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 novels or short stories which contain references to the Seventh-day Adventists. It is not necessarily a comprehensive list of such literature, but all Hugo- and Nebula-winning novels have been indexed, as have many other major works.
This is a surprisingly short list. Seventh-day Adventists form one of the ten largest international churches in the world. They have distinctive history, culture, doctrine and literature which could certainly provide subject matter for fiction. Seventh-day Adventists are often well-educated as well as devoutly and alternatively religious. They would make interesting characters in any form of fiction. Yet the SDA Church and its members are rarely mentioned in science fiction, fantasy, or any other genre.
Among all novels which have won the Hugo or Nebula award, only one (Sawyer's The Terminal Experiment) was found to mention Seventh-day Adventists. Contrast this with the fact that 25% of Hugo- and Nebula-winning novels contain references to Latter-day Saints (who have about the same number of members worldwide) and 9% (6 different novels) mention Christian Scientists, a group roughly twenty times smaller.
One major reason why there are relatively few references to Seventh-day Adventists 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 Engish-language science fiction and fantasy, and through its influence in the film and television industries, the major contributor to popular culture worldwide. Although there are over 14 million Seventh-day Adventists worldwide, less than 10% of them live in the United States.
Another factor that further decreases the possibility that writers will be familiar with SDAs is the fact that Seventh-day Adventists so frequently attend church-sponsored schools, and many work in church-sponsored businesses (mainly hospitals, or as clergy in SDA churches). Although such employees constitute a minority of total SDA membership, the factors nevertheless contribute to a lower proportion of high-achieving Seventh-day Adventists working for non-SDA employers. For these reasons, it is likely that few science fiction writers actually know Seventh-day Adventists personally.
Another factor is the fact that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has become increasingly similar to other conservative Protestant churches. Authors are more likely to write about religious or cultural groups to the extent which those groups seem distinctive. SDAs are distinctive in many ways (such as by observing the Sabbath on Saturday) and retain a high level of group identification, but they have de-emphasized differences in positioning the church as Evangelical.
Finally, another reason SDAs are rarely mentioned in sf/f is that there are no known science fiction/fantasy writers who are members. Some groups (such as Catholics, Jews, Latter-day Saints) have an enthusiastic tradition of reading and also writing speculative fiction; such groups are well-represented by characters and subject matter, even if they are minorities. But Seventh-day Adventists, as a culture, have in many places and times been opposed to such literature. Science fiction and fantasy has been prohibited at many SDA schools, according to some Seventh-day Adventists we have talked to. Other sources indicate that the prohibition of science fiction and fantasy literature is not an official or universal SDA policy. Certainly there are SDAs (including active churchgoers) who read science fiction. It is quite possible that such prohibitions and attitudes are isolated among Seventh-day Adventists. Yet, without some reason behind it, the dearth of Adventists among science fiction writers seems inexplicable. In the Adherents.com list of hundreds of sf/f authors of various religions and denominations, there is not one author who is a Seventh-day Adventist.
(None of this attempt to analyze the proportionate representation of SDAs in science fiction should be taken as criticism of SDAs. It could certainly be pointed out that although SDAs lack representation among SF/F writers, they are over-represented in certain other fields of achievement which they clearly approve of, such as among doctors, nurses, and congressmen.)
"...I want to read all the great books, and all the trashy ones, too. I want to learn about Buddhism and Judaism and Seventh Day Adventists. I want to visit Australia and Japan..."|
- from The Terminal Experiment
by Robert J. Sawyer