Friday, April 22, 2011

The Cosmic / Divinity Trilogy

I picked up "The Cosmic Trilogy" by C.S.Lewis, thinking i might be, treated to some good Sci Fi.

What took me by surprise was the amount of Theology / Divinity in book two "Perelandra".

( I say surprise as it was several months after I bought the book that I picked up some new followers on social media, and realised from reading their blurb, that C.S.Lewis was, apparently a devout Christian, and is now pushed as something of a poster boy by Creationist causes. This did not put me off reading the trilogy, but I was a little forewarned about the subtext if it was to be found. )

Would I recommend "The Cosmic Trilogy":

Right now I am half way through the final book "That Hideous Strength", unless it blows me away, then my overall impression of the book collection is average

I would not recommend C.S.Lewis for Science Fiction, especially given the years when the books were written (see next section)

Having said that, even very average books, can have an sentence of two that you feel worth quoting:
You're dropping asleep and I've talked your head off. It comes of being married thirty years. Husbands were made to be talked to. It helps them to concentrate their minds on what they're reading - like the sound of a weir.
That quote was written in 1945 and I hold no opinion as to how proper it is, just thought it a lighter moment in amongst a Sci Fi yarn.

What I have learned from reading the book and otherwise:

Know your authors. If you are going to commit to a lengthy book, and especially a trilogy, then a quick google search of the author can help you understand what political/religious views they may expound, as well as telling a straight story.

The year a book was written / first published can be important.

The first book was published 1938 and the last in 1945, dark times for Europe. When you are surrounded by bad news and the horror of war, it is not surprising perhaps for this to filter into the writers work.

As mentioned earlier, I am currently part way through "That Hideous Strength", which looks to be touching on some dark subjects including Eugenics.

How central this is to the story, I will find out soon enough.

These books are now Fifty years old and more, and so, some elements of the projections (design of space travel capsule, etc), seem clearly dated.

( This is something that anyone who reads past Science Fiction has to contend with, history has given you 50 or 60 years of development to disprove some of the speculations of the original Author. Cannot blame the Author for this. )

Returning to the Author himself for a moment, it is not always the case that proponents of a cause will represent accurately. Do your own research rather than taking the articles of others at face value. It seems

Fascism - What is it?

It may seem a little off topic, but this extract from "That Hideous Strength", got me thinking:
We face these disorders with a firmness which will lead traducers to say that we have desired them. Let them say so. In a sense we have. It is no part of our witness to preserve that organisation of ordered sin which is called society.
Probably not fascism really, but rather a strong position to take perhaps.

I could probably find out more about fascism, by reading some commentary on socialist causes, as a sort of contrary position.

Neither of these things I will do just now, but maybe over many years, as I read more, I will firm up my own definitions.

Facism as an insult, the sexless student in the "Young Ones":

Having recently watched "The Last Station" (supposed biopic, bit of a romcom in some respects), I was surprised to find celibacy as a popular ideal in that film.

That being a film about Tolstoy, and Rick quoting literature that may have included Tolstoy, it got me wondering about whether that was the reason for him being sexless?

Probably not, as his character is described on Wikipedia as:
Hypocritical, tantrum-throwing, attention-seeking Cliff Richard fan

Rick from the Young Ones using "You Fascist" as an insult, is discussed here also.
( Note: I glanced briefly at that article, and make no representation of agreeing nor disagreeing with the bloggers politics, just pointed out the observation )

Notes and Further Reading:

I included the "Apologetics" link because, this phrase is attached by some to C.S.Lewis also, and I had to read up to see what it meant.

I include a link to Lewis Carroll here to make my own clear distinction.
Lewis Carroll was a Tutor in Mathematics, however C.S.Lewis struggled in this area.

C.S.Lewis in his later career was "Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English", a position that he attained, a decade after writing "Hideous Strength".

I commented earlier on the timing of the writing of this book (a dark time for Europe), now having entered the last 200 pages of "Hideous Strength", I quote an extract:
The physical sciences, good and innocent in themselves, had already, even in Ransom's own time, begun to be warped, had become subtly manoeuvered in a certain direction. Despair of objective truth had been increasingly insinuated into the scientists; indifference to it, and a concentration upon mere power, had been the result.
Sound like the sort of thing that might be inspired by the events of world war II, Eugenics research, and the rocket warhead programs? Maybe.

That rambling paragraph provides great quotable material perhaps, for those who have a creationist agenda.

But to put into context what that cause would be doing, I suggest this, that taking out of context extracts, from a book published by an arts Don, during the darkest period in modern Europe, to support your cause, is a bit weak.

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