Entry updated 6 January 2020. Tagged: Theme.
Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth, the central figure of the Christian Religion, is here considered solely in the sf context as a frequent (though rarely foregrounded) Icon character in genre fiction. Perhaps the first notable Genre SF appearance is in Ray Bradbury's "The Man" (February 1949 Thrilling Wonder), featuring successive incarnations on different planets and a frantically travelling protagonist for whom Christ is an ever-elusive Godot. In M P Shiel's This Above All (1933; vt Above All Else 1943) he is revealed to be alive and well in Tibet.
Inevitably, his lifetime is a highly popular Time-Travel destination. In Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man (September 1966 New Worlds; exp 1969) a time traveller assumes Christ's Identity and takes his place. Brian Earnshaw's Planet in the Eye of Time (1968) features a time-trip to witness the crucifixion; Garry Kilworth's "Let's Go to Golgotha!" (15 December 1974 Sunday Times Weekly Review) uses a similar notion to construct a heavily ironic parable, as does Gore Vidal's Live from Golgotha (1992). The mission of the time traveller in John Boyd's satirical The Last Starship From Earth (1968) is to ensure that Christ dies "correctly" on the cross, thus establishing a preferred future (see Changewar). Another protagonist who becomes Christ is featured in Barry N Malzberg's The Cross of Fire (1982).
Study of Christ's activities via Time Viewer is often tactfully blurred by the device's mysterious inability to access that period – but not in Around a Distant Star (1904) by Jean Delaire or The Light of Other Days (2000) by Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter.
Christ-like Messiah figures are numerous, from Hall Caine's The Eternal City (1901) to Samuel R Delany's The Einstein Intersection (1967; 1 chapter restored 1968) and beyond. Josh Kirby's painting sequence Voyage of the Ayeguy (1981) offers a detailed reworking in sf terms of the spacefaring Ayeguy's teaching, crucifixion and resurrection.
Filmic echoes include Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and the eponyms of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Starman (1984), all of whom undergo (or seem to undergo) death and resurrection. Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) (see Monty Python's Flying Circus) distances itself from Christ – shown in a brief cameo – in favour of the hapless Brian, who stumbles through episodes of broad Satire to become, ultimately, a victim of others' fanatical need to believe in messiahs. [DRL/BS]
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