Victor Rousseau had a long up-and-down career as a writer. He was most successful at writing short stories, especially for pulp fiction magazines. He wrote almost every kind of story that can be imagined from Canadian wilderness to detective to science fiction to sexually suggestive adventures. A few of his stories were made into films.
The Messiah Of The Cylinder is a novel he wrote to oppose athiest H.G. Well’s When The Sleeper Awakes. It is the first attempt to write a Christian science fiction novel. Most writers believed that religion and science were opposite so that Christianity had no business in the science fiction genre.
At the beginning of the novel, his characters debate the differences between Christianity and science. Then one of the characters is tricked into a cryogenic cylinder and frozen. He emerges 100 years later in a dystopian future where science rules and religion and the family are suppressed. Victor Rousseau even puts H.G. Wells into the story as the ‘Prophet’ that these future people look to. Although it is a technologically advanced society - with many of the features that have become common in modern science fiction and dystopian novels - it is barbaric in the way it treats dissenters. He imagines Christianity in a world where science is the new god.
The Messiah Of The Cylinder was written in 1914, but Victor Rousseau had a hard time finding a publisher. When it was finally published in 1917, the horrific World War I was underway. In dealing with current tragedies, the public seems to have little interest in a dystopian novel and it did not sell well.
Nevertheless, The Messiah Of The Cylinder showed that Christianity could work with the science fiction genre. This paved the way for a much more successful writer to later put out a series of three Christian science fiction books. Partly as a challenge to his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis would write, Out Of A Silent Planet, Perlandra, and That Hideous Strength. Christian science fiction remains a small sub-genre in this evolutionary-dominated field. Yet Christian writers have shown that it can be successfully done.
Although an interesting story in its own right, The Messiah Of The Cylinder is recommended reading for its historical value in the role it played in introducing Christian science fiction.
Sadly, Victor Rousseau’s career did not end well. For a time he gave into alcoholism. He died in 1960 alone, but sober.
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