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My research examines the portrayal of religion in contemporary science fiction literature, with a focus on how science fiction reflects and reinforces various understandings of the category of religion.   
Oliver Startin - photo


I began my PhD in religious studies at Chester in 2018, having completed a BA and an MSt at the University of Oxford. I was attracted to the department by its forward-thinking ethos and its strong record of research in the field of popular culture and religion.     

My PhD research combines my academic interest in speculative fiction – especially science fiction – with my interest in how ‘religion’ as a category is continually constructed and defined in the modern world. My thesis is focused on the portrayal of religion within science fiction literature published after 1990, specifically the ways in which science fiction both reflects and contributes towards the construction of particular understandings of the category of ‘religion’. 

While there has been some study of religion in mid-20th century science fiction literature, there has been relatively little comprehensive research into the portrayal of religion in science fiction of the 21st century. In addition, existing treatments of the subject have tended to construct a metanarrative that I do not believe always accurately reflects the full diversity of viewpoints to be found within science fiction literature. Through my research, I aim to question this idea of a single metanarrative by unpicking the many threads that run through contemporary science fiction’s treatment of religion, with a view to examining how these portrayals of religion reflect and reinforce a subtle range of different understandings of the category of ‘religion’ within contemporary society.   

My wider research interests include: religion in popular culture; religion and video games; fictional religions; secularism and the religious/secular distinction; and critical religion approaches to the study of religion. 

Papers Given: 

“The Theology of Childhood’s End: A Symbolic Approach to Religious and Secular Culture” – ISRLC Conference, Uppsala, September 2018 

“Science Fiction and the Evolution of the Secular: Comparing the Presentation of the Relationship between the Religious and the Secular in A Canticle for Leibowitz and The Night Sessions.” – PGR Symposium, Chester, June 2019 

“Locating the ‘Punk’ in Cyberpunk: The Punk Spiritualities of Cyberpunk Science Fiction” – Punk and the Sacred Symposium, Punk Scholars Network, Lincoln, November 2019 


2013 – 2016: BA in Philosophy and Theology, University of Oxford 

2016 – 2017: MSt in the Study of Religions, University of Oxford 

2018 – present: PhD in Religious Studies, University of Chester