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Follow Me: Religion in SFF - Mark Kirkbride

Pre-orders are now open for Luna's latest Call for Papers! Follow Me: Religion in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Pre-order yours here! Ebook also available on the usual retailers' sites.

Our Award Winning series, welcomes essays from academics, independent researchers, fans and creative writers, appealing to both the casual reader and a more research-oriented one. We consider this cross-disciplinary collaboration a strength, and the beginning of many more journeys.

The book will be released on the 20th of June, so we have plenty of time to introduce you to our contributors.

Today we'll introduce you to Mark Kirkbride - England - presenting the paper, Heaven, Hell, and Virtual Reality.


Virtual reality (VR) is the ultimate example of Baudrillard’s hyperreality. In fiction, it can be mapped onto first world, fantasy or religious templates. Science fiction (SF) has outlined many ways to defy death that dispense with religion, yet in usurping the place of religion at the point of death, VR bears distinct parallels with it. Here, rather than attempting to supersede religion, science fiction makes conscious use of religious and specifically Christian conceptions of immortality to demarcate the boundaries between life and a VR afterlife together with the manner of migration between them. As exemplified in novels such as Greg Egan’s Diaspora (1997), Peter Watts’ Blindsight (2006), Iain M. Banks’ Surface Detail (2010) and Neal Stephenson’s Fall; or, Dodge in Hell (2019), and in series such as Upload (2020, 2022), SF falls back again and again on religious analogies: between upload and ascension, backups and resurrection, storage and Limbo, and download and the Second Coming. Sometimes the mapping of the virtual afterlife onto a religious template is implicit, sometimes—as in Surface Detail and Upload—explicit. Science fiction then complicates these religious foundations as each work featuring VR resets the parameters. Yet the moral dimension is often retained as free will means that suffering and—given imperfect Heavens, perfect Hells—even physical pain carries over into virtuality along with the concept of sin. Christian transhumanists have claimed that virtual reality will provide the means for an actual digital resurrection. Here, far from competing, science and religion converge. Both in science fiction and postulated fact, religion provides a lexicon and a blueprint for a virtual afterlife.

About the Author:

Mark Kirkbride lives in Shepperton, England. He is an Hourly Paid Academic at Middlesex University, teaching the Working as a Writer module. He is also an Arts and Literature Tutor at Royal Holloway. He is currently doing a PhD at Brunel.

He is the author of The Plot Against Heaven, Game Changers of the Apocalypse and Satan’s Fan Club, originally published by Omnium Gatherum and in the process of being republished by Crossroad Press. Game Changers of the Apocalypse was a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Awards 2019. His short stories can be found in Under the Bed, Sci Phi Journal, Disclaimer Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Titanic Terastructures and The Last Horizon. His poetry has appeared in the Big Issue, the Morning Star, the Daily Mirror, Neon Literary Magazine, the London Reader, The Climate Matters Anthology 2020 (Culture Matters/Riptide Journal), Sein und Werden and Horror Writers Association chapbooks.

He was longlisted in the SaveAs Writers’ International Writing Competition 2021 and the AUB International Poetry Prize 2021, and shortlisted in the AONB Landscape category of the Ginkgo Prize 2021.

Mark is a member of the British Fantasy Society, the British Science Fiction Association, the Horror Writers Association and Clockhouse London Writers. He has been published in the British Science Fiction Association’s magazine Focus and in Inspire – Exciting Ways of Teaching Creative Writing, Goldsmiths, University of London (2020).

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