Today marks the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. It’s difficult to gauge exactly how different the world of fantasy and science fiction would be without his influence (or the influence of his friend J.R.R. Tolkien). We’ve gathered a number of links that explore different facets of his legacy.
First up: the Guardian has an excerpt from a never before seen essay on truth and fiction titled “Image and Imagination”. The hand-written essay was rescued from a fire at the Lewis home and is now included in a new anthology of writing by Lewis. Here’s a bit:
Always the real world is the bank on which the poet draws his cheques; and though a metaphysical lyric may be a fine and private place, all the meanings embraced within it are but passengers who come there from the public, eternal, objective world of reality and haste thither again.
The UK paper Newham Recorder has a fun piece on the role C.S. Lewis may have played in inspiring the long-running science fiction show Doctor Who (also marking a 50 year anniversary):
The parallels between Lewis’ magical wardrobe and the Doctor’s TARDIS are strikingly evident, both offering an escape through time and space into distant worlds where years spent travelling can pass in a heartbeat back in our reality….
Although best known for the Narnia epic, Lewis also made a foray into science fiction with his “Space Trilogy”, which opposed the dehumanising trends he saw in contemporary science fiction. The themes prevalent in these books – the threat nihilistic science posed to traditional human values, the corruption of a paradise planet by an “alien” invader, and Earth’s place in the wider universe – would not be out of place in a Doctor Who story, minus the religious allegory of course.
Over at the Patheos Christ and Pop Culture blog, there are some interesting posts reviewing Lewis’s books, including this review of the often-neglected Till We Have Faces:
Faces isn’t an easy read. It peels back the complexities of human thinking and feeling as well as the mystery of the divine. And I now see what bothered me on that first read: There are no neat lessons, no happily ever after, no closure. It leaves readers unsettled, uncomfortable, forcing them to wrestle with what they think about God and faith and life. Lewis doesn’t do the defining for us in Faces; he lets readers battle it out for themselves, to acknowledge the mystery and what we will make of it. Finding the mystery, however, is worth the discomfort. I’m guessing Lewis would agree.
Lewis wouldn’t have been the writer he was without the influence of his compatriots in the Inklings, a loosely associated group of writers and thinkers who met regularly to read their works aloud and discuss matters of philosophy, literature, and religion. Author David C. Downing wrote an invaluable guide to the Inklings a few years ago, to be found on the website for his novel Looking for the King:
The Inklings were an informal literary circle in Oxford that began meeting in the early 1930s and continued until the late 1940s. The nucleus of the group seemed to be C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who noted that Lewis took particular pleasure in listening to others read their works aloud. (Tolkien added that Lewis had phenomenal memory for texts that he received in this way, and could quote verbatim from books he had heard a decade or two earlier.)
Lewis and Tolkien invited like-minded spirits to join them for informal, convivial meetings in Oxford pubs, later adding evening gatherings to read their works aloud, receiving both praise and candid criticism.
And finally, of course, some excerpts from Ignatius Press books on the writing of C.S. Lewis:
To return to the question opening this chapter, “Why fantasy?”, we can now see that there are three answers to this question. First, “fantasy remains a human right”; the mind demands “vacations” as well as the body, and after our mental holiday we may return to our tasks in the world refreshed, renewed, and with a new vision. But second, appreciative fantasy, just because it makes no direct statement about the world, paradoxically is the best way to see the beauty and danger of the real world. By recovering the vision and appreciation that fantasy gives us, we learn to see again the world as it is. And finally, it is the consolation of fantasy, the echo in our hearts of the greatest Happy Ending, which makes the fantasy of Lewis and Tolkien so valuable to so many of us. Escape, Recovery, Consolation: these are answers enough, and more than enough, to the question “Why Fantasy?”
—Richard Purtill, writing in his book Lord of the Elves and Eldils: Fantasy and Philosophy in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Perelandra is a remythologizing. The cosmology of all three books in the “space trilogy” is Lewis’ poetic and fictional but serious attempt to contribute to the “new natural philosophy” or anti-reductionist cosmology that he called for in The Abolition of Man. We need poets and novelists as well as scientists and philosophers of science to help build the new joyful cosmology, and I know of none, except perhaps Tolkien, who has contributed more to the building of this cathedral than Lewis—especially in his fiction…
— Peter Kreeft, writing in his book C.S. Lewis for the Third Millennium.
Men in the modern period have been persuaded that the moralities of mankind contradict each other radically, just as the religions do… But this diagnosis is extremely superficial. It clings to a series of details that are lined up alongside each other in no particular order and thus arrives at its banal know-it-all attitude. In reality, the fundamental intuition about the moral character of Being itself and about the message of nature is common to all the great cultures, and therefore the great moral imperatives are likewise held in common. C.S. Lewis has stated this emphatically.
—Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), writing in his book A Turning Point for Europe?