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 Unitarians, Universalists, or Unitarian Universalists. It is not necessarily a comprehensive list of such literature, but all Hugo-, Nebula-, Campbell- and Locus-winning novels have been indexed, as have many other major works.
Relative to other religious groups, Unitarians Universalists (henceforth abbreviated "Unitarians") are mentioned rarely in science fiction and fantasy. There are a number of possible reasons for this. The most important reason may be that there are not very many Unitarians relative to other religious groups. When choosing a religious affiliation for a character, writers are more likely to choose religious groups they are personally familiar with, or hear about frequently in the news. Authors also do not perceive Unitarians as having an significant impact on the rest of the world. Groups such as Catholicism and Islam, which have at various times and places had major influence over commerce, politics, technology, social reform, etc., are more likely to be used in the plot of a novel or story.
There are a number of science fiction writers who are or have been Unitarians. Edward Everett Hale was a well known Unitarian preacher and abolitionist in the 19th Century, and was the author of a number of important literary works. He wrote some of the earliest utopian and alternative history fiction, including the classic The Man without a Country and Other Tales.
The great Olaf Stapledon, literary heir to H. G. Wells and author of the classic philosophical future history Last and First Men, had a Unitarian mother. Canadian s.f. writer Robert J. Sawyer was raised in a Unitarian home. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Ray Bradbury and Frederik Pohl have been associated with Unitarianism as adults, and Sydney J. van Scyoc was an active church member. Lyda Morehouse is a contemporary science fiction writer who was formerly a Unitarian-Universalist. Her novel Archangel Protocol contains several references to UUs.
The authors who have mentioned Unitarians, Universalists or Unitarian-Univeralists in their fiction include many of the most popular figures in the field, including: Piers Anthony, Greg Bear, Terry Bisson, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Mike McQuay, Thomas M. Disch, Terry England, Dean Ing, Fritz Leiber, James Morrow, David Morse, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Steven Barnes, Alexei Panshin, Frederik Pohl, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Sheckley, Dan Simmons, Connie Willis, and Robert Charles Wilson
The references listed on this page can be categorized as follows:
6 books simply list Unitarians in a short list of other religious groups. (Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451; Bradbury's A Graveyard for Lunatics; England's Rewind; Ing's Systemic Shock; Morrow's Only Begotten Daughter; Sawyer's Golden Fleece)
5 works mention Unitarian ministers, and perhaps sermons by them. (Niven's Beowulf's Children; Robinson's Pacific Edge; Willis's Doomsday Book; Panshin's The Thurb Revolution; Willis's "Epiphany")
4 of the Unitarian references refer to characters who retain a Unitarian identity in name only, and are in no way active in UU church life. (Bear's Anvil of Stars; Wilson's Darwinia; Bisson's "macs"; Leiber's Our Lady of Darkness)
3 books refer to Baptists' dislike of Unitarians (Pohl's The World at the End of Time; Wilson's Mysterium; Drake's The Tank Lords)
2 books mention specific historical Unitarian doctrines, such as rejection of Athanasian/Nicean Creed-style Trinity. (Morrow's Towing Jehovah; Morse's The Iron Bridge)
2 works refers to Unitarian history (a brief reference in Panshin's "How Can We Sink When We Can Fly?" and a detailed account in Piers Anthony's Vision of Tarot)
1 book refers to the Founding Fathers as "pointy-headed intellectuals" and "Unitarians" (Simmons)
1 book compares a new religious group ("Cosmies") to Unitarians (Arthur C. Clarke's Richter 10)
1 book refers to a sports team named "Unitarians" (Disch)
1 story describes an event sponsored by a local Unitarian church in which aliens help 200 humans merge into a composite lifeform (Sheckley's "The Day the Aliens Came")
McDevitt's Ancient Shores mentions a character who announced she had become a Unitarian at the time she graduated from high school
Sterling's Island in the Sea of Time takes place in the Nantucket, Massachusetts, where it is said that Unitarians and Congregagationalists have the biggest congregations
Closing her eyes, she brought her mother into focus: Rebecca Fowler of Hollis, New Hampshire, a cheerful and energetic Unitarian minister whose iconoclasm ran so deep it shocked ever her own congregation.
- from Towing Jehovah by James Morrow
Current number of novels and stories in list: 29.
Sample Quote and/or Description
Vision of Tarot. New York: Berkley Books (1985; 1st ed. 1980)
Pg. 33-35: This book contains a detailed retelling of the origins of the American Universalist denomination. Exerpts are shown at the bottom of this page.
Anvil of Stars. New York: Warner Books (1992)
"You're so big and strong, a strapping theoretical fellow," Hakim said with a smile. "Catholic cannot take a dare from a Muslim?"
Giacomo squinted. "Bolsh," he said. "My parents didn't even go to church."
"Nobody mentions my religion," Martin said. The conversation was becoming too ragged for his taste, but he could not just stay out of it.
"We don't know what you are," Hakim said.
Martin thought for a moment. "I don't know myself," he said. My grandparents were Unitarians, I think."
She was my second cousin, so now I have a Hindu second cousin-in-law. Of course he's not actually a Hindu...
A Unitarian, actually. There are several of us here in MacAlester, but I'm the only one from the prison. I was fresh out of Ag and it was my first assignment. How would one describe such an assignment? In my country, we had no such ... well, you know. It was repellent and fascinating at the same time.
A Graveyard for Lunatics. New York: Alfred A. Knopf (1990)
Fritz Long came leaping over in great strides. "God damn! We're all set for your scenes. That drunken Baptist Unitarian has disappeared. You know where the son-of-a-bitch hides?"
"You called Aimee Semple McPherson's?"
"Or the Holy Rollers. Or the Manly P. Hall Universalists. Or--"
"I gave orders to cut Judas! I didn't want to make an anti-Semitic film!"
"What!" I exploded, jumping up. "This film is being released next Easter, right? That week, one million Baptists will see it. Two million Lutherans?"
"Ten million Catholics?"
"And when they all stagger forth on Easter Sunday and ask, "Who cut Judas Iscariot out of the film?" how come the answer is: Manny Leiber!"
Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon and Schuster (1967)
[Bradbury, writing this near-future tale, refers simply to Unitarians rather than Unitarian Universalists, although at the time he wrote this novel the merger had already occured.] Pg. 64:
"...Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don't step on the toes of the... doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians..."
Arthur C. Clarke & Mike McQuay
Richter 10. New York: Bantam (1996)
"Is that when you became a Cosmie?"
"No," She laughed, moving around to sit beside him on the couch. "My father was Jewish by birth, not my mother, which left me nowhere in a matrilineal culture. I always remember my dad as a Cosmie. He converted when I was very young. Guess that's why I gravitated that way. Cosmies are friendly enough folks, like Unitarians with vision. It didn't stop me from losing a scholarship because they said I was Jewish, though."
Thomas M. Disch
Camp Concentration. New York: Random House (1999; c. 1968)
Team sports. Yes, that's what I said. Mordecai, some months ago, invented an elaborate variant of croquet... that is played by teams of three to seven players. Every Friday night there is a tournament between the Columbians and the Unitarians. (The teams' names aren't quite as nicely-nicely as they may seem. They have to do with the rival schools of thought on the question of the nature and origin of syphilis, the Columbian school maintaining that the spirochetes were imported to Europe from the New World by Columbus' sailors... while the Unitarians believe that the many apparent varieties of venereal disease are in fact one, which they call treponematosis, its Protean multiplicity being due to variations of social conditions, personal habits, and climate.)
The Tank Lords. New York: Baen (1997)
The Church of the Lord's Universe
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the faith that men took to the stars--and vice versa--was that it appeared to differ so little from the liturgical protestantism of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Indeed, services of the Church of the Lord's Universe--almost always, except by Unitarians, corrupted to 'Universal Church'... The Church of the Lord's Universe was officially launched in 1895 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by the merger of 230 existing protestant congregations--Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Lutheran. In part the new church was a revolt against the extreme fundamentalism peaking at that time. The Universalists sought converts vigorously from the start... But the Church of the Lord's Universe had a mission beyond the entertainment of its congregations for an hour every Sunday. The priests and laity alike preached the salvation of Mankind through His works. To Universalists, however, the means and the end were both secular. The Church taught that Man must reach the stars and there, among infinite expanses, find room to live in peace. This temporal paradise was one which could be grasped by all men. It did not detract from spiritual hopes; but heaven is in the hands of the Lord, while the stars were not beyond Man's own strivings.
The Doctrine of Salvation through the Stars--it was never labeled so bluntly in Universalist writings, but the peevish epithet bestowed by a Baptist theologian was not inaccurate...
Rewind. New York: Avon Books (1997)
[Faux news report.] Pg. 228:
"I understand there is a mixture of religious affiliations in the group"
"Eight Protestants of various stripes, three Catholics, two Jews, one who calls himself a New Age minister, three Mormons."
"No Muslims, no Anglicans, no Unitarians."
Systemic Shock. New York: Tor (original 1981; 1st Tor edition 1992)
Catholics, Jews, Unitarians and atheists wanted equal [media] time.
Our Lady of Darkness. New York: Berkley Publishing Corp. (1977)
"...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..."
Ancient Shores. New York: HarperCollins (1996)
She was from Long Island... She'd been reared Catholic, but during high school Charlotte had become uncomfortable with a faith that seemed to lay everything out so neatly. God the scorekeeper. At graduation she'd announced that she had become a Unitarian. Creation is beyond logic or explanation, she'd told her dismayed father; one can only sit back and await the wind that blows between the stars. Her father had assured her mother that everything would be all right, that it was all nonsense and Charlotte would get over it... The buses had come from Minneapolis, where Charlotte was a manager at a McDonald's, having left home to find her true self.
Archangel Protocol. New York: Penguin Putnam (2001)
[The author is a former Unitarian-Universalist. In the body of the novel there is a 3-page faux essay titled "The nature of angels, a Unitarian perspective", pages 148-150.] Pg. 148:
It's the oldest joke about Unitarians, of course. When faced with the diverging paths on the road to enlightenment, one with a sign reading, "This way heaven," and the other with, "This way to a discussion about the existence of heaven," the Unitarian always picks the latter.
"Whose are they, I wonder."
"I don't know. I suppose it could be the Unitarians' underground railroad."
Dismissing that idea with a shake of her head, Rebeckah smiled. "They're not that organized--too much infighting. Besides, it's summer."
I laughed. The Unitarians were notorious for closing down their churches in the summertime.
Towing Jehovah. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co. (1994)
Closing her eyes, she brought her mother into focus: Rebecca Fowler of Hollis, New Hampshire, a cheerful and energetic Unitarian minister whose iconoclasm ran so deep it shocked ever her own congregation.
The wrists [on the giant statue or corpse of God] exhibited no crucifixion marks: an instance of divine self-healing, Thomas surmised, although a Unitarian might legitimately seize upon this circumstance to rail against conventional Christianity's obsession with the Trinity.
Only Begotten Daughter. New York: William Morrow & Co. (1990)
Julie Katz apparently visits Hell. Pg. 170:
Day by day, the categories of iniquity grew even more arbitrary and excessive. Julie could understand why there was an Island of Atheists. Ditto the Island of Adulterers, the Island of Occultists, the Island of Tax Dodgers. Depending on one's upbringing, the precincts reserved for Unitarians, Abortionists, Socialists, Nuclear Strategists, and Sexual Deviates made sense.
The Iron Bridge. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co. (1998)
He might have found comfort in the Bible. But he did not believe in the Virgin Birth, or in the Divine Christ either. Baptized a Presbyterian, he counted himself a Unitarian, following Priestley's rational example. His declared beliefs was in one God, free of papist trimmings. But whenever he tried praying to that solitary, rational God, the picture that crept into his mind was that of His Majesty the King seated on a throne of clouds--benignly indifferent at best, almost certainly helpless, and very possibly mad.
Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle & Steven Barnes
Beowulf's Children. New York: Tor (1995)
[On a scarcely-populated 4th planet in the Tau Ceti system.] Pg. 151:
"You resent the First?" This was from Julia Chang Hortha, agronomist, nurse, counselor, and a minister of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, the closest thing to a formal church they had. "
Basis for estimate of what year this story takes place: "Citizens, for over a billion years, life on Earth has been studying the sun. Astronomers have six thousand years of records if you allow the Egyptians. Three hundred years ago, the sun had only been around a few million years, because God hadn't invented fusion yet. . ."
"How Can We Sink When We Can Fly?" in Farewell To Yesterday's Tomorrow. New York: Berkley Publishing Corp. (1975; c. 1971)
"I was about to say, one of my ancestors was the brother of Hosea Ballou, who founded the Universalists. 'The Father of American Universalism.' "
"They amalgamated with the Unitarians. They're all Unitarian Universalists now..."
The Thurb Revolution. New York: Ace Books (1978; c. 1968)
The Thurb Revolution. New York: Ace Books (1978; c. 1968)"Yes. So I found myself married for two years. That's the way my father wanted it. But at the end of two years, he wanted to renew and so did Everlyn's father, but neither Evie nor I did. Two more mismatched people you will never see. So we didn't renew. Evie went into a Unitarian convent and writes me beautiful letters. She reads. She sends me book lists, but I can never keep up..."
The World at the End of Time. New York: Ballantine (1990)
At least, he thought, with what remained of his identification as a Christian who hadn't been to a service since the landing, the Catholics and all the Protestants, even the Quakers and Unitarians, had all raised no objection to a common grave for their dead.
Not then, anyway.
The Baptists had refused to be ecumenical with the Unitarians; the Church of Rome had separated itself from Greek Orthodox and Episcopalian.
Kim Stanley Robinson
Pacific Edge. New York: Tor (1990)
Hank conducted a brief ceremony. He was dressed in his Unitarian minister's shirt, and at first he looked like he was in costume, his face still lined brick-red with sun, his hair still a tangle. And 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 Baha'is), and as he talked about Tom, and the crowd continued to collect on the crown of the hill--older people who had known Tom all their lives, younger people... members of Hank's congregation, friends, neighbors, passersby, until there were two to three hundred people up there--all of them listened to what Hank had to say.
Because there was a conviction in Hank, an intensity of belief in the importance of what they were doing, that could not be denied. Watching him Kevin lost his sense of Hank as daily partner and friend, the rapid voice tumbling words one over the next picked Kevin up and carried him along with the rest of them, into a sense of values, into a community. How Hank could gather them, Kevin thought. Such a presence. People dropping by the work sites to ask Hank about this or that, and he laughing and offering his advice, based on some obscure text or his own thoughts, whatever, there was never any pretense to it; only belief. It was as if he were their real leader, somehow, and the town council nothing at all. How did he do it? A matter of faith. Hank was certain they were all of them spiritual beings in a spiritual community. And as he acted on that belief, those who had anything to do with him became a part of it, helped make it so.
Robert J. Sawyer
Golden Fleece. New York: Time Warner (1990)
Aboard the starship Argo. Pg. 68:
The Place of Worship on level 11 wasn't more than an empty room, really. We didn't have the space to provide a dedicated church or synagogue or mosque or other specialized hall. Instead, this simple chamber, with seating for 500, served as called upon.
The chairs were a bit too comfortable to be called pews, a bit less tacky than the folding metal seats most of our Unitarians seemed to be used to.
"The Day the Aliens Came" in New Legends. Greg Bear (ed.) New York: Tor (1995)
Aboard the starship Argo. Pg. 164:
The presence of aliens among us was responsible for the next step in human development, the new interest in composite living. You got tired of the same old individualism after a while... We wanted to join a creature like a medusa or a Portuguese man of war. But we weren't sure how to go about it. And so we didn't know whether to be pleased or alarmed when we received our notification by mail of our election to an alien composite lifeform. Becoming part of a composite was still unusual in those days.
...We finally decided to go to the first meeting, which was free, and see what it was like.
This meeting was held at our local Unitarian Church, and there were almost two hundred people and aliens present. There was a lot of good-natured bewilderment for a while as to just what we were supposed to do. We were all novices at this and just couldn't believe that we were expected to form up a two hundred person composite without prior training.
At last someone in a scarlet blazer and carrying a loose-leaf binder showed up and told us that we were supposed to be forming five unit composites first, and that as soon as we had a few dozen of these and had gotten the hang of morphing and melding, we could proceed to the second level of composite beinghood.
It was only then that we realized that there could be many levels to composite beings, each level being a discrete composite in its own right.
Luckily the Unitarian Church had a big open space in the basement, and here is where we and our chimaeric partners fit ourselves together.
There was good-natured bewilderment at first as we tried to perform this process. Most of us had had no experience at fitting ourselves to other creatures, so we were unfamiliar with for example, the Englen, that organ of the Pseudontoics which fits securely into the human left ear...
Carrion Comfort. New York: Warner Books (1990; c. 1989)
"Don't you see, Anthony? For all the evangelicals' talk about this nation being founded on religious principles... this being a Christian nation and all . . . most of the Founding Fathers were like Jefferson . . . atheists, pointy-headed intellectuals, Unitarians . . ."
"So the country was founded by a flock of fuzzy-minded secular humanists, Anthony. That's why we can't have God in our schools anymore. That's why they're killing a million unborn babies a day. That's why the Communists are growin' stronger while we're talking arms reduction..."
S. M. Sterling
Island in the Sea of Time. New York: Penguin (1998)
[In this novel the Massachusetts island of Nantucket is transported from the present day to 1250 B.C.E.] Pg. 101:
...that many on a Sunday, not on Nantucket, where the biggest congregations were Unitarian and Congregationalist.
The picture inside that was a lighthouse--specifically, Brant Point lighthouse at the northwestern entrance to the harbor.
"I thought you were going to use the Unitarian Church tower?" she said. "Don't tell me . . ."
"All the other denominations objected..."
He trusted the little priest's judgment. So did his colleagues, evidently. The Town Building office held the pastors of the Episcopal and Baptist churches as well, the Congregationalists, the Methodists . . . even the Unitarians...
"We have indeed," Gomez said. "We've been trying to come to some understanding of what God meant by the Event, in a specifically religious sense. Some things are obvious. Questions of episcopacy and papal supremacy are..."
Cofflin nodded. That made sense. For that matter, there'd been something of a religious revival on the island since the Event. Not showy, and there'd never been many fundamentalists here--Unitarians and mainstream Protestants were in the majority, with the Catholics a not very close second. More people had been showing up of a Sunday, though.
Doomsday Book. New York: Bantam (1992)
[An interchurch Christmas service.] Pg. 172:
The minister from the Converted Unitarian Church mounted the pulpit. "On this very night over two thousand years ago, God sent His Son. His precious child, into our world. Can you imagine what kind of incredible love it must have taken to do that? On that night Jesus left his heavenly home and went into a world full of dangers and diseases," the minister said. "He went as an ignorant and helpless babe, knowing nothing of the evil, of the treachery he would encounter. How could God have sent His only Son, His precious child, into such danger? The answer is love. Love."
"Epiphany" in Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. New York: Bantam (1999)
They'd met on the ecumenical committee, when the Unitarian chairman had decided that, to be truly ecumenical, they needed a resident atheist and Darwinian biologist. And, Mel suspected, an African-American.
Robert Charles Wilson
Darwinia. New York: Tor (1998)
And they talked, often as not, about religion. Guilford's father was an Episcopalian by birth and a Unitarian by marriage--he held, in other words, no particular dogmatic views.
Robert Charles Wilson
Mysterium. New York: Bantam (1994)
Congreve... had assembled a delegation from every religious group in town... The churches had not always been on friendly terms, and it was still a chore to keep the Baptists talking to the Unitarians, for instance, but they all faced a common danger in this peculiar new world.
Other works known to mention Unitarians, but which have not yet been indexed: James Halperin's The Truth Machine; H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man.
The following detailed account of the origin of the Universalist denomination is from Piers Anthony's Vision of Tarot (1980), pages 33 - 35:
'I would respond to that, Friend,' a woman said.
'Speak, Universalist, and welcome,' the Quaker said.
'Thank you, Friend. I have an anecdote of the man who was a cornerstone of our faith, John Murray. Made desolate while a young man not yet thirty by the death of his lovely wife, and uncertain of her personal faith because of his changing perception of the nature of God, John sought only the solace of isolation. He set sail in 1770 for America. The captain of the ship intended to land at New York City, but contrary winds blew them agroundat a little bay on the Jersey coast.John was put in charge of a sloop onto which they loaded enough of the cargo to enable the larger ship to float free of the sand bar at high tide, but before the sloop could follow, the wind shifted, trapping it in the bay. John Murray was unable to proceed, and there was no foot aboard, so he went ashore to purchase some...
'Walking through the coastal forest [Murray] came upon a good-sized church, all by itself in dense woods. Amazed, he inquired at the next house and learned that an iliterate farmer had built the church at his own expense in thanks to God for his successes. The Baptists had petitioned to use that church, but the man told them 'If you can prove to me that God Almighty is a Baptist, you may have it.' He said the same to other denominations, for he wanted all people to be equally welcome there. Now he only waited for a preacher of like views to come--and he said God had told him John Murray was that man. John, chagrined, declined, protesting that he was no preacher, having neither credentials nor inclination. He intended only to proceed north to New York to turn the sloop over to the Captain as soon as the wind was favorable. 'The wind,' the man informed him, 'will never change, sir, until you have delivered to us in that meeting house a message from God.'...
'John struggled against the notion, unwilling to bow to such manifest coincidence, wishing only to buy the necessary supplies for the sailors of the sloop. The man supplied him generously, refusing payment, while persisting in his suit. And as the days of the week passed and Sunday approached, the wind did not change. At last, on Saturday afternoon, John yielded, but prepared no text for the morrow: if God really wanted him to preach here, God would provide the words. On Sunday morning people came from twenty miles away, filling the church, and John Murray stood before them and preached the message of Universal Redemption: that every human being shall find Salvation, and no one will be condemned to eternal suffering. And with that sermon, that bordered on heresy in that day but moved his congregation profoundly, John Murray found his destiny...
'...When he finished it, the wind shifted, and he took the sloop to New York. But he returned immediately and that church became his own, his home in the New World, and he preached that message for the rest of his life. Others persecuted him, seeking to suppress his view, for they believed that only a select minority would achieve Salvation--but he was instrumental in fighting the case of religious freedom through the courts and safeguarding it--that very freedom that was to make America great. The wind had guided him, despite himself, to his destiny--and that destiny was significant for mankind.'
The Universalist looked at Brother Paul.
The Universalist looked at Brother Paul. 'Now I would not presume any more than my esteemed colleague to urge any particular course of action upon you,' she said. 'But it would seem that the qualities of Animation are as yet unknown, andtherefore cannot be labeled good or evil. Likewise, the purpose of God may be at times obscure in detail, so that no person can be assured in advance of the correct course. Are you certain it is proper to depart this shore without ascertaining the status of the effect, though you may have personal reservations? Which way does the wind blow in your life?'