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Chapter Twelve:
"Otherworlds of the Spirit: 
Lewis on Science Fiction"

In a volume containing the names of so many classic British authors, it may come as a surprise to find a chapter as well on science fiction. For many readers this is a sub-literary genre, the stuff of comic books and mass market movies, not a vehicle for serious literary expression. One of Lewis's enduring contributions, both as a critic and as a creative writer, was to reveal new possibilities for this popular genre, and to suggest new criteria by which it should be judged. 
Lewis's most fully-developed commentaries on fantasy and science fiction were gathered by Walter Hooper into a volume of essays and stories called Of Other Worlds (1966). The collection is aptly named, for Lewis's discussions on these popular genres focuses consistently not upon epic heroes or extraordinary adventures, but rather upon the exotic regions where these adventures are enacted. Lewis also offered some of the earliest commentary on how such tales of adventure could achieve genuine literary significance. 

In discussing literature of the fantastic, one inevitably encounters a problem in defining terms. Nowadays critics tend to distinguish between science fiction and fantasy, thinking of works by Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Isaac Asimov in one category and works by Lewis Carroll, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L'Engle in another. The general sense is that in science fiction extraordinary events are brought about by imagined but plausible technologies, whereas in fantasy the extraordinary is brought about by magic or enchantment. Thus, science fiction writers are obliged to explain time travel or the means of surviving in space, while fantasy writers may people their stories with wizards or talking animals, without troubling themselves about how such things might come to be. 

This distinction may have heuristic value, but it soon breaks down when applied to actual texts. E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros (1922) begins as a voyage to the planet Mercury, but soon evolves into a latter-day chivalric romance. Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles (1950) seem to begin as ghostly fantasies, but gradually we are offered a technical explanation for "unearthly" occurrences. And to which category shall we assign Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness or Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale?

Such questions of genre go as nearly far back as story-telling itself. In The Sophist, Plato distinguished between two types of imitation, the icastic, representing things that are truly found to exist, and the fantastic, which exists only in the imagination of its creator. Aristotle stated his preference for the "probable impossible," fantasy which obeyed its own inner laws to the "improbable possible," stories based on the real world which defy our sense of plausibility. It was Aristotle's famous dictum that "not to know that a hind has no horns is a less serious matter than to paint it inartistically." 

In trying to mark the boundaries between fantasy and science fiction, one discovers that it is really a continuum rather than a pair of opposites. All fiction presents an admixture of reality and imagination. Closest to Plato's "icastic" fiction is a rigorously realistic novel like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, which strictly adheres to the details of an actual murder case. But even Capote must invent thoughts and conversations to flesh out the bare facts of the story. And as Lewis himself noted, creators of the "fantastic" are not nearly so original as might be supposed: "'Creation' as applied to human authorship [...] seems to me an entirely misleading term. [...] There is not a vestige of real creativity de novo in us. Try to imagine a new primary color, a third sex, a fourth dimension, or even a monster which does not consist of bits of existing animals stuck together. Nothing happens" (Letters 371). 

The more critics have tried to explain the difference between fantasy and science fiction, the more it seems a matter of emphasis rather than a clearly-definable boundary. One might be able to conclude only that science fiction writers make more effort to make their imaginative worlds seems plausible according the laws of nature as presently understood, whereas fantasy writers make less effort. 

Nowhere is the problem of determining genre boundaries more evident than in discussions of Lewis's "space trilogy." Walter Hooper refers to the Ransom books as "science fiction" with reference to space travel and to "scientific" accounts of eldils (Worlds v.) James Merritt concurs, citing Lewis as "certainly one of the most literate men who ever turned his hand to science fiction"(37). And Brian Murphy calls Lewis one of "the true giants of science fiction," who can take his place among classic writers such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon (15). 

Other scholars, however, do not seem comfortable applying this term to Lewis's fiction, offering other labels such as "interstellar fantasies" (Brady 41 ), "cosmic romances" (Hume 505), or "space fables" (Phelan 405). Robert A. Heinlein, creator of well-known science fiction novels such as Starship Troopers (1959) and Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), insists that the Ransom stories should not be categorized as science fiction, but rather as fantasies. He praises them in generous terms, placing them on his short list of classics of that type including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows. But he goes on to describe science fiction as "imaginary but possible," while fantasy is "imaginary but impossible," concluding that Out of the Silent Planet belongs in the second category because it violates established scientific facts about the surface conditions on Mars. (6-7, 22). 

Both in his creative writing and in his criticism, Lewis seemed unwilling to recognize such lines of demarcation. He thought it significant--and prudent--that what he called "the best of the American magazines" publishing stories of this type called itself Fantasy and Science Fiction without trying to put too fine a point on it. (Science 67). For him what counted was emotional evocativeness, not factual accuracy: "Nor need the strange worlds, when we get there, be at all tied to scientific probablities. It is their wonder, or beauty, or suggestiveness that matter. When I put canals on Mars [in Out of the Silent Planet] I believe I already knew that better telescopes had dissipated that old optical delusion. The point was that they were part of the Martian myth as it already existed in the common mind" (69). 

Lewis referred to his trilogy both as "theologised science fiction" (Letters 444) and as "planetary romances" (Joy 36).  He seemed to view the Ransom books as a deliberate fusion of two genres, a narrative strategy he had encountered in the novels of David Lindsay. As Lewis explained to one inquirer, "The real father of my planet book is David Lindsay's Voyage to Arcturus. [...] I had grown up on Wells's stories of that kind: It was Lindsay who first gave me the idea that the 'scientifiction' appeal could be combined with the 'supernatural' appeal--suggested the 'cross' (in a biological sense" (Letters 375). To his friend Ruth Pitter, Lewis commented more fully on his fascination for Voyage:  "From Lindsay I first learned what other planets in fiction are really good for; for spiritual adventures.  Only they can satisfy the craving which sends our imaginations off the earth.  Or putting it another way, in him I first saw the terrific results produced by the union of two kinds of fiction hitherto kept apart; the Novalis, G. Macdonald, James Stephens sort and the H.G. Wells, Jules Verne sort.  My debt to him is very great" (qtd. in Sayer 153).

 Lewis again held up Lindsay's Voyage as a prototype for speculative fiction in his address, "On Science Fiction," originally given to the Cambridge University English Club in 1955. In the same talk Lewis defended science fiction as an emerging genre that could achieve genuine literary merit, and he offered some guidelines for assessing this new kind of story. 
Lewis began this commentary on science fiction by noting that one cannot distinguish good from bad science fiction if one dismisses the entire genre out of hand: 

"Of the articles I have read on the subject [...], many were by people who clearly hated the kind [of story] they wrote about. It is a very dangerous thing to write about a kind you hate. Hatred obscures all distinctions. [...]  Many reviews are useless because, while purporting to condemn the book, they only reveal the reviewer's dislike of the kind to which it belongs. Let bad tragedies be censured by those who love tragedy, and bad detective stories by those who love the detective story. Then we shall learn their real faults. Otherwise we shall find epics blamed for not being novels, farces for not being high comedies, novels by James for lacking the swift action of Smollett. Who wants to hear a particular claret abused by a fanatical teetotaller, or a particular woman by a confirmed misogynist?"  (Science 59-60)

This plea for considering a work of fiction on its own merits seems like mere common sense today, but it was bold declaration in its time. Throughout most of Lewis's scholarly career, the academic world was dominated by literary Modernism, a movement which sharply distinguished between High Art as a vehicle of "Culture," and popular art, mere entertainment for the masses. From his early essays collected in Rehabilitations (1939) to his late book, An Experiment in Criticism (1961), Lewis critiqued the Modernist sensibility, suggesting it was becoming almost a Religion of Art, with its canonical works, its priestly elite, and its own aesthetic orthodoxies. 

One of the most unquestioned of these orthodoxies, and one which continues to make many readers dismiss science fiction altogether, is the idea that serious fiction must portray complex and multi-faceted characters. When E. M. Forster coined the terms round and flat character  in Aspects of the Novel (1927), he and most of his contemporaries took it for granted that the greatest works of fiction are those which offer the richest psychological studies. Lewis felt that that might well be true for one kind of story, but that it should not be expected in every kind of story. After discussing the eerie evocativeness of H. G. Wells's lunar landscapes in First Men in the Moon, Lewis expresses his surprise that many readers fail to recognize any imaginative power in this kind of writing: 

"How anyone can think this form illegimate or contemptible passes my understanding. It may very well be convenient not to call such things novels. If you prefer, call them a special form of novels. Either way, the conclusion will be much the same: they are to be tried by their own rules. It is absurd to condemn them because they do not often display any deep or sensitive characterization. They oughtn't to. It's a fault if they do. Wells' Cavor and Bedford [the protagonists in First Men in the Moon] have rather too much than too little character. Every good writer knows that the more unusual the scenes and events of his story are, the slighter, the more ordinary, the more typical his persons should be. Hence Gulliver is a commonplace little man and Alice a commonplace little girl. If they had been more remarkable they would have wrecked their books. [...] Of course, we must not confuse slight or typical characterization with impossible or unconvincing characterization.. Falsification of character will always spoil a story. but character can apparently be reduced, simplified, to almost any extent with satisfactory results." (Science 64-65)

Lewis goes on to argue that those who insist on judging every story by the depth of its characterizations are engaging in a kind of literary imperialism: "Of course, a given reader may be (some readers seem to be) interested in nothing else in the world except detailed studies of complex human personalities. If so, he has good reason for not reading those kinds of work which neither demand nor admit it. He has no reason for condemning them, and indeed no qualification for speaking of them at all. We must not allow the novel of manners to give laws to all literature: let it rule its own domain. We must not listen to Pope's maxim about the proper study of mankind. The proper study of man is everything. The proper study of man as artist is everything which gives a foothold to the imagination and the passions" (Science 65)

It might be charged that Lewis is engaged in special pleading here, setting up a different standard of evaluation for a particular form of popular fiction he happens to enjoy. But it should be recalled that made a similar argument about the mistake of trying to assess Spenser's Faerie Queene according to contemporary genre expectations: "The novel calls for characters with insides; but there are other kinds of narrative that do not. In literature, the narrative forms that do without character are quite numerous. They include, for example, the ballad, the Mrchen, the adventure story, the myth, and [...] the chivalric romance" (113) In discussing Spenser, as in discussing science fiction, Lewis comments on the futility of judging one genre by the standards of another: "It is always a great mistake to value a work of one kind for its occasional slight approximations to some other kind which happens to be preferred. If we can't learn to like a work of art for what it is, we had best give it up" (Spenser 113). 

Having established that those who critique science fiction should be able to read, as Pope advised,  "in the same spirit that the author writ," Lewis goes on to survey the principal "sub-species" of science fiction writing. The first kind, which he finds virtually unreadable, is what he calls the "fiction of Displaced Persons," writers who have no real interest in creating other worlds, but who seem to be trying to capitalize on a literary fad. This kind of writer sketches in some exotic setting far out in space and then never makes any good use of it. Lewis is particularly blunt in condemning this kind of narrative: "The author leaps forward into an imagined future when planetary, sidereal, or even galactic travel has become common. Against this huge backcloth he proceeds to develop an ordinary love-story, spy-story, wreck-story, or crime-story. This seems to me tasteless. Whatever in a work of art is not used, is doing harm. The faintly imagined and sometimes strictly unimaginable, scene and properties only blur the real theme and distract us from any interest it might have had" (Science 61). 
Apart from the work of "Displaced Persons," authors who probably should not be writing science fiction at all, Lewis admits that he also takes little interest in a second category of science fiction, what he calls "the fiction of Engineers" (62). The appeal of these stories, such as Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, H. G. Wells's Land Ironclads, or Arthur C. Clark's Prelude to Space, resides largely in the marvels of real or imagined technology. Unlike the fiction of Displaced Persons, which Lewis calls "radically bad," he confesses that his dislike of these "gadget stories" is more a matter of personal taste and values: "I am too uneducated scientifically to criticize such stories on the mechanical side; and I am so completely out of sympathy with the projects they anticipate that I am incapable of criticizing them as stories. I am as blind to their appeal as a pacifist is to Maldon" (Science 63). 

Lewis was not only "out of sympathy" with the advanced technology so often celebrated in these tales, but also by the world view which often accompanied it. Out of the Silent Planet presents a voyage into space similar to Wells's First Men in the Moon in plot, but very nearly opposite in its themes. And the narrative structure of Perelandra echoes that of Wells's The Time Machine (even in minor details such as the protagonist returning to his own world with exotic blossoms and with a wounded heel). But where Wells diagnoses society's problems as political, Lewis sees them as moral. Where Wells sees class conflict and a need to forge new truths, Lewis sees spiritual conflict and a need to recover old truths.

 Lewis began the trilogy as a deliberate critique of what he called "Wellsianity," (Funeral 82),  a philosophy that projects Darwinism into the metaphysical sphere, speculating that humankind may eventually evolve into its own species of divinity, jumping from planet to planet and star to star. Though one finds this quasi-religious belief sometimes called "Evolutionism" in Olaf Stapledon, G.B. Shaw, and C. H. Waddington, Lewis found it most effectively embodied in Wells's novels and he set out to create a Wellsian fantasy with a counter-Wellsian theme. Lewis's Ransom books contrast so sharply from others stories of space voyages that Robert Scholes and Eric S. Rabkin credit him with inventing a new genre: "anti-science fiction" (43)

I believe Lewis would have accepted the label as a compliment. Throughout the trilogy, Lewis turns the most common conventions of science fiction on their head. Part of the delight of reading deeply in Lewis's books is to note how often Lewis the creative writer responds imaginatively to the very same concerns he has raised in his role as a critic of literature and culture. For example, in "De Futilitate" he worries that many of his contemporaries have gotten their sense of objective values almost completely backwards: 

 "It is widely believed that scientific thought puts us in touch with reality, whereas moral or metaphysical thought does not. [...] That is why in modern stories of what Americans call the 'scientifictional' type--stories about unknown species who inhabit other planets or the depth of the sea--these creatures are usually pictured as being wholly devoid of our moral standards but as accepting our scientific standards. The implication is, of course, that scientific thought, being objective, will be the same for all creatures that can reason at all, whereas moral thought, being merely a subjective thing like one's taste in food, might be expected to vary from species to species." ( 61). 

Having noted the problem, Lewis intends to display no such confusion in his own "scientifiction." When his protagonist, Elwin Ransom, travels into space, he first discovers how misleading modern scientific notions of the heavens are, then he learns of a cosmic moral order which everyone in the universe knows about and honors except for us, the bewildered inhabitants of "the silent planet." 

Early in the first book of the trilogy, Lewis serves notice that he intends to flout the usual conventions used in describing cosmic voyages. While his reading of Wells and others as a boy had impressed upon him the "vastness and cold of space" (Joy 65), his own interplanetary traveler discovers just the opposite. Ransom awakens in the spaceship to an invigorating "tyranny of heat and light" (Planet 29) and he comes to recognize that the very term space is a misnomer: 

But Ransom, as time wore on, became aware of another and more spiritual cause for his progressive lightening and exultation of heart. A nightmare, long engendered in the modern mind by the mythology that follows in the wake of science, was falling off him. He had read of 'Space': at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now--now the very name 'Space' seemed a blasphemous label for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. He could not call it 'dead'; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. [...] No: Space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens--the heavens which declared the glory" (Planet 65). 
Here we find Lewis employing a familiar science fiction motif--the interplanetary traveler gazing out at the stars--to undermine "the mythology which follows in the of science" and to suggest that we reconsider a more ancient view--that of a psalmist for whom the heavens declare the glory of their Maker (Ps. 19:1). 

This is almost the exact opposite of the "gadget fiction" which Lewis took little interest in--and with which he often associated a world view antithetical to his own. We are not invited to spend time looking at the machine in the story, but rather to look out of it. Unlike Wells, who spends most of a chapter in First Men in the Moon speculating about substances "opaque to gravity," Lewis offer almost no information about how his spaceship works, apart from an offhand comment by its inventor about "exploiting the less observed properties of solar radiation" (Planet 26). Lewis confessed later that such an explanation was "pure mumbo jumbo," and that he inserted it into the story perhaps mostly to help himself suspend disbelief  (Unreal 87). His explanation of his means and ends in speculative fiction was almost the opposite of those who are fascinated by technology for its own sake: "In this kind of story the pseudo-scientific apparatus is to be taken simply as a 'machine.' [...]  The most superficial appearance of plausibility--the merest sop to our critical intellect--will do. I am inclined to think that frankly supernatural methods are best. I once took a hero to Mars in space-ship, but when I knew better I had angels convey him to Venus" (Science 68-69). 

 Having dismissed the fiction of Displaced Persons outright and expressed his distaste for the "fiction of Engineers," Lewis goes on in "On Science Fiction" to discuss the kinds of story that are better able to command his sympathy. He does not see these as new genres at all, but traces them back to the ancient yearning to hear of travels into realms unknown. "Is any man such a dull clod," Lewis asks, "that he can look at the moon through a good telescope without asking himself what it would be like to walk among those mountains under that black, crowded sky?" (63). Lewis says that much the same sense of wonder about unreachable places animated Homer's description of Odysseus visiting the Underworld and Dante's imaginative journey to the center of the earth in The Inferno. 

Related to speculative stories about unknown places are those about the unknown future, which Lewis calls Eschatological fiction. Aldous Huxley in Brave New World,  Olaf Stapledon in First and Last Men, and Arthur C. Clarke in Childhood's End all present their imaginative projections about the eventual destiny of humans. Lewis notes that this kind of story has provoked some of the greatest hostility among reviewers, because stories about the future so often comment on the political realities of the present, or may be inferred as doing so. 

In discussing stories about unknown places and times, Lewis reiterates that in the kind of speculative fiction he finds most compelling, it is impossible to clearly distinguish between science fiction and fantasy. These tales are simply modern versions of the age-old itch to explore regions of "beauty, awe, or terror as the actual world does not supply" (Science 68). As the geographical knowledge has increased through the centuries, areas on the map marked "Terra Incognita" have shrunk, so that it seems to Lewis a natural development that imaginative writers would eventually leave our world behind in order to envision exotic otherworlds. 

Lewis lists the speculative works, ancient and modern, whose excellence derives not from their characters, their technology, or from external adventure, but from an elusive quality of spiritual suggestiveness. He includes parts of the Odyssey and the Kalevala, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner, Keats's Christabel, William Morris's Jason, as well as George MacDonald's Phantastes, Lilith, and The Golden Key. Among twentieth century writers, he includes E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and David Lindsay's "shattering, intolerable, and irresistible work," Voyage to Arcturus (Science 71). Lewis's concludes in his address "On Science Fiction" that it its the new genre's spiritual possibilities, not its technical possibilities, which provide an opportunity for genuine literary expression. 
This theme is reiterated elsewhere in Lewis's critical essays. Whenever he asks his readers to consider the evocative power of setting or "atmosphere" in a story, one can be certain that Lindsay's name is soon to appear. Though Lewis was not attracted by the themes of Voyage, he was captivated by Lindsay's method of using features of the landscape to suggest psychological and spiritual themes. As Lewis explained in an essay titled simply "On Stories": 

"His Tormance [the fictional world of Voyage to Arcturus] is a region of the spirit. He is the first writer to discover what 'other planets' are really good for in fiction. No merely physical strangeness or merely spatial distance will realize the idea of otherness which is what we are always trying to grasp in a story about voyaging through space: you must go into another dimension. To construct plausible and moving 'other worlds' you must draw on the only real 'other world' we know, that of the spirit" (12).

This single remark, more than any other, explains Lewis's lifelong fascination for science fiction--and also reveals why the settings of his own Ransom trilogy are so unforgettable. For many readers of Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, especially, details of character and plot may begin to fade with time, but there will remain distinct and vivid mental images of the healing radiance of "the Heavens" as Ransom experienced them, of the rosy, perpendicular landscapes of Malacandra and the warm, golden seas of Perelandra. This is not merely a tribute to Lewis's descriptive powers, but also a clue as to his intensely personal narrative method. From Lindsay he discovered the secret of creating imagined worlds which were objective correlatives of the spirit, employing a kind of literary expressionism to project his own inner world onto a fictional canvas. 

The Otherworld of Lewis's spirit was a rich one and he retained throughout his life vivid and evocative memories of his earliest years. Though his boyhood was not particularly happy after the death of his mother when he was nine, he did have a good many moments of exultation, usually from his love of nature or from his beloved books, including a good many works of fantasy and science fiction. The most intense and significant imaginative experiences of Lewis's early years were the recurrences of "Joy," his word for Sehnsucht, the longing for some lost paradise that is itself a kind of paradise to feel. 
Lewis's experiences of Joy came to be associated with three constellations of images which he labeled Northernness, the island garden, and Homeliness. The first of these, "Northernness," was a nameless longing associated with pale winter skies, heroic Norse sagas, and Wagnerian opera. In his autobiography, he vividly recalls the first time he read Longfellow's translations 0f Icelandic myth, reading the simple words, "Balder the beautiful is dead, is dead," and feeling overwhelmed by "unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction" (Joy 17-18). 

Throughout his life Lewis possessed an intense attraction to "Northernness," which he describe as a stern and ecstatic vision of things "cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote" (Joy 17) Sometimes the experience came to him not from art or music, but directly from nature, as we can see in this letter to his childhood friend Arthur Greeves: 

"My second delightful moment was of a different kind, and takes a little arrangement to describe. Imagine first a pure rosy pink sunset: in the extreme distance a sky covered with thin 'mackerel' as delicate as the veins in a shell, & all pink: in the foreground, blackly outlined against this, huge crags and castles and Valkyrie-shapes of cloud. Got that? Now;--imagine that all this existed only for a fraction of [a] second, the pink light being in fact no sunset but a vast flood of summer lightning: so that all those beetling cliffs and tottering cities of the gods, together with the rosy flush behind which made them visible, had leaped out of pure star-set darkness an instant before, and vanished into it instantaneously again--and so times without number" (Stand 389).

This visionary cloudscape Lewis described in 1930 looks remarkably like the terrain of Malacandra, which Lewis would begin to write about only a few years later. Note how much the mountains of that planet resemble Lewis's delightful vision of the stormclouds at sunset: "Beyond [...] was a rose-colored cloud-like mass. It might really be a cloud, but it was very solid-looking and did not seem to have moved since he first set eyes on it. It looked like the top of a gigantic red cauliflower--or like a huge bowl of red soapsuds--and it was exquisitely beautiful in tint and shape" (Planet 43). 

Whether or not Lewis had one particular sunset in mind when he began creating the landscape of Malacandra, one senses a strong correlation between external decriptions and inner states of exultation, wonder, or anxiety. As a matter of fact, the whole novel Out of the Silent Planet is suffused with "Northernness." The pale blue sky and bracing atmosphere 0f Malacandra remind us that Lewis's favorite season was winter. The Malacandrian words hross, handramit, harandra, and are derived from Old Norse words for horse, lowlands, and highlands, respectively. And that comic creature called a pfifltriggi takes its name from two Old Icelandic words combined by Lewis to give the meaning "safe monster" (Flieger 52).  Even incidental references in Out of the Silent Planet to Rackham (113) and Chaliapin, the Russian operatic singer (55), evoke "Northernness," alluding to Norse saga as portrayed in the illustrations of Rackham or performed in Wagnerian operas. 
If Malacandra is a delightful world of Northernness, Ransom's next planetary pilgrimage takes him to another planet of joy. Perelandra's evocations of Sweet Desire take a form more southern than northern--the image of a lush, paradisal garden. This makes us think of Eden, of course, but Lewis often associated his paradise with island gardens: Hesperides in classic myth; Tirnanog, "the Isle of Apples" found in Irish legends, and Avalon, the island where the King Arthur was taken to heal from his wounds. 

Just as Ransom's first sight of Malacandra evoked the Joy of Northernness, his first sight of Perelandra evokes the Joy of of an island Paradise: "At Ransom's waking something happened to him which perhaps never happens to a man until he is out of his own world: he saw reality, and thought it was a dream. He opened his eyes and saw a strange heraldically coloured tree loaded with yellow fruits and silver leaves. Round the base of the indigo stem was coiled a small dragon covered with scales of red gold. He recognized the garden of the Hesperides at once" (45). 

In general, the world of Perelandra contains pleasures in abundance. From the time Ransom first splashes down in the tropical seas of the planet until he witnesses the ceremony of the Great Dance, his time spent in this world includes a good many Edenic delights: the bubble-trees, the ambrosial gourds, rides on the backs of exotic creatures. But Perelandra also evokes a whole other species of pleasure. When Ransom, riding on a dolphin's back at night, approaches one of the floating islands, his piercing delight has an element of deja vu: 

But he said 'Hush' to his mind at this stage, for the mere pleasure of breathing in the fragrance which now began to steal towards him from the blackness ahead. Warm and sweet, and every moment sweeter and purer, and every moment stronger and more filled with all delights, it came to him. He knew well what it was,... the night-breath of a floating island in the star Venus. It was strange to be filled with homesickness for places where his sojourn had been so brief and which were, by any objective standard, so alien to all our race. Or were they? The cord of longing which drew him to the invisible isle seemed to him at that moment to have been fastened long, long before his coming to Perelandra, long before the earliest times that memory could recover in his childhood, before birth, before the birth of man himself, before the origins of time. It was sharp, sweet, wild, and holy, all in one. (102-3)

In this passage we see Perelandra, not only as a garden of unearthly delights, but as an image of Joy itself. The exotic garden--whether Eden, Hesperides, or Tirnanog--is one of the pictures that Lewis associated with Joy from early childhood on.

In the last book of the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, Ransom stays at home on planet earth, but in this world too Joy may be found. The Joy of this book revolves around the community at St. Anne's, around what Lewis would call the pleasures of Homeliness. In Surprised by Joy Lewis explains that he experienced Joy not only in the severe beauties of Northernness and the lushness of Edenic gardens, but also in the glory of simple things. He reports that Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin, no less than more exalted stories, was a catalyst for Sweet Desire. He said it conveyed to him the "Idea of Autumn," of quiet country lanes, snug fireplaces, and furry animals. 

In That Hideous Strength, we sense the quiet glory of Homeliness just about everytime we visit the St. Anne's community, of which Ransom is the head. Again, the Joy of the scene is most powerfully felt upon a first encounter. This time the spell is woven not upon Ransom himself, but upon Jane Studdock, an anchorless and unhappy woman who has come to consult with him. As she is led toward the house, Jane passes by a vegetable garden and a line of rosebushes that fill her with wistful thoughts: "It was a very large garden [. . .]  like the garden in Peter Rabbit. Or was it like the garden in the Romance of the Rose. [...] Or like Klingsor's garden? Or the garden in Alice? Or like the garden on top of some Mesopotamian ziggurat which had given rise to the legend of Paradise? Or simply like all walled gardens? ( 61-62). 

In this passage, the homey and wholesome grounds of St. Anne's evoke in Jane powerful associations from the classic children's stories, medieval romance, and Wagnerian opera [Klingsor is a magician in Wagner's Parsifal]--all catalysts for Sweet Desire in Lewis. The unpretentious scene even even causes her to wonder if all human myths of paradise are rooted in just such a garden. 

We see then that all the worlds of the Ransom trilogy are suffused with Joy--Malacandra especially with Northernness, Perelandra with images of a garden isle, and even troubled earth has quiet refuges of Homeliness. In all three stories, Lewis hopes to evoke in the reader the same longing for paradise that stabbed his heart so often in his early years. What is more, his purpose is not just to delight, but to instruct. 

Even when he first experienced Joy as a young child, Lewis recognized that the feeling evoked by the memory was not mere nostalgia or love of nature. It was a desire then for what? Trying to answer that question became a kind of personal grail quest for Jack, one that would lead toward many false objects 0f desire--eroticism, the occult, worldly success--until he finally found what he considered to be the true object of Joy, or "Sweet Desire." 

For Lewis, the search for the source of Joy, what he called his "dialectic of desire," ended in his early thirties when he re-embraced the faith of his childhood. Largely through the influence of his good friend J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis came to believe that romance, fairy tales, and myths revealed their own kinds of truth not available to the unaided intellect, that they represented a "real though unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination" (Miracles 139). Tolkien explained that the pivotal point in human history was the Incarnation, when myth became history. For Lewis Christianity became the fountainhead of all myths and tales of enchantment, the key to all mythologies. 
Perhaps Lewis's greatest contribution as a writer of speculative fiction is his ability to recast the motifs of the cosmic voyage into those of spiritual pilgrimage. Even more powerfully than his mentor David Lindsay, Lewis was able to "show what other worlds are good for," to express the otherworld of his own spirit in terms which regale readers' imaginations and encourage them to undertake their own spiritual journeys. 

Mark R. Hillegas exclaimed in 1960 that "in C. S. Lewis's trilogy, science fiction has up to now reached its highest level as literature" (27)  But two years later, in a conversation with Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss, Lewis remarked that "probably the great work in science fiction is yet to come." (Unreal 93). Since that time, there have indeed been a good many novels of speculative fiction which have been acknowledged and studied as important works of literature--novels by writers of the first order including Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Anthony Burgess, Doris Lessing, Ursula Le Guin, and Jorge Luis Borges. Yet Lewis's contribution to the field rests secure, both as a pioneering critic who helped establish the criteria for assessing this new genre, and as an imaginative writer who produced classic works of their kind. 


Asimov, Isaac. "Social Science Fiction." In Damon Knight, ed., Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction. (New York: Harper and Row, 1977). Pp. 29-61. 

Brady, Charles A. Best Sellers 4 (15 May 1944), 40-41. 

Flieger, Verlyn. "The Sound of Silence: Language and Experience in Out of the Silent Planet." In Word and Story in C. S. Lewis, ed by Peter J. Schakel and Charles A. Huttar. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1991.  Pp. 42-57.

Heinlein, Robert A. "Science Fiction: Its Nature, Faults, and Virtues." In Damon Knight, ed., Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction. (New York: Harper and Row, 1977). Pp. 3-28. 

Hillegas, Mark R. "Science Fiction and the Idea of Progress." Extrapolation 1 (May 1960), 25-28.

Hooper, Walter. Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966. 

Hume, Kathryn. "C. S. Lewis' Trilogy: A Cosmic Romance." Modern Fiction Studies 20 (1974-75), 505-517. 

Lewis, C. S. "De Futilitate." In Christian Reflections. Ed by Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967. Pp. 57-71. 
________.. "The Funeral of a Great Myth." In Christian Reflections. Ed by Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967. Pp. 82-93. 

________.. Letters of C. S. Lewis. Ed. by W. H. Lewis. Revised and enlarged edition ed. by Walter Hooper. London: Harper Collins, 1988. 

________.. Miracles: A Preliminary Study. New York: Macmillan, 1968. 

________."On Science Fiction." In Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. Ed by Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966. Pp. 59-73. 

________."On Stories." In Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. Ed by Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966. Pp. 3-21. 

________.. Out of the Silent Planet. New York: Macmillan, 1968. Orig. pub. London: John Lane, Bodley Head, 1938; New York: Macmillan, 1943.

________.. Perelandra. New York: Macmillan, 1968: Orig. pub. London: John Lane, Bodley Head, 1943: New York: Macmillan, 1944. 

________ .Rehabilitations and Other Essays. London: Oxford University Press, 1939. 

 ________.. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1955.

________.. Spenser's Images of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967. 

________.. That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups. New York: Macmillan, 1968. Orig. pub. London: John Lane, Bodley Head, 1945; New York: Macmillan, 1946.

________.. They Stand Together: The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963). Ed. by Walter Hooper. New York: Macmillan, 1979. 

________."Unreal Estates." In Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. Ed by Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966. Pp. 86-96. 

Merritt, James D. "'She Pluck'd, She Did Eat'" In Marleen S. Barr, ed., Future Females: A Critical Anthology. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1981. Pp. 37-41. 

Murphy, Brian. C. S. Lewis. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1983. 

Myers, Doris T. C. S. Lewis in Context. Kent State University Press, 1994.

Phelan, John M. "Men and Morals in Space." America 113 (October 9 1965), 405-07. 

Sayer, George. Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

Scholes, Robert and Eric S. Rabkin. Science Fiction: History, Science, Vision. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977)




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