Thursday, September 23, 2004

"An Expostulation"

Against too many writers of science fiction

Why did you lure us on like this,
Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,
Building (as though we cared for size!)
Empires that cover galaxies
If at the journey's end we find
The same old stuff we left behind,
Well-worn Tellurian stories of
Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love,
Whose setting might as well have been
The Bronx, Montmartre, or Bedinal Green?

Why should I leave this green-floored cell,
Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,
Unless, outside its guarded gates,
Long, long desired, the Unearthly waits
Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,
Or Wonder, laying on one's heart
That finger-tip at which we start
As if some thought too swift and shy
For reason's grasp had just gone by?

~C S Lewis, Poems

On this date:
1938 Out of the Silent Planet (the first volume of Lewis's Space Trilogy) is published by The Bodley Head, London.

11 Comment(s):

At Thu Sep 23, 07:03:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

I have book cover #2 (Macmillan 23rd printing 1978)--that funky green one with the glass spheres and teeny little guy in a space suit. My entire Space Trilogy set is in terrible shape. The pages are almost brown, they are so yellowed, and they are starting to fall out of the binding. *eyes* hmm...looks like I need to look for a new set!

So what do you think? Does Lewis fall prey to the same habit the science fiction writers he is criticizing here? Does he bring along the "same old stuff" to Mars and Venus for his tales?

At Thu Sep 23, 01:56:00 PM EST, Blogger Joelle said...

Hmmm.....I have a shiny new copy....and the one I want is #2....;p

I think thats the first poem I've ever read science fiction. I don't think The Space Trilogy would fall under that catagory, at least Perelandra wouldn't. I've read *alot* of scifi, and nothing has come even close to those concepts.
But that is interesting that he wrote poem against science fiction, I wonder, was it written before or after he wrote the space trilogy? Or even Narnia for that matter.

Oh, and I have #10

At Thu Sep 23, 04:13:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) lists it as first being published in 1959, in the June issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Pretty cheeky to publish it there, I'd say!

At Thu Sep 23, 05:03:00 PM EST, Blogger Sandicomm said...

Lewis liked sci-fi, you guys! He and Tolkien read Asimov, he got into a flame war (and then made up with) Arthur C. Clarke... the poem is not against sci-fi, it's about a certain genre of sci=fi. If you remember, The Space Trilogy was published in the 30s and 40s when modern sci=fi was still in its infancy, serialized in cheap magazines, etc. Lewis didn't like a lot of these stories because a) they were pretty cruddy and b)he felt that writers who had the kind of stories described in the poem were "displaced commercial writers". You can't imagine The Space Trilogy not having a background in space, and you can't imagine, say, Stranger in a Strange Land straddling between Mars and Earth. This poem is against a particular kind of sci-fi, which, to the best of my knowledge, no longer exists.

As for The Space Trilogy, it blessedly does not have any physics so it's easy to understand, for both the author and the reader. ;) The reason it's considered sci-fi, I think, is because it's an interplanetary adventure. OSP reads more like a pulp novel while THS is a more complex and mature novel.

As for me, I have book cover ten, and even though my set is only a few years old, it's very, um, well-loved.

And I have a bone to pick about cover number one: Why does it say "The Silence of the Earth"? It should say (in French) "De la planete silencieuse." Sheesh. What do you think the French translation is like if they couldn't even get the title right?

At Thu Sep 23, 06:43:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

I think you are absolutely right, Sandi. I think Lewis isn't particularly skewering ALL science fiction here, just the type of stories we would probably call "pulp science fiction" now. That is, non-science fiction plots, set in space or on a space ship.

I found a link to the book: From Narnia to a Space Odyssey : The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. LewisWhen I read the reviews, it seems there was actually very little correspondence between the two, and it was mostly pretty formal, rather than a "War" as the title might lead you to believe.

At Thu Sep 23, 07:13:00 PM EST, Blogger Sandicomm said...

(This is Sandicomm's sister)

Sorry I'm not going to write an ESSAY like some of youse. (i.e., Sandicomm)I like Sci-Fi, but I also enjoyed Lewis's poems and agreed with many of the points he made. ("Why did you lure us on like this,/Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,/Building (as though we cared for size!)/Empires that cover galaxies/If at the journey's end we find/The same old stuff we left behind...") I think the point of sci-fi is that while people (or whatever) can be put into many different places and situations, and still remain the same.

Whether that's frightening or a comfort is up to the author and the reader.



At Thu Sep 23, 07:23:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Hi Rachel!

Thanks for commenting. Nice to see that Sandi shares her account name ;-)

Have you ever read any of Ray Bradbury's science fiction? I'm specificially thinking of The Martian Chronicles. I really enjoy his writing, first, because he does bring in the:

"Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,"

element really well (so that we marvel at the world of Mars through his eyes). But second, he also manages to show that no matter where man goes, man's problems remain essentially the same.

At Fri Sep 24, 06:57:00 AM EST, Blogger Sandicomm said...

Rachel doesn't usually use my name. I just wanted her to see the poem and asked her if she wanted to comment, so she did.

The Martian Chronicles is a superior book, and it's surprising that it's just an anthology of stories about Earth and Mars. I don't read too much sci-fi, but I think that Bradbury is so much better than Asimov (too arrogant) and Heinlein (too sexist, racist, homophobic...). He's also a better writer. :)

At Fri Sep 24, 07:26:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

I love Bradbury's style of writing immensely. Another favorite of mine is Dandelion Wine, sort of a semi-autobiographical look by Bradbury at small-town America in the early part of the 1900's through the eyes of a 12-year old boy. Just an amazing book--I totally recommend it.

Someone could start a blog about Ray Bradbury and have enough material to last years.....hmmmmmm. I'm really looking forward to the remake of Fahrenheit 451 when they get it done. Here is a link to his Birthday letter on his 82nd birthday. Let's see, that would make him 84 now! And still actively writing. Wonderful! He is a national treasure.

At Fri Sep 24, 07:29:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Oh, and one more thing--my girls won't share anything with each other. I just meant it's nice to see sisters getting along once in awhile. =)

At Fri Sep 24, 12:28:00 PM EST, Blogger Sandicomm said...

Well we are twins. =)


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