Gene Wolfe has described Raphael Aloysius Lafferty as possibly “the most original writer in the history of literature.” That means when Laff speaks one should listen. The following is an extract from an interview by Darrell Schweitzer and found in his book Speaking of the Fantastic, Vol. II.
Q : You’re somewhat unusual in being one of the few science-fiction writers to use religious material. A few touch on it, and there are a lot of fake church stories like Gather, Darkness! but most writers seem to shy away from the actual substance. Why do you think that is?
Lafferty : Actually, religion is becoming more interesting, more important I believe. I think there’s a lag. Most of them just haven’t gone to that yet. There’s the idea that religion is a drag, and so forth, but that idea is probably several decades out of date.
Q : It seems to me that science fiction often covers all the ground of religion, but does so in a non-religious manner. Childhood’s End, for example.
Lafferty : Well, I think Childhood’s End was religious, but that’s more the case with fantasy than with science fiction. In fact almost all the high fantasy is really based on the Low Middle Ages of Europe, which is a very religious period. But all the religion is taken out of it, and the background of the Low Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, is used for sword and sorcery. They’ve taken the motive power out and used the furniture and costuming. I don’t know why they did that. They’re leaving out the main part.
Q : My experience is that often if a story even touches on such things, the editor will freeze up and think he’s being preached at. You can write about, say, Hindu gods with no problem, but if you touch on Christianity, even if all the characters are doubters, the editor freezes. Have you ever found this to be so?
Lafferty : Yes, that’s very much so. But you’ve got it backwards. The preachers are really those of a religion that is not called a religion, which is secular liberalism. That’s really the established religion of our country, and of our world. It doesn’t allow too much opposition. Now people who go down the secular liberal line don’t want anything that challenges it. Hinduism doesn’t challenge it because it is too distant. Christianity does, even Born-Again Christianity and the emotional ones. They have something that the secular liberal world is lacking.