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Jehovah's Witnesses
in Science Fiction


This annotated bibliography, a subset derived from the Adherents.com Religion in Literature database, is intended as a resource for literary research. It lists mainstream science fiction/fantasy novels or short stories which contain references to Jehovah's Witnesses. 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 Jehovah's Witnesses comprise one of the largest, most widespread, and most distinctive religious bodies in the world, there are relatively few references to Jehovah's Witnesses in science fiction. One reason for this is that Jehovah's Witnesses themselves do not write science fiction. Authors frequently write about their own religious and ethnic backgrounds. A group not represented among a genre's writers is less likely to be written about. Also, there are a large number of social and philosophical differences between Jehovah's Witnesses and most science fiction writers. Science fiction writers and Jehovah's Witnesses rarely know each other personally, even though they may live in the same geographic areas.

There are some Jehovah's Witnesses who are writers in genres other than science fiction/fantasy. Pehaps the best known is Mickey Spillane, an active Witness who writes hard-boiled detective and crime fiction. He is best know as the creator of "Mike Hammer." Another writer with a JW background is novelist Gloria Naylor, a former JW pioneer who won the American Book Award in 1982 for The Women of Brewster Place.

Another reason why Jehovah's Witnesses have rarely been mentioned in science fiction is that they are a fairly new religious movement. Older religious groups are mentioned more frequently than newer ones.

The importance of these factors can be illustrated by comparing the relative frequency of references to Jehovah's Witnesses and Jews. Both groups are roughly the same size in terms of active participation as a religion. Yet Jews are mentioned in the majority of all science fiction novels and stories which mention two or more different religions, while Jehovah's Witnesses are mentioned in less than two dozen books in our database. Judaism, of course, is much older than the Jehovah's Witnesses movement, and Jews are well-represented among science fiction writers.

We are aware of only three Jehovah's Witness characters in works of science fiction: The first is Runford, a Jehovah's Witness "pastor" who is featured prominently in Piers Anthony's Faith of Tarot; Vision of Tarot and Go of Tarot. In this case, however, the "character" is little more than a spokesperson for the tenets of his faith in a pair of novels the author wrote to explore various aspects of religion. Runford has a considerable number of lines in the books, but he is hardly a realistic or fully-drawn character.

Dan Simmons' The Crook Factory is about Hemingway in Cuba. A minor character in the novel is Juanito Garcia, a Jehovah's Witness who is described as "the real power in the National Police." Although the character is referred to as "Juanito the Jehovah's Witness," he doesn't do or say anything that seems characteristic of Witnesses generally. Finally, the protagonist briefly (one page) encounters a Mexican girl who is a Jehovah's Witness in Philip K. Dick's semi-autobiographical Valis.

The most common type of reference to Jehovah's Witnesses refers to them as an oppressed minority. Some writers have specifically mentioned Jehovah's Witnesses as one of the groups exterminated by Hitler during Word War II (Nancy Kress, Philip K. Dick, Stephen Fry). Octavia Butler, a former Baptist, describes violent oppression by Baptists. Others refer to general intolerance shown toward JWs (Card/Kidd, Anthony, Wilson, Atwood). In most of these cases, Jehovah's Witnesses are mentioned very briefly, only in passing.

Other writers have referred specifically to Watchtower Society/JW Bible tracts (Michael Bishop, Elizabeth Hand, Stephen King, John Sladek, Bruce Sterling, Tom De Haven, Philip K. Dick in Valis).

The portrayal of Jehovah's Witnesses in science fiction is rare, but generally fair and neutral.

   Brother Paul... had encountered Jehovah's Witnesses on Earth and found them to be honest and dedicated people, strongly reminiscent of the earliest Christians.

- from Vision of Tarot
by Piers Anthony

Current number of novels, movies and stories in list: 25.



Author Title Approx.
year
Sample Quote and/or Description
Piers AnthonyFaith of Tarot. New York: Berkley Books (10th printing 1986; 1st ed. 1980) 2075The author refers to every religious group he can think in the Tarot trilogy, but Jehovah's Witnesses are one of the most prominently featured groups. A "pastor" named "Runford," a clear reference to one of the JW founders, acts as a spokesperson or JW beliefs, as Piers Anthony understands them. Other refs. are in main database that aren't shown here. Example, pg. 75:
"...We [Waldensians] feel that if God recruited as actively as Satan does, this would be a better world. Therefore, we proselytize."

"...I can see that much of your [Waldensian] philosophy of religion has come down to my own time and has been incorporated into the faiths of my world... The Quakers honor the direct relation between man and God, calling it the Inner Light,' and the Jehovah's Witnesses attempt to combat Satan by active recruiting..."

Piers AnthonyVision of Tarot. New York: Berkley Books (1985; 1st ed. 1980) 2075More prominent JW material, as spoken by pastor "Runford." (See notes for Faith of Tarot.) Example, pg. 32:
Brother Paul... had encountered Jehovah's Witnesses on Earth and found them to be honest and dedicated people, strongly reminiscent of the earliest Christians.
Piers AnthonyGod of Tarot. New York: Berkley (1982; c. 1977) 2075Pg. 142:
They had come up to the two standing figures. "Brother Paul," one said. He was an old man, white-haired but upright. "I am Pastor Runford, Jehovah's Witness. This is Mrs. Ellend, Church of Christ, Scientist."

"I am glad to meet you," Brother Paul said...

"We two have been assigned to watch over your experiment, remaining neutral ourselves," Pastor Runford said...

[Some other refs. to this character. See also pg. 145.]
Margaret AtwoodThe Handmaid's Tale. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin (1986) 1998Pg. 201:
We go to the church, as usual, and look at the graves. Then to the Wall. Only two hanging on it today: one Catholic, not a priest though, placarded with an upside-down cross, and some other sect I don't recognize. The body is marked only with a J, in red. It doesn't mean Jewish, those would be yellow stars... So the J isn't for Jew. What could it be? Jehovah's Witness? Jesuit? Whatever it meant, he's just as dead.
Iain BanksThe Business. New York: Simon & Schuster (1999) 1999[Telman is talking with the head lama in a monastery in Thulahn, a fictional country near where Nepal is.] Pg. 268:
"What about other faiths?" I asked. "Do you, for instance, get Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses turning up here?" I had a sudden comical image of two guys in sober suits and shiny shoes (covered in snow) shivering outside the giant doors of a remote monastery.

"Very rarely." The Rinpoche looked thoughtfully. "Usually by the time we see them they are . . . changed," he said.

John BarnesKaleidoscope Century. New York: Tor (1995) 1980Pg. 19:
We argued a lot about what I got taught in school, because I saw no sense in arguing with teachers. I was perfectly willing to agree with Mama that it was all bourgeois lies, but I didn't see any reason why I should have to correct it. Not when I could quietly drift along in the back of the room, ignored by everyone, and keep my concentration on basic issues like saving up for a car out of my job at McDonald's. It was okay with me that we went to CP stuff all the time, and the demonstrations were kind of fun, but it was like being born a Witness or a Mormon--you weren't exactly like the people around you, but you weren't not like them, either. You just had a slightly different set of adult friends and links to different families than other kids did.
Greg BearThe Serpent Mage. New York: Ace Books (1987; 1st ed. 1986) 1986Pg. 127:
The next day, at eleven in the morning, two Jehovah's Witnesses proselytizers came to the door of the Waltiri house, and Michael did not have the heart to simply send them on their way. The elder of the two was middle-aged, gray hair carefully groomed, dressed in a brown suit with a narrow gold tie; the younger, a trainee about twenty years old, wore a black suit and a red tie. Both carried satchels.

Michael listened wearily to their prophecies and Bible quotations, and they kept him at the door for half an hour. When he managed to convince them he was not really interested, he shut the door and stood with his back against the dark wood, eyes closed, almost sick.

They preached the Apocalypse. He knew it was coming--but not as they visualized it.

Pg. 161:
"I've been reading the good Book," Mrs. Dopso said. "I'm afraid it doesn't give me much comfort."

Michael, remembering the debate with the Jehovah's Witnesses, said nothing.

Michael BishopThe Secret Ascension; or, Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas. New York: Tor (1987) 1982[PKD's obituary continued, as it appears within this novel.] Pg. 23:
In 1981, however, "Valis," [Philip K. Dick's] last novel, appeared from Banshee Books, a small New York paperback house... Labeled science fiction, "Valis" strikes most partisans of Dick's work as a sordid record of the total unraveling of his personality.

"This book has no literary merit at all," wrote Luke Santini in a Harper's magazine article entitled "A Crap Artist Craps Out" (Nov. 1981). "It may have value as a case history for students of psychiatry and abnormal human behavior, but as a work of art, if falls somewhere between subway graffiti and the fanatic propaganda of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

Octavia ButlerParable of the Talents. New York: Seven Stories Press (1998) 2032Pg. 23:
Jarret supporters... A witch, in their view, tends to be a Moslem, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or in some parts of the country, a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, or even a Catholic.
Orson Scott Card & Kathryn H. KiddLovelock. 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.
Tom De HavenWalker of Worlds. New York: Doubleday (1990) 1990Pg. 270:
Herb telling Marge that he'd had a tuna steak for lunch, Marge telling Herb that she'd done two loads of laundry and still couldn't find the match to his good blue sock--oh, and that some Jehovah's Witnesses had come by around eleven, trying to give her The Watchtower.
Philip K. DickValis. New York: Bantam (1981) 1971Pg. 43:
In a small room stood a girl, a Mexican girl... The girl held a magazine open on top of a TV set; she displayed a crude drawing printed on the page: a picture of the Peaceful Kingdom. The magazine, Fat realized, was the Watchtower. The girl, smiling at him, was a Jehovah's Witness.

The girl said in a gentle and moderated voice, to Fat and not to the psych tech, "Our Lord God has prepared for us a place to live where there will be no pain and no fear and see? the animals lie happily together, the lion and the lamb, as we shall be, all of us, friends who love one another, without suffering or death, forever and ever with our Lord Jehovah who loves us and will never abandon us, whatever we do."

"Debbie, please leave the lounge," the psych tech said.

Still smiling at Fat, the girl pointed to a cow and a lamb in the crude drawing. "All beasts, all men, all living creatures great and small will bask in the warmth of Jehovah's love, when the Kingdom arrives. You think it will be a long time, but Christ Jesus is with us today." Then, closing up the magazine, the girl, still smiling but not silent, left the room.

"Sorry about that," the psych tech said to Fat.

"Gosh," Fat said, amazed.

"Did she upset you? I'm sorry about that. She's not supposed to have that literature; somebody must have smuggled it in to her."

Fat said, "I'll be okay." He realized it; it dazed him.

Philip K. DickThe Man in the High Castle. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons (1962) 1945Pg. 27-28:
One had to blame the Germans for the situation. Tendency to bite off more than they could chew. After all, they had barely managed to win the war, and at once they had gone off to conquer the solar system, while at home they had passed edicts which . . . well, at least the idea was good. And after all, they had been successful with the Jews and Gypsies and Bible Students. And the Slavs had been rolled back two thousand years' worth...
Stephen FryMaking History. New York: Random House (1996) 1996Pg. 67, 87:
"...You know in the camps there was a purple triangle too."
"Really? Who for?"
"Take a guess."
..."That wasn't the Gypsies?"
"No."
"Er . . . criminals then?"
"No."
"Lesbians?"
"No."
"Communists?"
"No, no."
"Blimey. Let me see . . ."
"Yes, a strange game, is it not? To put yourself into the mind of a Nazi. You have to imagine a whole new collection of humans to hate. Have another try."
"Interior decorators?"
"No."
"The mentally ill?"
"No."
"Slavs?"
"No."
"Poles?"
"No."
"Er . . . Muslims?"
"No"
"Cossacks?"
"No."
Pg. 87:
"I have watched Hiroshima... the Western Front... Always I'm afraid, I return to Auschwitz. The answer, by the way, is Jehovah's Witnesses."

"Er . . . you've lost me. The answer to what is Jehovah's Witnesses?"

"The purple triangle? You remember, you couldn't guess who had to wear it? It was the Jehovah's Witnesses."

Elizabeth HandWaking the Moon. New York: HarperPrism (1995) 1995Pg. 291:
Embattled tenements behind their chain link fences; neat little row houses where old women sat fanning themselves with copies of The Watchtower...
Fred HoyleThe Black Cloud. New York and Evanston: Harper & Row (1957) 1964Pg. 147:
"Those who have experienced the coming of sunrise after a cold night in the desert will have a faint idea of the joy brought by the dawn of 24th October, 1964. A word about religion may be in order. During the approach of the Cloud all manner of religious beliefs had flourished mightily. During the spring, the Jehovah's Witnesses had robbed all other speakers in Hyde Park of their audiences. Incumbents of the Church of England had been astonished to find themselves preaching to overflowing congregations. All this was swept aside on 24th October. Everyone, men and women of all creeds--Christian, Atheist, Mohammedan, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew--all became pervaded to their innermost beings with the emotional complex of the old Sun-worshippers."
John KesselGood News from Outer Space. New York: Tor (1990; c. 1989) 1999Pg. 49:
Other [newspaper] stories littered his desk:... "Unarius Temple Firebombed." "Jehovah's Witnesses Torn by Schism." "High-Tech pioneer Founds American Atheist Party."
Stephen KingThe Stand. Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1978) 1978Pg. 122:
His pockets were stuffed with fifty different kind of conflicting literature. When this man handed you a tract you took it no matter what the subject: the dangers of atomic power plants, the role played by the International Jewish Cartel in the overthrow of friendly governments, the CIA, the farm workers' union, the Jehovah's Witnesses (If You Can Answer These Ten Questions "Yes," You Have Been Saved!)...
Nancy Kress"And Wild for to Hold" in The Aliens of Earth. Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House Publishers (1993). [First pub. in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, July 1991.] 1940Pg. 309:
They were given an hour's overview of the time-rescue program... about the prevention of war, the nobility of hostages, the deep understanding the Time Research Institute held of the All-World Accord of 2154, the altruistic extension of the Holy Mission of Peace into other time streams. Brill then moved on to discuss the four time-hostages, dwelling heavily on the first. In the four years since Herr Hitler had become a hostage, the National Socialist Party had all but collapsed in Germany. President Paul von Hindenburg had died on schedule, and the new moderate chancellors were slowly bringing order to Germany. The economy was still very bad and unrest was widespread, but no one was arresting Jews or gypsies or homosexuals or Jehovah's Witnesses...
Carl SaganContact. New York: Simon & Schuster (1985) 1999Pg. 315:
He [Eda, the Ahmadiyyan physicist] told her a little of the religion he had been born into.... It was a comparatively new sect--contemporaneous with Christian Science or the Jehovah's Witnesses...
Dan SimmonsThe Crook Factory. New York: Avon Books (1999) 1942Pg. 112:
"What kind of private work?" I said.

"He kills people," said Hemingway. "And he takes orders from Major Juan Emmanuele Pache Garcia, 'Juanito, the Jehovah's Witness,' the real power in the National Police. Garcia orders that people be killed. Sometimes he does it as a favor for the local politicians or friendly agencies."

Pg. 257
I described the Abwehr and FBI money drops to Lieutenant Maldonado and his superior, Juanito the Jehovah's Witness. I told them about my contracts with the BSC's Commander Fleming on my way to Cuba and with the OSS's Wallace Beta Phillips once I arrived...
[Some other references to the character 'Juanito.']
Dan SimmonsCarrion Comfort. New York: Warner Books (1990; c. 1989) 1980Pg. 134:
The guy in the Plymouth--if it was a guy--might be a process server or a reporter or a persistent Jehovah's Witness or a member of the Governor's new strike force on police corruption.
John SladekTik-Tok. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. (1985; 1st printed 1983) 2094This passage may be a satirical reference to Jehovah's Witnesses and their Watchtower and Awake! pamphlets. The entire novel is satirical, most frequently critical of Evangelicals and Pentecostals. Pg. 90:
I collected an assortment of Crusade pamphlets:

Christ had short hair!
Is Heaven enough?
(The answer was No; after getting to Heaven it was necessary to get a house in a good neighborhood.)
The Reverend Flint Orifice Story
Double Tithing--the best investment!
Zither fish fools scientists--God laughs!
Caesarian birth: myth or reality?

Bruce SterlingIslands in the Net. New York: Arbor House/William Morrow (1988) 2022Pg. 272:
They gave her a deck of cards, and a paperback Bible that had been distributed by the Jehovah's Witness Mission of Bamako in 1992.
Robert Charles WilsonMysterium. New York: Bantam (1994) 1998Pg. 181:
Congreve... had assembled a delegation from every religious group in town except for the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Vedanta Buddhist Temple...

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