Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during my first feeble attempts at writing science fiction, I sometimes encountered members of the Church who objected to science fiction about the future because “the Millennium will have come by then.” In their view, for me to write about something happening a hundred years from now was essentially a denial of faith — unless, of course, the story took place during the Millennium.
Maybe it’s because we managed to get past April 6 of A.D. 2000, but I haven’t heard that objection recently. (Back in about 1994, I was ward Sunday School president when the Gospel Doctrine teacher explained to the class that, according to the Doctrine & Covenants, the Second Coming would occur on April 6, 2000. He did not, however, specify the hour.) Still, at that time I wasn’t sure how to respond to such criticism.
So, early in the spring of 1991, I emailed Orson Scott Card to ask how he would respond. (Yes, there was email back in 1991, even though I hadn’t yet heard of the Internet. OSC and I were both members of the Prodigy online service.) He was gracious enough to answer me. And while the particular issue of imminent millennialism as an objection to science fiction seems to have faded, the general points he made are still relevant.
Therefore, with his permission, I am reprinting his response here:
From: ORSON SCOTT CARD
Subject: SF & Mormonism
Sent on: 04/07  at 4:32 PM
I regard such criticism as deep silliness, but the polite answer you
give to people like that is, “But I’m not writing prophecy. I’m
writing fiction. That means that the reader knows from the beginning
that I’m just making it up. It’s like a game, and nobody expects it to
come true. At the same time, I try to show the truth about the way
human beings are, no matter what era or location my stories take place
in.” Kind of a long answer, but it should help them understand that
you’re quite serious about your fiction, but not at all serious about
“predicting the future.”
This is one of the worst misunderstandings of science fiction that
people have – even some sci-fi writers who should know better seem to
think that science fiction has proven its value if we happen to get a
prediction right. How silly. Ray Bradbury’s Mars stories have great
value, even though they have always been dead wrong about the nature
of the red planet. Likewise, your stories aren’t being set up in
competition with Joseph Smith’s prophecies: rather you are trying to
enlighten your readers about life.
In the meantime, just between you and me, I’d be just FASCINATED to
know how your LDS friends know that “the millenium will have come by
then.” After all, Christ said that NO MAN knows the day and the hour
of his return. So what’s their source? The same source that had so
many people SURE that blacks wouldn’t receive the priesthood till
after the millennium? I always worry about Mormons who think they know
what’s on God’s desk calendar!