Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Writers Guild of America: 101 Best Written TV Series – The X-Files

Jun-02-2013
101 Best Written TV Series – The X-Files
Writers Guild of America

[Original article here]


26. THE X-FILES

Created by Chris Carter

READ A LIST OF THE SHOW’S CREDITED WRITERS

Aired: FOX, 1993-2002

Fox’s signature drama for most of the ’90s, The X-Files, created by Chris Carter, was one of primetime television’s all-time great hit science-fiction series, although to call it sci-fi is requires qualifying that it delved into the paranormal and the conspiratorial. Those tones were leavened by the relationship between FBI partners Scully and Mulder, he the dreamer and she the left-brain skeptic; their dynamic gave the show a human, big-tent appeal. “As early as the third or fourth season,” recalled Frank Spotnitz, the show’s exec producer and Carter’s frequent collaborator, to the WGAW Web site, “we started to realize that there were some audiences that knew every detail of the ongoing alien mythology storyline and were waiting for very specific questions to be answered and then there was a much larger audience that was vaguely aware of it and would be lost if you tried to answer these very specific questions. That was a balancing act we were engaged in for most of the life of the series.”

Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz on their creative process and the longevity of The X-Files

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TVWise: New Details Emerge On GVTV’s ‘The After’ From ‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter

May-26-2013
New Details Emerge On GVTV’s ‘The After’ From ‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter
TVWise
Patrick Munn

[Original article here]

New details have emerged on Georgeville Television’s drama series The After, which hails from The X-Files creator Chris Carter.

When the project was announced last October, GVTV offered only a vague description for the series which described the series as “a thriller that tells the story of an unexplained event and features elements of science-fiction, suspense, action and paranoia.” The series doesn’t yet have a broadcaster attached with GVTV and distributor Sierra/Engine targeting the series for either cable or a broadcast run of 13 episodes. That said, however, Sierra/Engine Television shopped the series to international buyers at MIPCOM 2012 and the more recent MIPTV 2013.

According to a number of potential buyers who heard the pitch for the series, The After is in fact a thriller set in Los Angeles which explores the coming apocalypse. I hear that the drama begins after a strange event strikes the Earth. There is no government statement on this event and it is shrouded in secrecy and will ultimately lead to a far greater cataclysmic event. The series will follow a core group of characters who try to discover just what has happened and why, while also doing what they must to survive. One source described it as a combination of The X-Files and Falling Skies. “It’s a mystery series set right at the end of the world”, one source tells me. I also understand that, as one would expect with a genre show such as this, The After will be largely serialised and utilise season long story arcs.

Los Angeles Times Hero Complex: ‘The X-Files’: Remembering mood and mystery of a sci-fi landmark

May-12-2013
‘The X-Files’: Remembering mood and mystery of a sci-fi landmark
Los Angeles Times Hero Complex
Robert Lloyd

[Original article here]

Gillian Anderson as Agent Dana Scully and David Duchovny as Agent Fox Mulder in "The X-Files." Three episodes from the landmark television series will screen as part of the fourth annual Hero Complex Film Festival. (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Gillian Anderson as Agent Dana Scully and David Duchovny as Agent Fox Mulder in “The X-Files.” Three episodes from the landmark television series will screen as part of the fourth annual Hero Complex Film Festival. (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)

PERSPECTIVE

I came to “The X-Files,” which turns 20 this year, after its first season, and for a time I had no idea what was happening. This was a good way to watch a show whose greatest strength was its air of dreamlike mystery.

Folded across the turn of the 21st-century, it was a millennial show for a millennial time, reflecting a popular preoccupation with apocalypse and messiahs, puzzling phenomena and unexplained mysteries, psychic surgeons and alien autopsies, random mutations and science gone too far. It was also, looking back on old episodes, a time of pay phones, answering machines, tape recorders, dot-matrix printouts, padded shoulders and big eyeglasses.

The basics were fairly clear: Fox “Spooky” Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) were FBI agents whose particular job it was to handle cases outside the bounds of conventional human crime — paranormal this and that. He was (mostly) a believer and she was (largely) a skeptic, which gave them something to disagree on.

Their superiors, some of whom were also villains, were not happy about their work, but for some reason — possibly there was a reason, which I have since forgotten, other than that there was a TV show to make — they mostly let it go on.

“Again, nothing but evidence,” Mulder says at the end of another hour in which they have discovered much and proved nothing, “and again ,no evidence at all.”

Gillian Anderson, left, and David Duchovny in a scene from "The X-Files." (Fox)

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in a scene from “The X-Files.” (Fox)

Between the “monster-of-the-week” episodes, the show also established a complicated ongoing story founded on Mulder’s search for his missing sister, whom he believed to have been abducted by aliens when they were children. This eventually worked itself out into a relatively neat intertwining of alien-colonization and government conspiracy stories.

Yet I preferred to not quite follow this “mythology,” to keep it a little out of focus. In the realm of the fantastic, you are always better off with questions than with answers, which  even when they are supernatural are by their nature prosaic. And though creator Chris Carter and story editor Frank Spotnitz made sure there were more of the former, the truth, in the words of the series’ tagline, was better kept “out there,” a little beyond our grasp — just as Mulder’s “wanting to believe” was more interesting than any confirmation of his hopeful belief.

Characters such as William B. Davis’ Cigarette-Smoking Man were less interesting the more I knew about their motives, even if there was always something new and unsuspected (and sometimes seemingly arbitrary) to learn.

Indeed, similar plots and plotters have been recycled through countless films and television series, some of which took inspiration directly from “The X-Files” and few of which have had anything like that series’ allure, intelligence or impact.

I don’t know how much direct inspiration Carter took from “Twin Peaks,” whose two-season run ended the year before “The X-Files” began. (The mid-’70s “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” with Darren McGavin as a reporter weekly engaging the supernatural, is its most frequently mentioned influence.) But the two have much in common: woodsy, murky Pacific northwest locations (“The X-Files” filmed in and around Vancouver for its first five seasons, and “Twin Peaks” filmed in Washington state); mysterious, sometimes nameless characters; and a deep investment in the notion that there is meaning in a beautiful image.

Even more than “Twin Peaks,” “The X-Files” explored mood as content. Though it was born in the age of the 4:3 aspect ratio and (comparatively) low-resolution image, there was from the beginning an intentional, emotional, painterly use of color and shape and a choreographic approach to light. You can watch the show with the sound down and still feel what you are meant to feel.

At the same time, there were occasional flashes of meta-fictional self-consciousness: “Where’s the writer? I want to speak to the writer,” a dissatisfied Mulder says at the end of “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” which was shot, in shadowy black-and-white, like an old Universal Pictures “Frankenstein” — and framed as a comic book, for good measure.

In the Season 3 episode “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” Mulder decries “the military-industrial-entertainment complex”; a few seasons later, in the Duchovny-written and -directed “Hollywood A.D.,” Mulder and Scully are transformed into Garry Shandling and Téa Leoni, in a big-screen, high-octane mangling of their lives.

"The X-Files" actors Gillian Anderson, left, and David Duchovny. (Michael Lavine / Fox)

“The X-Files” actors Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. (Michael Lavine / Fox)

Such episodes were, to be sure, exceptions. Most weeks, “The X-Files”unrolled at a deliberate, dreamy pace that was echoed in the measured energy of its leads. Both Duchovny and Anderson had a softness, even a sleepiness, superficially at odds with their roles as FBI agents and action heroes. They were not dry and deadpan, exactly (though they were, through the years, increasingly droll.) Theirs was a kind of restrained sensuality, a narcotic eroticism.

(I mean no disrespect to Robert Patrick or Annabeth Gish, who as agents Doggett and Reyes slid into lead roles in the last couple of seasons — seasons that certainly had some good and even great episodes — but they are somewhat beside the point.)

Scully and Mulder, Mulder and Scully — pivoting on that central “ul,” you can begin with one name and end with the other: Mully. Sculder. They are two sides of the same coin, interlocking yin and yang, one unthinkable without the other. It was therefore the custom of the show to endanger them in turns — to abduct, imprison, experiment upon and/or sicken them, in order to turn up the feeling.

Carter kept them scrupulously out of each other’s arms for most of the show’s run; their commitment was to the Job, and to the out-there Truth. For the first five or six seasons they were less Romeo and Juliet than they were Hansel and Gretel, wandering in the woods (there were a lot of woods in “The X-Files”), flashlights in hand.

"The X-Files" director Chris Carter in 2008. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

“The X-Files” director Chris Carter in 2008. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

For fans who wanted to see them romantically engaged, Carter’s refusal did nothing to dampen that desire, and likely compounded it. Eventually, he did bring them together, or stopped keeping them apart. Even then, though, the relationship was more glimpsed than explored — as if to say, yes, viewer, we will give this to you, and no, it is really none of your business.

When last seen, at the end of the credits to the 2008 “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” — the second film sprung from the series, released six years after the end of its run — they were rowing toward a tropical island (having spent the rest of the movie in the snow.)

For all we know, they are there still.

The episode “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” will screen as part of the Hero Complex Film Festival on Sunday evening in Hollywood. Look for more coverage from the festival, including from the 20th anniversary tribute to “The X-Files” featuring special guest Chris Carter, in the coming days. And feel free to leave your favorite “X-Files” memory in the comments below.

IDW Press Reelase: IDW Publishing and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products Open THE X-FILES!

Jan-28-2013
IDW Press Reelase: IDW Publishing and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products Open THE X-FILES!

[Original article here]

The Landmark Series Finds a New Publishing Outlet in 2013

San Diego, CA (January 28, 2013) – IDW Publishing and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products are thrilled to announce a partnership to publish an exciting series of works based on the legendary series, THE X-FILES. IDW’s publishing plan includes reprinting collections of the classic issues published intermittently from 1995 through 2009, as well as creating brand-new X-FILES comics to launch in June 2013.

Over two movies and two hundred television episodes, THE X-FILES, is a juggernaut of science fiction-tinged intrigue, unique characters and carefully constructed stories. The show’s popularity raged into the comic world, seeing successful series mounted by publishers Topps and Wildstorm. Despite this, new publishing has not been available since 2009’s joint Wildstorm/IDW crossover – 30 Days of Night/The X-Files – leaving fans without a venue for the continuing sequential adventures of Mulder and Scully… until now.

THE X-FILES is a classic property that helped redefine fans’ expectations for the science-fiction and horror genres,” said IDW’s President/Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein. “The possibilities for new comic stories are virtually unlimited!”

“The fans of THE X-FILES have remained loyal to the series since its conclusion. What better way to continue the show’s legacy and give back to them than through new stories in a different medium,” said Jeffrey Godsick, President of Fox Consumer Products. “IDW has worked with a number of our Fox properties, and we know they’re going to do great things with these iconic characters.”

In 2013, fans of THE X-FILES will want to believe in new comics from IDW Publishing! The home of successful kindred series like 30 Days of Night, Doctor Who, and Locke & Key, to name a few, IDW is excited to bring the enduring legacy of THE X-FILES back to comics.

“Few shows have captured the zeitgeist and fans’ imaginations like THE X-FILES, and fewer shows still have left people hungry for more in the way this one did,” said Chris Ryall, IDW’s Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief. “Our new series will be picking up where the second film left off, which will hopefully be as exciting for fans to read as it is for us to develop.”

The Hollywood Reporter: MIPCOM 2012: ‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter Shopping New Supernatural Drama

Oct-04-2012
MIPCOM 2012: ‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter Shopping New Supernatural Drama
The Hollywood Reporter
Michael O’Connell

[Original article here]

The sci-fi scribe, joining distributor Georgeville TV, will present “The After” to buyers next week.

carter_a

Chris Carter‘s new distribution pact with Georgeville TV will present its first pitch to buyers at Mipcom next week.

The X-Files creator and the independent studio are set to start work on The After, a supernatural drama penned by Carter.

“Chris has woven his mythology magic within a very human, grounded story about the moment when we realize all of our worst fears about the world and its future,” Georgeville CEO Marc Rosen said of the announcement. Sierra/Engine Television will be shopping the project at the TV market.

Carter, who tried to get another thriller off the ground at last year’s Mipcom with Media Rights Capital, has not had a television series since X-Files. The 20th Century Fox Television drama preceded and outlived his other TV efforts, Millennium, Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunman.

This new series follows the aftermath of a mysterious event and will incorporate both supernatural and suspense elements that run through most of Carter’s work.

Georgeville is currently producing Crossbones, NBC’s midseason entry based on the legendary pirate Blackbeard. Coming from Luthor creator Neil Cross, the adaptation of Colin Woodard‘s book The Republic of Pirates was given a straight-to-series order in May.

Deadline: Chris Carter To Do Thriller Drama Series For Georgeville Television

Oct-04-2012
Chris Carter To Do Thriller Drama Series For Georgeville Television
Deadline
Nellie Adreeva

[Original article here]

carter__120109014423

Independent TV studio, Georgeville Television has teamed up with The X-Files creator Chris Carter to finance a new drama series. Entitled The After, the series will debut at next week’s MIPCOM TV market where it will be shopped by newly formed Sierra/Engine Television.

Written by Carter, The After is a thriller which revolves around a mysterious, unexplained event. In the vein of The X Files, The After incorporates elements of science fiction, suspense, and real-world fear and paranoia. “Chris has woven his mythology magic within a very human, grounded story about the moment when we realize all of our worst fears about the world and its future,” said Georgeville CEO Marc Rosen, who co-founded the company earlier this year with Leon Clarance of Motion Picture Capital, the financing arm of Reliance Entertainment.

In addition to The After, GVTV is also financing a remake of the cult UK sci-fi series Blake’s 7 with feature director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) for Syfy, Hunters, a pandemic thriller drama from Overbrook Entertainment and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski at ABC as well Sense8, a supernatural series from the Wachowskis (The Matrix) and Straczynski. Sierra/Engine is handling the international distribution for GVTV’s projects, which also include Neil Cross’ midseason NBC pirate drama Crossbones. Carter has been looking at non-traditional TV development/production for his return to television after The X Files. Last year, he teamed with MRC for female-drive thriller Unique, which didn’t get set up at a network. Carter and Georgeville are with CAA.

Press-Telegram: ‘X Files’ creator Chris Carter coming home to Bellflower

Jul-13-2012
‘X Files’ creator Chris Carter coming home to Bellflower
Press-Telegram
Phillip Zonkel

[Original article here]

BELLFLOWER – “The X-Files” creator and Bellflower native Chris Carter will be a special guest and featured speaker at an upcoming youth talent show.

The 13th annual Youth Cultural Arts Foundation Talent Show is hosted by the city on Sept. 29 at the William and Jane Bristol Civic Auditorium, 16600 Civic Center Drive.

Auditions and registration will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 14 at the auditorium.

“Chris’ artistic achievements are part of our cultural fabric,” said Steven Dollinger, president of the Bellflower-based Youth Cultural Arts Foundation. “This year’s theme is `Follow Your Dream,’ and nobody is a better inspiration to our participants than Chris, who grew up in Bellflower.

“By following his own dreams, Chris helped redefine science-fiction television,” Dollinger said.

Auditions are open to the public and will be divided into two age groups, 5-12 years old and 13-18 years old.

The top three winners in each division will be awarded a trophy and cash prize. More than $3,000 in cash prizes will be awarded.

Carter, 54, began his career as a writer for Surfing Magazine.

Eventually, he developed projects for 20th Century Fox, where he created “The X-Files” in 1993. The show, which became a cultural phenomenon with its stories about aliens and government conspiracies, ran nine seasons and was nominated for 52 Emmy awards.

The show won the Golden Globe twice for best TV drama. Carter was nominated for three writing and directing Emmys and won three Golden Globes, among other accolades.

Founded in 1998, the arts foundation is headquartered at the Bellflower Theater. Its sole purpose is to foster self-esteem in children of all ages, races, sexual orientations and religious affiliations by allowing them to participate in arts projects.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 562-867-3524 or go to www.bellflowertheater.org

Deadline: CAA Signs ‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter

Feb-24-2012
CAA Signs ‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter
Deadline
Nellie Andreeva

[Original article here]

EXCLUSIVE: The X-Files creator Chris Carter has signed with CAA. Carter had been a longtime client of Bob Broder, first at BWCS and most recently at ICM following the agencies’ 2006 merger. After a decade away from TV, Carter last fall teamed with MRC to shop female-driven mystery thriller spec Unique, which ultimately didn’t sell. He is attached as an executive producer to another spec, written by feature scribe Jon Bokenkamp, which is being shopped to cable networks by Sony TV. In addition to The X-Files, which ran on Fox for 9 seasons, Carter developed Harsh Realm, created Millennium and co-created the X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunmen. Since The X-Files ended its run in 2002, Carter has stayed largely out of the spotlight, only resurfacing to do the 2008 X-Files movie sequel and the upcoming thriller Fencewalker. There has been talk recently about a potential third X-Files movie.

The Hollywood Reporter: ‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter Plots Return to TV With Police Thriller

Sep-29-2011
The Hollywood Reporter
‘X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter Plots Return to TV With Police Thriller
Lacey Rose

[Original article here]

Media Rights Capital is producing the female-lead “Unique,” which has a supernatural element.

X-Files creator Chris Carter is heading back to the small screen.

After several years away from Hollywood despite heavy demand, Carter has reemerged with a female-lead mystery police thriller titled Unique. The project, which is set up at Media Rights Capital, has a supernatural element to it. He is set to write and executive produce.

Carter spent nearly a decade at the helm of the David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson vehicle, which ran from 1993 to 2002. The series not only helped put host network Fox on the map but also define it as a destination for edgy, quality fare.

In addition to a rich ancillary revenue that came from DVD and merchandise, the franchise spawned two feature films, 1998’s The X Files and 2008′ The X Files: I Want to Believe. Last month, Anderson told an Australian morning show that there’s talk of a third X-Files feature. “I hope it happens,” she said. “There’s talk of it.”

Carter, who also created Millennium, which ran on Fox from 1996 to 1999, is repped by ICM.

Christianity Today: Sci-Fi’s Brave New World

Feb-06-2009
Christianity Today (Vol. 53, No. 2)
Sci-Fi’s Brave New World
James A. Herrick

[Original article here]

How the genre draws us to its own views of redemption.

In recent years, movie and television audiences have been treated to stories both captivating and curious. We’ve watched extra-dimensional aliens instruct pre-Columbian Native Americans in the basics of civilization. We’ve looked on as an ancient super-race reluctantly assumes the role of modern superheroes. We’ve cheered genetically advanced humans with their assortment of superpowers. And we’ve marveled as residents of space or the future reveal secrets of human origin and destiny.

Despite these far-out scenarios, viewers don’t leave movies such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Hancock, X-Men, and Contact—or television programs such as The X-Files or Heroes—scratching their heads in confusion. We are intrigued, but not surprised. Why? Because stories of advanced extraterrestrials, ancient human-alien contact, superior intelligences roaming the universe, and emerging super-races have grown familiar through repeated exposure. Thanks to the longstanding efforts of a wide range of artists, popular writers, and even scientists, we immediately recognize intelligent aliens and advanced humans. We now see space and the future as sources of hope.

The culture-shaping force of science fiction storytellers may be more significant and more widespread than we imagine. That’s because they trade in myth. By myth, I mean a transcendent story that helps us make sense of our place in the cosmos. This common definition makes the Christian gospel, as C. S. Lewis suggested, “God’s myth”—not because it is fiction, but because it is a story that gives ultimate meaning. We live in an age in which new myths, born mostly of science-fueled imaginations, are crafted and propagated at an unprecedented rate.

The vast international audience for science fiction seldom asks about the origin of the exotic notions that animate these tales. Nor do we usually ponder what their social impact might be. We are well aware of the venomous public assault on Christianity and scientific challenges to faith from militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Yet underneath our noses, creators of blockbuster movies and best-selling books circulate compelling new myths. Scientists write and speak on essentially spiritual themes. Authors invent new religions wholly in their inquisitive minds.

Many of these powerful shapers of culture are unfamiliar to Christians. Life-extension advocate Aubrey de Grey, inventor and author Ray Kurzweil, X-Files creator Chris Carter, astronomer Martin Rees, physicist Freeman Dyson, and Matrix directors Larry and Andy Wachowski come to mind. They are just a few modern mythmakers whose creative minds mold stories that are subtly persuasive and freighted with spiritual implications.

The new myths don’t arise from a single source. Yet science fiction has played a disproportionate role in modern myth crafting. The genre has profoundly shaped not only the entertainment industry, but Western spirituality as well.

Recently deceased scientist and science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke captured a generation of readers with his spellbinding visions of the future. The English mythmaker built on the foundation of elder countrymen such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon. Clarke’s early short story “The Sentinel” (1948) and novel Childhood’s End (1953) set humanity in a cosmos controlled by evolution and advanced aliens. But his mesmerizing 1968 collaboration with Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, revealed Clarke’s force as a religious visionary. In that story, the new humanity arrives as an embryonic god floating in space, contemplating the planet of its origin.

Earlier science fiction, including The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), explored similarly religious themes, notably technological resurrection. But godlike superhumans date to much earlier fiction, such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race (1871).

Author L. Ron Hubbard chose a direct path to spiritual influence, founding the now worldwide Church of Scientology in the 1950s. Scientology’s teaching that humans lived among extraterrestrial cultures before being trapped in bodies on Earth reveals Hubbard’s early work as a science fiction writer. Other relatively new religions—Mormonism and the Nation of Islam among them—incorporate interplanetary narratives as well.

Science fiction also animates the work of many scientists. Jason Pontin, editor in chief of MIT’s Technology Review, writes, “Most of us came to technology through science fiction; our imaginations remain secretly moved by science-fictional ideas. Only the very exalted are honest about their debt.” Many working in space exploration and artificial intelligence are either fans of science fiction or freely acknowledge its deep influence on their thought.

Science fiction is important to scientists interested in transcendent themes such as the design and purpose of the cosmos and the future of humanity. Dyson, a devoted reader of Stapledon, writes, “Science is my territory, but science fiction is the landscape of my dreams.” Ironically, the universe that science stripped of the supernatural is being resupplied with deities and redemptive purposes by science fiction writers and moviemakers. Apparently, we cannot do without myths.

Perhaps Kurzweil was correct when he said that a dawning techno-spiritual age would require a new religion. In a 1999 interview with journalist Bill Moyers, Star Wars director George Lucas said, “I put the Force into the movie to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people—more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system.” There is some evidence that his efforts have been successful: In the 2000 British census, more than 390,000 people listed their religion as “Jedi,” a reference to the pantheistic spirituality of Star Wars. The numbers probably reflect a coordinated effort to skew census results, but still suggest the vast reach of the Star Wars myth. (Lucas’s view of myth’s cultural role was shaped by Joseph Campbell, who more than any other writer made myth relevant to late-20th-century Americans.)

Redemption Recast

Recent polls indicate that a majority of Americans expect human contact with extraterrestrials during this millennium. Moreover, we anticipate that the aliens will be “friendly” and “superior.” Major scientific figures, including Nikola Tesla, Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, and Carl Sagan, among others, have popularized their ideas. Whether panspermia (Earth was seeded with life from space), space colonization, highly evolved extraterrestrials, or genetically enhanced post-humanity, each belief has its advocate in the academy. And well-publicized projects such as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence involve both the public through donated computer time and private business through donated money.

What exactly are we expecting to encounter? Perhaps the advanced and benevolent extraterrestrials who in Star Trek: First Contact (1996) speedily usher in an earthly utopia free of poverty and warfare. Or maybe the childlike aliens of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), who disembark from their space-faring city of light as a human priest reads from Psalm 91: “He will give his angels charge over you.” After all, angels had accompanied an earlier salvific arrival.

In the exotic terrain of a foreign planet, the starry emptiness of space, and the utilitarian interiors of vast starships, we discover a new redemptive landscape. To be sure, science fiction often portrays the future as a dystopia, a world devastated by science and technology. But just as often, the genre seems hopeful about the future. Modern mythologies don’t explain how space or the future will mend a broken humanity, but suggest that technological progress and vast distances from Earth somehow entail transformation.

This thinking migrates back and forth between science and science fiction. In 1953, Clarke imagined a space deity he dubbed the “Overmind,” thus fictionally re-enchanting the empty cosmos left by naturalism. A writer who helped prepare the welcome messages launched into space with the 1977 Voyager probes recalls that project participants pursued their work “with a sense of sacred purpose.” A mere two years later, a fictitious, godlike Voyager probe—altered by an advanced alien race—played a major role in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

These mythologies also place hope in the belief that through genetic and mechanical engineering, we will create an immortal, omniscient human-machine hybrid. Kurzweil eagerly anticipates the day when humans will join their slow, biologically based brains to much faster machine intelligence, introducing a humanity that will make Genesis version 1.0 pale in comparison. Kurzweil’s fellow transhumanists see human enhancement as inevitable, desirable, and within our grasp. Their myth of a new humanity envisions human alteration via medical technology and a new eugenics. Advocates promise to make good on a dream that has been rumored and sometimes actively pursued since the days of Francis Galton, the father of eugenics and a cousin of Darwin’s. Science, equipped with an internal moral compass of uncertain origin, can apparently be trusted to design the next human.

C. S. Lewis warned in The Abolition of Man that subsequent generations would be the slaves of the first to manufacture post-humanity. That powerful generation will decide the design of future humans. Such Christian “pessimism” notwithstanding, superhumans beckon from diverse precincts, clearly on display in science fiction from Wells to X-Men. But they also show up in the International Raelian Movement, a new religion that funds human cloning research, and in the popular biology of Lee M. Silver and others.

Rival for Our Social Imagination

I have labeled the modern myths arising from science, science fiction, and new religions scientific mythologies. These powerful narratives represent a cultural current the church needs to take seriously as the source of a growing worldview. Propelled into post-Christian public consciousness by the powerful machinery of mass marketing and media, techno-spiritual myths do not draw audiences of millions because of compelling storytelling and mind-boggling special effects alone. They also provide spiritual seekers answers to perennial questions about our nature and place in the cosmos, our predicament and redemption, and the future. Seldom are the myths adopted as a complete worldview package. Rather, readers and viewers, often young and outside the church, fashion personal spiritual systems from individual experience and elements of mythic popular culture.

Seekers, then, get some answers and a taste of transcendence without the moral accountability or costly interpersonal commitments of church. But they also forfeit significant checks on the reasonableness of their beliefs, a worthy object of worship, authentic spiritual community, and, most importantly, any ultimately redemptive message or means.

But seekers aren’t the only group influenced by scientific mythologies.

The new myths have found their way into scientific thought, providing both direction and moral purpose for research and writing. Carl Sagan, a prominent scientist and the author of Contact, recognized the grip that the future, space, and the extraterrestrial hold on the post-Christian Western imagination. He understood the tremendous combined social force of science fiction, professional science, and mass media. Space would replace heaven as the location of our corporate spiritual hope. Extraterrestrials would supplant God as the intelligence behind all things. An enhanced post-humanity would provide a new vision of a redeemed human race.

These myths also focus hope in the redemptive work of evolution, understood as inevitable biological and moral progress. When Richard Dawkins affirms, as he did in his recent debate with John Lennox, that “our evolutionary past … built into us a lust to be good, a lust to be friendly, a lust to cooperate, a lust to be sympathetic towards suffering,” he speaks not as a naturalist but as a morally hopeful pantheist. “There is,” according to Dawkins, “something in the air, some other force” that is “not religion,” and it is improving us morally. Indeed, the Force is strong with this one. But is he right?

Much hangs on our answer to this question.

Story Watching and Telling

Which stories will guide us as we make our way through the perilous 21st century with its stunning technologies and burgeoning data about our bodies, minds, and universe? As science holds out to us possibilities previously only imagined, which myths will shape the imaginations of our decision makers? Which narratives will form our religious sensibilities, provide our spiritual values, and craft our view of the supernatural—indeed, of God? Only the true myth at the heart of Christianity is powerful enough to prevent excesses and avert atrocities. How can the church respond?

First, we must become more discerning viewers and consumers of popular culture. Many of us, myself included, find science fiction and popular scientific writing entertaining, informative, and thought provoking. But we must also watch and read with critical insight. Many of the most popular narratives bursting with spiritual and worldview implications are more persuasive because they come dressed in the invisibility cloak of “mere” entertainment.

Second, the church needs to broaden its apologetics work to include serious analysis of and response to popular culture, now our most potent form of religious persuasion. Frankly, we have given these narratives a free pass in our eagerness to appear culturally savvy. But we must be clear: Arguments against Christianity and in support of rival worldviews now arrive daily as embedded components of visual and written fiction. Pop-culture fiction, not academic nonfiction, is now the cutting edge of public discourse on spirituality.

Though our desire not to moralize about secular culture is understandable, discernment in the face of challenges to the gospel remains a biblical imperative. The spiritual messages conveyed by our most popular television, movie, and literary products are often questionable and sometimes dangerously misleading. We are not the center of the cosmos, nor are we (or extraterrestrials) evolving toward divinity. Evolution is not the benevolent operating principle of the entire universe, and technological transformation of our species is not spiritual rebirth. Ignorance is not our predicament, progress is not redemption, the future is not salvation, and space is not our destiny. Responding to Gnosticism proved one of the early church’s most difficult challenges. Today’s Christian community faces a similar antagonist, not just in radical atheism, but in increasingly insistent pop-culture spiritualities, too. How shall we make our defense to Neo Anderson as well as to Christopher Hitchens?

Third, the church must attend more diligently to the presentation of her true myth in public settings. The biblical account of human origins and purpose, of our predicament as well as our redemption, and of the nature and purpose of the cosmos we inhabit, is emotionally, spiritually, and rationally more satisfying than modern myths featuring aliens, starships, divine evolution, hidden knowledge, and biomechanical post-humanity.

A discerning student of culture, Lewis answered modern scientific myths with daring retellings of the Christian story that integrated the patterns and language of the new myths. His science fiction trilogy provides an admirable model of storytelling that intelligently and artfully incorporates foundational truths from a Christian worldview. Concerned about the growing influence of writers like Stapledon and the popular scientist J. B. S. Haldane, Lewis crafted his trilogy for readers whose spiritual hope was being turned to space, the future, limitless progress, and scientifically assisted human advancement. Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1943), and That Hideous Strength (1945) vividly portray the reality of evil, pillory human hubris, and affirm redemption as God’s work. They also show humanity’s crucial role in God’s unfolding work, celebrate truth while preserving mystery, and return us to Eden to contemplate the grandeur of a fresh Creation and the terrible potential of a catastrophic rejection of divine protection.

Human spiritual well-being, and thus the humaneness of civilization, depends in large measure on which narratives hold sway in our souls. The present millennium poses possibilities none of us can now fully predict, and requires decisions that will test our moral capacities in unprecedented ways. Which stories will animate our corporate imagination, guide our interpretation of limitless data, and shape our technologies? Among the myriad redemptive myths displayed before us, it is time to remind ourselves that only one has ever been God’s story.

James A. Herrick is the Guy Vander Jagt Professor of Communication at Hope College and author of Scientific Mythologies: How science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs (IVP, 2008) and The Making of the New Spirituality (IVP, 2003).