Anyone know of any? I saw a subreddit where someone asked a similar question, but there weren’t any good responses. Maybe some Buddhists know about some?
Not a lot comes to mind. I suppose Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light would be about the only example I can think of. It’s set in a world where technology has allowed a form of rebirth by transfer of minds into new bodies. Technology has also allowed an upper “caste” to manifest god like powers. They also adopt personas of various Hindu deities. They also deliberately restrict technological development for the rest of society (to a something like a medieval level). The protagonist Sam (short for “Mahasamatman” ) is something of a rebel/trickster figure who wants to bring all this crashing down and who IIRC in the book discovers Buddhist texts in ancient archives, revives the religion, and takes on the persona of the Buddha. Somewhere in the book there’s an assassin who is sent to kill Sam but ends up taking the teachings seriously and it’s implied actually genuinely attained enlightenment (unlike the protagonist). It’s quite an entertaining book (lots of Hindu and Buddhist themes, mostly Hindu), but I suspect the author didn’t have a particularly deep appreciation of some of these. It did win a Hugo and Nebula. It’s definitely fun but not particularly deep. My favourite Zelazny books are those from the Amber series (but that’s another story).
I suppose many of Ursula Le Guin’s books have a certain Buddhist feel (though I suppose it would be more accurate to label this Taoist rather than Buddhist). There are rarely explicit Taoist or Buddhist themes, but IMO many of her works are more spiritual in a genuinely deeper sense. She did, also, produce a very nice poetic rendering of the Tao Te Ching (Taoism seemed to be very much her thing, along with a good dose of anarchism ).
While I don’t think he’s a Buddhist, there are some Buddhish themes in the works of Kim Stanley Robinson, starting most obviously with the rebirth trope in “The Years of Rice and Salt”
There are some interesting themes in the Culture novels by Iain M Banks, including the ethics of advanced civilisations, and an exploration of sentience and AI.
If your taste runs to postmodernist SF, there’s the Russian writer Victor Pelevin.
His books are multi-layered postmodernist texts fusing elements of pop culture and esoteric philosophies while carrying conventions of the science fiction genre. Some critics relate his prose to the New Sincerity literary movement.
Pelevin travels to Asia often, and has been to Nepal, South Korea, China and Japan. While he does not call himself a Buddhist, he is engaged in Buddhist practices.
Literary critics have noted Pelevin’s postmodernist and absurdist styles, which incorporate Buddhist motifs, esoteric traditions, and satirical science fiction.
I love the Culture series. I thought about recommending them, but they utopia the author builder is rather hedonistic.
That looks interesting. I’ll check it out.
Banks was one of my favourite scifi writers (used to really look forward to his pretty much annual book release, whether scifi or regular fiction). I think he really wanted to get out one final Culture book before he died (I think he was going to leave notes to his poet friend Ken MacLeod if he hadn’t enough time and wanted him to write it then – not sure if his friend really wanted to – but Banks was dead from his cancer in only two or three months at age 59). Very interesting ideas in his scifi books. Though, given his socialist materialistic leanings in life and in these books (the Culture is a kind of technological anarchistic AI-guided materialist utopia I guess ), it didn’t seem like an obvious Buddhist choice! They are great though (I have loaned out my copy of The Player of Games as an intro to the series to a few people – a good starting point to these books IMO).
The Bobiverse series explores the implications of rebirth with some very pertinent and logical conclusions. In particular it totally shreds the conceit, “I am”, in the most hilarious ways. There are, after all, multiple Bobs.
I wrote a Buddhist horror comic book script a while back. It’s based on an ancient Chinese poem I read long ago, unfortunately I’ve been unable to track down that poem. If there are artists who want to collaborate, hit me up!
There is a short and neat Korean SF written by Park Seonghwan named Readymade Bodhisattva (2004) which is a story about a robot, employed at a Buddhist temple, who claims to have achieved Enlightenment. You can read the English translation of the story in a chapter of an anthology named after it:
Readymade Bodhisattva: The Kaya Anthology of South Korean Science Fiction |
Further, you can watch a cinematic adaptation of the story in the second chapter of Doomsday book (2012), a Korean SF anthology film. The chapter is directed by Kim Jee-woon who is famous for his works in the film noir, like A bittersweet life (2005) and I Saw the Devil (2010).
In-lyu-myeol-mang-bo-go-seo (2012) - IMDb
I’d love to write Buddhist scifi. Or at least attempt to inject Eastern thinking into stories.
He’s more of literary writer, but I believe David Mitchell has admitted to being influenced by Buddhist ideas. (Now, I see people are writing books about it.) Cloud Atlas was a popular cross-genre novel he wrote with some subtle themes that are Buddhistic, such as rebirth of the characters who re-encountered each other without realizing it one generation after the next as the world passes through historical periods but ending in a similar place to where it started. The overall theme (to me) was the struggle between people who are peaceful by nature and people who are predatory, which plays out as a struggle of pacifism vs. barbarity. (The movie was difficult to follow because the stories were chopped up, but the book is much more coherent.)
I don’t come here often, but when I do, it seems like kamma works in mysterious ways.
If you’re willing to complete it, you’re welcomed to ask me for my mental picture of it and details.
Book Blurb: A Buddhist monk wakes up from Cryofreeze inside a Hollow Earth where all humans believe in an AI God. Can he navigate the dangers in this new world where he had to deal with his ex-wife, aliens invasion, a seducer, and assassination attempts on him?
I wouldn’t say it’s Buddhist, but if you’re at all interested in consciousness and “what is all of this?” types of questions, then I think you would find “Permutation City” by Greg Egan quite a good read.
And then Godel Escher Bach when you want to read some non-fiction.
Welcome to D&D @bud!