Posts Tagged ‘Walter M. Miller Jr.’

Francis I and St. Leibowitz

April 8, 2013

The election of the new pope, who calls himself Francis I after St. Francis of Assisi, reminded me of two wonderful science fiction novels by Walter M. Miller Jr.: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) and Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman (1997 — actually the latter seems to have been finished by Terry Bisson; I learned this only just now from Wikipedia). This new pope seems to offer a slight hope that the Catholic Church might be reformed (ouch, better not use that word in this context), although on the other hand, while he appears to be agreeably pomp-averse he is also said to be as reactionary as one is accustomed to with the Catholic Church. Now, the connection for me is that in Wild Horse Woman a new pope is elected as well, and he is indeed a radical one. I don’t remember any details, but the character stuck in my memory as kind of a Zen sage who would shock the protagonist with heretical-sounding utterances. That will be the day, when the Catholic Church elects a Zen master for pope! No such hope for this pope, I guess; nope.

Anyway, these two novels take place mostly within the ranks of the Catholic Church in the Dark Ages after a nuclear war. I love them and strongly recommend them. And that makes me wonder again: Is there a deeper reason why I like these catholic-themed novels so much? Am I a closet Catholic??? By the bright light of day, the only ‘religion’ I sympathize with is Zen Buddhism, but what about the dark places of my subconscious? And Walter M. Miller Jr. is not the only devoutly (?) Catholic author whose work I love: Gene Wolfe seems to be another case in point. The religious aspect is not close to the surface in The Book of the New Sun (including The Urth of the New Sun) and The Book of the Long Sun, but it becomes salient enough, though it is nowhere obviously Catholic. The literary merit of all of these books is sufficient to account for my loving them, but still, perhaps that is not all that motivates me. Oh well, if Catholicism takes such beautiful shape, surely I am allowed to indulge in it.