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Friday, August 03, 2007

John C. Wright on C. S. Lewis

John C. Wright (go here for his LiveJournal blog, and here for a page on his writings) is described, in the Wikipedia article on him, as "acclaimed," and the article says that Publisher's Weekly went so far as to call him the most important writer of fantastic fiction to appear so far in this century. One of his novels, Orphans of Chaos, was a nominee for a Nebula award for 2005. (It didn't win -- Camouflage, by long-time author Joe Haldeman, took that honor.)

What drew my attention to Wright was an essay on the literary quality of the space trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, by C. S. Lewis. I thank Claw of the Conciliator for posting on Wright's essay. Lewis, I suppose, is currently best known as the author of the Narnia books. If you aren't familiar with his other works, including Mere Christianity -- apologetic, one of several such by Lewis -- and Till We Have Faces (more or less historical fiction), you should be. I won't name any of his works on literature, which were also pretty good.

Lewis, himself, wrote about science fiction writing. Several such essays were collected into Of Other Worlds, edited by Walter Hooper. So it's only fair that others write about Lewis, and Wright isn't the first, and won't be the last.

Wright's conclusion is that Lewis's trilogy is pretty good literature, although not of the first rank. I agree with that conclusion. (Wright, like most, puts Tolkien, Lewis's friend, ahead of him in literary merit.)

I was particularly intrigued by this statement about the space trilogy from Wright: "When I was a reader who disagreed with the message, I [reread] them for their artistic merit alone. One need not be a Christian to appreciate these books." The Wikipedia article says that Wright, like Lewis, started as an atheist, but became a Christian in adulthood. I look forward to reading some of Wright's work. Thanks, Claw of the Conciliator!

I don't think that there is a necessary connection between being a Christian and being attracted to, or authoring, fantastic literature. Many Christians (and others) are repelled by it, and certainly wouldn't write it. But I am pleased that there are now, and have been, prominent authors of such fiction who were believers.

Thanks for reading.

4 comments:

Tap said...

The archives on Wright's LiveJournal might be worth going through; he's written about a lot of interesting things (including his conversion experiences). superversive is another writer who puts a lot of thought into many of his posts. Since you were talking about Lewis, you might be interested in The Problem of Susan as a place to start (although that ends up being more of a very personal post). He also writes about writing and more recently has put up a series of essays on the fantasy boom in 1977.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Tap. I guess that I really should subscribe to his blog.

Julana said...

Hi, Martin.
I finished Alan Jacobs The Narnian this summer. I also read a few of his moral essays. I was surprised to find he thinks the Harry Potter books better written than the Chronicles of Narnia. So I took time to read them, too.
I still prefer the world C.S. Lewis created, regardless of the quality of writing. I like his images, metaphors, and analogies. They give wonderful hope.

Martin LaBar said...

Whatever the merits, Rowling's world is more dark and complex.

Thanks for reading and commenting.