By Michael Grossberg
Tor.com, a leading online sf magazine, has published an intriguing article about bestselling writer C.S. Lewis. That’s welcome news to Lewis’ fans, including sf readers and Libertarian Futurist Society members.
The positive attention comes as LFS members are considering the 2022 Prometheus Hall of Fame finalists – which include That Hideous Strength, the third and final novel of Lewis’ Space Trilogy.
(For the record, the three other Hall of Fame 2022 finalists are Robert Heinlein’s novel Citizen of the Galaxy, Barry B. Longyear’s collection of stories in Circus World, and the Rush song “The Trees.”)
Lewis (1898-1963), a popular novelist and leading theologian, was one of the most influential writers of the past century. By now, more than 200 million copies of his fiction and nonfiction are estimated in print. Lewis wrote more than 30 books that have been translated into more than 30 languages and have been popularized on stage and screen.
His most widely read and best-known novel is probably The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which launched his bestselling seven-volume Narnia children’s fantasy series, which in turn inspired popular film adaptations of the first three volumes in the series, including Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Less well known but more centered in the science fiction realm is his so-called Space Trilogy, which consists of Out of the Silent Planet (published in 1938), set on Mars; Perelandra (1943), set on Venus; and That Hideous Strength (1945), set on Earth and subtitled “A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups.”
Here’s a description of the trilogy’s climactic work, from the LFS press release announcing this year’s Hall of Fame finalists:
“That Hideous Strength revolves around a sociologist and his wife who discover a totalitarian conspiracy and diabolical powers scheming to take control of humanity, in the guise of a progressive-left, Nazi-like organization working for a centrally planned pseudo-scientific society literally hell-bent to control all human life. Its cautions about the therapeutic state and the rising ideology of scientism (science not as the value-free pursuit of truth, but as an elitist justification for social control) seem prescient today.”
Although Lewis’ science fiction is not as widely read as his children’s series, his fictional and devilish parable The Screwtape Letters or even some of his non-fiction works (The Abolition of Man, which may be of greatest interest to libertarians and classical liberals), his Space Trilogy is deserving of scrutiny.
Tor.com, one of the leading online sf magazines and blogs, recently posted an interesting article doing just that, entitled Strange Company: An Introduction to C.S. Lewis.
The TOR article discusses both freedom and religion, as they relate to Lewis’s thinking and fiction, but the article also amounts to something of a review and commentary on Lewis’ sf trilogy, especially Perelandra, which writer Matt Mikalatos counts among his favorite Lewis novels.
“Perelandra was one of Lewis’ favorites of his own work, too,” Mikalatos writes.
“Multiple times throughout his life he suggested it was the best thing he had written (in his later days he’d sometimes push it to second after Till We Have Faces), and there is a lot about the novel that brings together Lewis’ particular interests, skills, and thoughts.
Mikalatos, author of the YA fantasy The Crescent Stone, takes Lewis’ philosophy, theology and insights about morality and free will very seriously:
“Predestination and freedom are addressed at length. In what sense is God aware of the future? Is fate a thing? Is each thing that crosses our path a good thing in some sense? Is that different in an unfallen world vs. a fallen one? Can we make “wrong” choices? (Lewis has pretty clear thoughts on all of these questions.)”
Interestingly (and you might be as surprised as I was to learn this), Mikalatos observes that Dr. Ransom, the main character in Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, was “fashioned in large part” around Lewis’ fondness for his friend Tolkien.
THE OTHER 2022 HALL OF FAME FINALISTS
For the record, here are capsule descriptions of the other three 2022 Hall of Fame finalists, which LFS members are reading (or rereading) this spring and summer to rank the finalists and vote to select this year’s winner:
* Citizen of the Galaxy, a 1957 novel by Robert Heinlein, and arguably the best of his “juveniles,” that strongly dramatizes an anti-slavery theme while exploring the meaning of freedom and defending the right to use force in self-defense. The epic, wide-ranging, planet-hopping saga revolves about a young man’s coming of age amid repeated displacement into new societies and situations (including one intriguing libertarian group of Free Traders) in a rich and complex interstellar future.
* Circus World, a 1981 collection of linked stories by Barry B. Longyear that imagines how Earth’s circus troupes have evolved on a far-distant planet into a circus.
The magic-defined culture evolves without a government but with strongly individualistic, voluntary and cooperative social norms and only One Law, designed to make it nearly impossible to impose government regulations or other legislation, that helps the planet’s citizens peacefully cooperate in resistance against coercive human invasion and statist tyranny.
* “The Trees” is a 1978 fantasy-themed song with pointed lyrics by Rush (released on the Canadian rock group’s album Hemispheres).
The song concisely and poetically presents a fable of envy, revolution, and coercive egalitarianism that threatens the survival and individuality of different kinds of trees that make up a forest with a “noble law” that keeps the trees “equal by hatchet, axe and saw.”
LFS members should expect the official Hall of Fame ballot to be sent out by the end of May, with July 4 the traditional annual voting deadline on the Prometheus Awards.
* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.
* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.
Libertarian futurists believe culture is as vital as politics (and often more fulfilling, positive and productive in the longer run) in sparking positive social change and spreading positive visions of the future and achieving universal liberty and human rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.