are resented and either slaughtered or absorbed."
Paul Levinson Silk Code. New York: Tor (1999) ? "Forensic detective Phil D'Amato's good friend, Mo Buhler, invites him to visit Pennsylvania's Amish country. But it's more than a social visit. Mo wants to show Phil something he's discovered about the Amish. When they arrive at the farm of Joseph Stoltzfus, they encounter a man claiming to be Joseph's brother who informs them that Joseph has died of a heart attack. Mo suspects foul play, but since they're not allowed to inspect the scene, they have no proof. Mo talks Phil into going with him to Philadelphia. On the way, he explains that the Stoltzfus family was more accepting of technology than many Amish families, especially with regard to medicine..." [Source]

Adherents.com received the following email from publicist Tina Vozick regarding this book:

I would like to update your listing of Paul Levinson's work regarding the Amish: His novel The Silk Code (Tor, 1999 hc; paperback November 2000 forthcoming) deals extensively with the Amish as a major plot and character feature, not just in the passage you quote. The entire first section of the book -- pages 11-56 (which is adapted from his story "The Mendelian Lamp Case", see below) -- centers around speculations about Amish low-tech bio technology which also plays a central role in the second half of the book (pp. 139 - 319). There are several major characters who are Amish and much description and detail regarding the Amish, Lancaster County, etc. This book was a runner-up in Barnes & Noble's Explorations "Maiden Voyages" award for Best First SF Novel.
Paul Levinson "The Mendelian Lamp Case" in Year's Best SF 3; ed. by David Hartwell. HarperPrism (1998) ? "about some very advanced Amish science"

From email which publicist Tina Vozick sent us:

"The Mendelian Lamp Case" is centered on the Amish and speculations about their low-tech bio technology (and later adapted into the first part of The Silk Code); this story was originally published in Analog magazine (April 1997) and was reprinted in Year's Best SF 3... and in Science Fiction Theater, Brian Forbes editor (Quadrillion, 1999). This story was selected as one of Locus Magazine's Recommended Stories, March 1997.
Julian May The Many Colored Land in The Many-Colored Land & The Golden Torc (omnibus). Garden City, NY: Nelson Doubleday (copyright 1981); [Locus award] 2106 Pg. 59:
Madame did her utmost to accommodate the impedimenta, given the physical restrictions of the gazebo's volume, which was roughly six cubic meters. She urged the travelers to consider pooling their resources, and sometimes this was done (The Gypsies, the Amish, the Russian Old Believers, and the Inuit were particularly shrewd in such matters.)
Judith Moffett Pennterra. New York: Congdon & Weed Inc. (1987) 2233 Pg. 79, a non-Quaker character compares the Quaker colony on Pennterra to an Amish settlement. This colony is the central setting in the novel, and seems very Amish in its farming and non-use of technology. But the Quakers live this way because the dominant native species have requested they do so, for environmental reasons.
The pastures and fields he had been shown at Swarthmore were too far removed from his experience, too quaint, to seem covetable or even real. But it had never been his childhood fantasy to live on an Amish farm...
Judith Moffett Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream. New York: St. Martin's Press (1992) 2026 Pg. xxiv:
And no wonder the Gaians have targeted our brief, transitional, pastoral/agricultural era as the one we most need to stay in contact with. I believe them when they tell us that even if there were any way for us as a viable species to be hunters and gatherers again, which there certainly will never be, such a life for humans has less to recommend it. And what is small-scale herding and diversified planting, with a little hunting and foraging thrown in, but homesteading--the most wholesome way people have ever devised for living upon the Earth, the happiest balance between nature and culture, the best way to use natural resources without using them up.

(Answer: Native Americans and other tribal life, sometimes. Amish farming, virtually always. Maybe the kind of intensive agriculture they practice in China. Those are just the ones I know about, there are probably more.

Lyda Morehouse Archangel Protocol. New York: Penguin Putnam (2001) 2076 Pg. 20:
"Give him some time, McMannus. He's only been in the big city about a month. Transferred from Pennsylvania. Amish country. They're pretty cut off out there. No LINK."

I thought about my dingy office, and sneered. "It's a refreshing way to live. You ought to try it."

Pg. 49:
"But the guys might be hard to trace too. Angelucci's from the Amish country . . ."
Dan Simmons Carrion Comfort. New York: Warner Books (1990; c. 1989) 1980 Pg. 307:
Anne brought clean sheets, blankets, and her favorite Amish quilt.
Robert J. Sawyer Calculating God. New York: Tor (2000) 2000 Pg. 217:
There were no intelligent lifeforms left on any of those six worlds Hollus's starship had explored. Perhaps all races terminated the biological versions of themselves once the electronic ones were created. Indeed, perhaps that was the only sensible thing to do, preventing any possibility of terrorist disruptions of the virtual world. Of course, at least on Earth, there were those who would never agree to be voluntarily uploaded--the Amish, Luddites, and others. But they might be scanned surreptitiously, moving them into a virtual world indistinguishable from the one they'd left, rather than leaving any flesh-and-blood beings around whose descendants might vandalize the computers.
Bruce Sterling Viridian Note 00001: "Viridian Design" Speech. October 14, 1998. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco 1998 Speech by science fiction writer Bruce Sterling mentions the Amish (http://home.pacific.net.au/~mitch.hub/V-Notes/ViridianNote00001.html):
It's not that we're going to pick big public fights with spiritually motivated Greens and other illuminated hippie types. This is useless and a waste of time, like beating up Quakers and the Amish. We're simply going to serenely ignore them, the way everyone else does.
Bruce Sterling Holy Fire. New York: Bantam (this ed. 1997; original hardcover 1996) 2095 Pg. 108-109:
"[Of course! Many! Countless hordes! A vast spectrum of refuseniks and dissidents! Amish Anarchists. Andaman Islanders. Australian aborigines. A certain number of tribal Afghanis. Certain American Indians. And that's just in the A's!]"

..."I know about th Amish. Amish aren't outlaws. People admire the Amish. They envy their sincerity and simplicity. Plus the Amish still practice real agriculture. People find that very touching."

Ulrich was wearing his sheepskin as usual. He picked fretfully at a bare patch on the elbow. "[Yes, there's a cheap popular vogue for the Amish. The polity turned the Amish into pop stars. That's the polity's primary means of subversive integration. They'll make you a prized exhibit of their culture zoo. So they can boast of their so-called tolerance, while subverting the genuine cultural threat posed to their hegemony... The Amish have been the Amish for four hundred years. Let's see these miserable grannies outlive the Amish."]

Pg. 346:
Europe was a boutique. America was a farm. Sometime there were bicyclists in rural Pennsylvania. Occasionally hikers. There weren't many like herself, people perfectly enchanted just to walk and look. This wasn't a popular tourist niche in the North American continent, but the local Amish attracted a certain interest.
Pg. 349:
"Well, I do photography. . . . The Amish, they're such good material and they're so good about it. . . . I mean, Amish children look incredibly like normal children, they are normal children, but then you can trace them decade by decade. Amish people around seventy . . . The natural human aging process . . . It's amazing and terrifying! And yet there's this strange organic quality to it. . . . The Amish are wonderful. They can tell I'm some kind of impossible monster by their standards, but they're so sweet and good about it. They just put up with us posthuman. Like they are doing the rest of us a favor."

Chloe thought about it. "What are you really doing with all this photography of Amish people?"

"Nothing much. My picture still stink..."

Robert Charles Wilson The Harvest. New York: Bantam (1993) 1993 Pg. 71:
His feet were unpretentious, unadorned, unbeautiful. They appealed to his Protestant impulses. They were "plain" feet, as the Amish might say.

Also, The Confession by Beverly Lewis features Amish characters, including the protagonist, and is set in Amish communities. But it appears to be a mystery, and not science fiction or fantasy. Lewis's The Reckoning is also about the Amish.

Joke told by science fiction grandmaster Arthur C. Clarke:
"What goes clop ... clop ... clop ... clop ... BANG! Clop, clop, clop, clop, clop? Give up? An Amish hit man!!" [Source: Salon]


Special thanks to Richard Puchalsky for directing us to the Amish references in Sterling's Holy Fire.

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