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Baha'is
in Science Fiction and Fantasy


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 both mainstream and Baha'i-oriented science fiction/fantasy novels or short stories which contain references to Baha'is. It is not necessarily a comprehensive list of such literature, but all Hugo- and Nebula-winning novels have been surveyed, as have many other major works.

Despite the fact that hundreds of works are indexed in the main database, the known science fiction/fantasy works with Baha'i references form a very short list. Baha'is are widely classified as one the major world religions, but they have apparently not been used as subject material by very many writers. All novels which have won the Hugo or Nebula award have been surveyed and indexed for this database, but none of them mention Baha'is. By comparison, nearly all of them mention Christianity, and a significant proportion specifically mention other religions such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Even Zoroastrianism, which has far fewer adherents than the Baha'i Faith, is mentioned in more science fiction literature.

One major reason why there are relatively few references to Baha'is in popular American literature is that there are fewer adherents in the United States compared to other religious groups. This is critical because the U.S. is the major source of English-language science fiction and fantasy, and through its influence in the film and television industries, the major contributor to popular culture worldwide. Although there may be as many as 5 to 6 million Baha'is worldwide, there are only between 100 to 150 thousand in the United States. This means that writers living in the parts of the world which produces the most science fiction are less likely to personally encounter Baha'is.

With a smaller population in the English-speaking areas, the potential pool of people from which science fiction writers might emerge is also smaller. Adherents writing about their own religion is one of the main sources of the significant amount of science fiction about certain other groups, such as Catholics, Jews and Latter-day Saints. We are aware of only six Baha'is who have published science fiction/fantasy: Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Joseph Sheppherd, Barbara Larkin, Arthur M. Weinberg, tk ralya and former member Michael McKenny. All of these authors (except McKenny) have written explicitly about Baha'i people and culture in their fiction, but only Bohnhoff has published science fiction or fantasy with a mainstream press.

The amount of Baha'i-oriented science fiction is relatively small compared to the amount written about other comparably-sized religious groups. Baha'i themes have been expressed more frequently in other forms of literature. For example, because so many Baha'is have lived in Arabic-speaking parts of the world, there is a larger amount of original Arabic literature, such as poetry and song, written about Baha'is than about many other religious groups.

The main reason that Baha'is have not been written about in popular fiction may be that writers are unfamiliar with them. Most science fiction and other genre writers are not personally acquainted with Baha'is. Perhaps many have not read the more contemporary survey texts of world religion which include chapters about the Baha'i Faith. But another significant reason why these writers have not written about Baha'is is that they have not felt provoked to do so. Some religious movements have been so much discussed among the literary and intellectual classes (even if they have not won permanent adherents), that they have provided fodder for at least some off-hand comments in fiction. Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, the New Age movement and Wicca are among the religious groups which have moved like a wave through Western popular culture and can subsequently be found sprinkled in popular literature.

Also, popular writers have not felt threatened by Baha'is, and so they have not written cautionary tales about them. One of the most common sources of subject material in science fiction and fantasy is any contemporary or historical movement which seems dangerous or threatening. Since the development of the Fundamentalist/Evangelical/Born Again movement in around the 1940s, over 50 science fiction novels have been written about dystopian near-future Americas governed by despotic Baptist or Evangelical regimes. Conversely, some Evangelical writers have written about dystopian near-future Americas ruined by intolerant liberal, atheistic, or New Age regimes. Even some relatively small groups have become fodder for popular fiction, as some writers have written fiction satirizing, warning against, or "exposing" groups such violence-prone racial separatists ("Christian Identity Movement", Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, black militants, and others have all been dealt with in science fiction novels). But Baha'is have apparently seemed so unobtrusive and non-threatening that no science fiction or fantasy writer has used their fiction to attack them, "expose" them or "warn" about them.

Many core Baha'i values are, in fact, similar to those shared by the typical science fiction/fantasy writer, although these parallels have apparently been insufficient to prompt favorable, or even neutral, writing about Baha'is.

Bohnhoff has written some mainstream science fiction with references to Baha'is. Philip K. Dick's Eye in the Sky and two stories by Tom Ligon are the only other mainstream works of science fiction we are aware of that feature Baha'is as primary subject matter. Of these authors, Philip K. Dick is the only "major" writer.

There are also a few major science fiction writers who have mentioned Baha'is very briefly or in passing: Benford, Card, Leiber, Robinson, and Stephenson.

We have also listed five works which don't actually mention the Baha'i Faith, but mention Dizzy Gillespie, perhaps the faith's most famous adherent. (The authors probably were not aware of Gillespie's religious affiliation when they wrote about him.) There is also a story listed here that mentions Baha'i actress Carole Lombard.

Finally, there are a small number of books written for the Baha'i market which uses Baha'is as central characters and focus on Baha'i themes. Remember, this is not a survey of all fiction, only science fiction and fantasy, and it is probably not an exhaustive list, but it includes all the works we have information about (from an extensive database).

   "Christ must have felt the warmth like a fusion fire... It glows from his words and deeds. The Buddha also felt the warmth, as did Muhammad... And the many prophets and sages of Earth. They were mirrors to the sun."

- from Anvil of Stars
by Greg Bear

Current number of novels, movies and stories in list: 32.



Author Title Approx.
year
Sample Quote and/or Description
Lee Allred"The Greatest Danger" in Drakas! (S. M. Sterling, ed.) New York: Baen (2000) 1944Pg. 198:
The Dancing Cavalier, with Errol Flynn and Carole Lombard, had been a big hit, even if it was two years old.
Piers AnthonyGod of Tarot. New York: Jove/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1979) 2100Pg. 105
Steven BarnesFar Beyond the Stars (Star Trek: DS9). New York: Pocket Books (1998) 1920Pg. 91:
...when giants like Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk...
Greg BearAnvil of Stars. New York: Warner Books (1992) 2100This novel does not actually refer to Baha'is, but a particularly Baha'i-seeming passage is found on pages 229-230:
"Is Jesus Christ the son of the Most High?" Michael Vineyard asked.

"Yes," Rosa said, her smile broadening. "We are all its children. Christ must have felt the warmth like a fusion fire, even more strongly than I do. It glows from his words and deeds. The Buddha also felt the warmth, as did Muhammad . . ."

Hakim seemed displeased to hear the Prophet's name in Rosa's mouth.

". . . And the many prophets and sages of Earth. They were mirrors to the sun."

"All of them?" Michael persisted.

"All knew part of the truth."

Gregory BenfordFurious Gulf. New York: Bantam (1994) 4000Pg. 265:
He approached on the balls of his feet. She was sprawled out glassy-eyed. Carefully he bent down and took the pouch. It was heavy.

Her eyeballs followed him as he checked over her hear. One eyebrow twitched angrily.

"Banshee, yeasay?"

Her indices said she was something called Bahai. He fished an Aspect chip out of the pouch and pressed it against his wrist reader. The tiny hexagonal crystal there was cracked from some old accident but the optical pipe into his bone still worked. It told him that the Aspect was damaged and had been a woman in the Buddha Gathering, which he supposed was some kind of Family.

Michael BishopNo Enemy But Time. New York: Timescape (1982) [Nebula award for best novel.] 1981Pg. 253:
Three times the victim of heartbreaking,wholly unexpected divorce suits, he went to church every Sunday, but truly worshiped only Dizzy Gillespie, the memory of Bilie Holliday, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, no matter their record.
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff"Hand-Me-Down Town" in Analog (Mid-Dec. 1989) Pg. 142, 145, 173.
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff"Home Is Where..." in Analog v.91 no.13 (Nov. 1991) Pg. 132-161. Collins: "A Baha'i family from the year 2112 is on a time travel research assignment in midwest USA, in 1950."
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff"Marsh Mallow" in Analog v.166 no.3 (Feb. 1996) Pg. 141.
Orson Scott Card
and Kathryn H. Kidd
Lovelock. New York: Tor (1994) 2075Pg. 50:
Those groups [aboard the colony ship] with too few practitioners to maintain villages of their own--Baha'i, for instance, and Sikh, animist, atheist, Mormon, Mithraist, Druse, native American tribal religions, Jehovah's Witnesses--were either thrown together in a couple of catch-all villages or were "adopted" as minorities within fairly compatible or tolerant villages of other faiths.
Philip K. DickEye in the Sky. New York: Ace Books (1957). Later publications: London: Arrow Books (1987); New York: Collier Books/Macmillan Publishing Company (1st ed. in 1989) ?Kristin has written to us to report that:
Philip K. Dick writes about a Babi in his book "Eye in the Sky". His details are somewhat accurate, but he portrays the Babi as a crazed lunatic. Also, he originally had used Christianity, but his publishers made him switch to a more non-threatening religion.

A review of this book from PhilipKDickFans.com mentions this plotline:

I especially enjoyed the many personality types that are exposed in this book. The suggestion is raised that some degree of insanity (however small) exists in every person's mind. The more "normal" they appear on the outside, the more fears they may harbor in their psyches. The real-world manifestations of these insecurites and fears are highly subjective. Dick takes the opportunity to point out the irony in the way religious groups (especially Christianity) try to manifest divine power in the real world. All the doctrine involving Arthur Silvester's Second Babiist Faith seems to highlight these inconsistencies.

There's also this newsgroup thread, which includes the following comments by B.C.:

Several science fiction authors have referred to the faith in their works, but certainly Dick was the only one to fully exploit a story line for a novel based upon it. In this case, Dick has used the militant stage of the Babi period to create a fanatic mental universe in the mind of one of the less enjoyable characters in his book. I doubt that Dick understood the Babis enough to find the humaneness of the dawn-breakers. Philip K. Dick is best remembered for two highly-praised novels: "The Man in the High Castle" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (the latter being the source for the film "Bladerunner").
Stephen KingThe Regulators. New York: Penguin Books (1996). [Written as Richard Bachman.] 1996Pg. 70:
Ralphie stuck his tongue out and made the wasp-in-the-jar sound again, blowing so hard that his cheeks bulged out like Dizzy Gillespie's.
Barbara LarkinThe Secret of the Stolen Mandolin. Oxford: Oneworld Publications (19??). ??From publisher's description:
The adventurous tale of three children who answer a mysterious call for help and find themselves on a strange voyage of discovery. A lively, entertaining narrative with true-to-life characters and themes exploring prejudice, personal relationships, and the purpose of life. Enormously appealing to ages 8-13 years.
Fritz LeiberOur Lady of Darkness. New York: Berkley Publishing Corp. (1977) 1977Pg. 36:
"...I may be a puritan, but I wasn't named for Calvin. My parents were both Presbyterians, it's true, but my father early progressed into Unitarianism and died a devout Ethical Culturist. He used to pray to Emerson and swear by Robert Ingersoll. While my mother was, rather frivolously, into Bahai..."
Tom Ligon"The Devil and the Deep Black Void" in Analog (New York), v.106 no.1 (Jan. 1986) ??Collins notes: "Science fiction story of a planet settled by Baha'is, taken over by renegade Shi'i mahdi from earth. The main character, a Baha'i, takes it upon himself to assassinate the Shi'i mahdi, which would be completely at variance with Baha'i principles of non-violence and non-interference in politics. Shows a poor grasp of Baha'i tenets of social organization." Pg. 128-153.
Tom Ligon"The Gardener" in Analog (New York), v.113 no.11 (Nov. 1993) ??Collins notes: "Science fiction story of a planet settled by Baha'is, taken over by renegade Shi'i mahdi from earth. The main character, Habbakuk Safwat, son of one of the original Baha'i settlers, prepares an uninhabited continent to receive Baha'i refugees. He also reprises his role as assassin of a Shi'i demagogue. Shows a poor grasp of Baha'i tenets of social organization and non-violence." Pg. 13-70.
Willis E. McNelly (compiler)The Dune Encyclopedia. New York: Berkeley Books (1984) ??On pg. 409, the article "Orange Catholic Bible, Faiths Responsible for" mentions the "Galactic Spiritual Assembly of Bahais."
Lyda MorehouseArchangel Protocol. New York: Penguin Putnam (2001) 2076Pg. 78:
The only thing I saw was dusty hard-copy tomes on Islam, the Baha'i movement, versions of the Koran, political history, and Malcolm X. Not one medical journal among them.
Patrick O'LearyDoor Number Three. New York: Tor (1997) Pg. 268: Meeting at the Baha'i temple in Wilmette, Ill.
Frederik PohlMan Plus. New York: Random House (1976). [Nebula award for best novel.] 2040Pg. 56:
It did not keep him from whistling to himself as he shaved carefully around his Dizzy Gillespie beard and brushed his hair...
Jerry Pournelle and S. M. StirlingThe Children's Hour. New York: Baen Books (1991) 2040Pg. 28.
tk ralyaThe Golden Age: Thy Kingdom Come. Published by: PublishAmerica (2005) 2150?Official synopsis: "After one of his friends is killed in Iraq, Geoffrey Waters prays for help in understanding God's purpose for humanity. He is whisked forward in time to witness what a world could be like when the prophesies from Isaiah bring about peace on earth, and the lines 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven' come to fruition. The people on the planet he visits explain that God's kingdom will be established on Earth no matter what, even if a horrible calamity must occur." The author notes that this book is her impression of what the future may be like based on the Baha'i Writings. There are several quotes from the Writings, and the book was approved by the Special Materials Review Committee.
Kim Stanley RobinsonPacific Edge. New York: Tor (1990) [Campbell award for best novel.] 2030[Note the mispelling of the word "Ba'hais," which is how the word was printed in the book.] Pg. 312:
"Hank conducted a brief ceremony. He was dressed in his Unitarian minister's shirt... when he spoke it was in the same Hank voice, nothing inflated or ministerial about it. But he was a minister, in the Unitarian Church (also in the Universal Life Church, and in the World Peace Church, and in the Ba'hais), and as he talked about Tom...
Kim Stanley RobinsonGreen Mars. New York: Bantam Books (1995) Pg. 230, 335.
Robert SheckleyMindswap. New York: Delacorte Press (1966). [Other editions: New York: Dell Publishing, 1967; New York: Ace Books, 1978] Pg. 2-3, 209.
Joseph SheppherdThe Island of the Same Name. Bend, Ore.: Manifest Books (1997) Book's author is an active Baha'i. Collins: "A novel using a 'future social fiction' style from an archaeological and anthropological perspective. Dates and background to the fictional story are Baha'i." Specific Baha'i references: pg. 278-283, 284, 307. 326, 331, 357-360, 523, 547-548.
Neal StephensonThe Big U. New York: Random House (1984) 2010Pg. 118:
"TUG is fully consistent with Judeo-Christo-Mohammedan-Bahaism."
Peter StraubKoko. New York: E. P. Dutton (1988) 1982Pg. 557:
He will play an Art Tatum version of "The Sunny Side of the Street," then one by Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins...
Nona M. Caspers"The Harmonic Conception" in Memories and Visions: Women's Fantasy & Science Fiction (Susanna J. Sturgis, ed.) Freedom, Calif.: Crossing Press (1989) 1989Pg. 152.
Arthur M. WeinbergThe Refuge and the Cave. London: Baha'i Publishing Trust (1982). Illustrated by Mary Jane Rostami. ??Utopian novel for teenagers: three children of different races find refuge in an all-Baha'i city.

Comments from Brilliant Books:

Arthur Weinberg has spent the last four decades dedicating his life to the education of children. He has applied his professional skills to assisting in the education of successive generations of Baha'i children. Many of them grew up loving his first novel, The Refuge and the Cave, which told the story of a group of children travelling through time and acquiring spiritual understanding along the way.
Arthur M. WeinbergThe City and the Heart Leuven, Belgium: Brilliant Books (19??) ??Three children want to create a garden in the middle of a desolate and dying city. One by one, other children join them, and together they uncover the city's heart. Continues the adventures of the same characters from The Refuge and the Cave.
Walter Jon Williams"While Night's Black Agents to Their Preys Do Rouse" in Wild Cards IX: Jokertown Shuffle (George R. R. Martin, ed.) New York: Bantam (1991) 1991Pg. 330:
No Charlie Parker. That was what Shad had found hard to adjust to. No John Coltrane. No Miles Davis. Dizzy Gillespie fronted something called the Fort Wayne People's Folk Orchestra and blew some good licks, but it wasn't anywhere near the same.

Reported mention of Baha'is (not yet verified) in:
- Warlord, S.M. Stirling & David Drake. Published/Created: Riverdale, NY: Baen Books, 2003. ISBN: 0743435877. Notes: "The General series was originally published as five separate novels: The Forge, The Hammer, The Anvil, The Steel, and The Sword. Warlord contains half of the Raj Whitehall saga, which will be concluded in the second omnibus volume, Conqueror."


Steven Kolins provided the following notes and references (13 June 2003), which we are still in the process of verifying and properly incorporating into this page.

I think it worth noting that Burl Barer is a Baha'i.

Here's his home page, http://www.burlbarer.com/Index2.htm , under links he has the Baha'i Faith....

Mr. Barer has many emails archived in various places on the internet over the past couple decades and many of them have little promo's of his various books....

Here's an updated bibliography of Maya Bohnhoff in Analog magazine....

http://www.hycyber.com/SF/analog_ba.html Scroll down to Bohnhoff

Anyway, I like your site and have visited it often over the decade or so since I learned of it!

You mention Tom Ligon, turns out he has a web page and talks about the stories that mention the Baha'i Faith. I suggest it as an interesting contribution...

http://www.angelfire.com/va2/TomLigon/Writing.htm#devil

The Matrix. No there isn't an explicit reference directly linking them. However there is an "accident" in that there is a quote about a "matrix" in the Baha'i Faith that has been picked up by a SCIFI reviewer in his coverage of the "Matrix Reloaded"....

http://tmatt.gospelcom.net/column/2003/05/14/

The quote is legit but the connection is "accidental". The Baha'i Faith does not play a very prominent role in the article but since it's mentioned near the beginning it's probably getting more attention...

It's easily the most public reference to the Baha'i Faith in SciFi circles.

Going an entirely different direction.... how about a melodrama with a Baha'i character (not the actress but the character) on TV in Australia??

http://www.abc.net.au/mda/staff/layla.htm

And now going the extra mile... the actress has been in several scifi/fa productions...
http://users.skynet.be/petra_1919/


It may also be noted that in addition to her writing about explicitly Baha'i characters and topics (listed above), Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff's other stories and novels (including The Spirit Gate; Taminy; The Crystal Rose and The Meri) also deal with Baha'i ethical and philosophical themes.

Links



Much of the credit for this bibliography belongs to William P. Collins. In January 2001 Collins shared his own extensive bibliography with us, more than doubling the number of books and stories listed here. He provided the following references (which we are now working on indexing more comprehensively): The Dune Encyclopedia; Memories and Visions; Anthony's God of Tarot; Bohnhoff: "Hand-Me-Down Town", "Home Is Where...", and "Marsh Mallow"; O'Leary's Door Number Three; The Children's Hour by Pournelle/Stirling; Robinson's Green Mars; Sheckley's Mindswap; Sheppherd's The Island of the Same Name; Ligon's "The Gardener" and "The Devil and the Deep Black Void."

Page created 28 June 2000. Last modified 25 July 2005.


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