Thursday, 11 June 2015

CS Lewis And Poul Anderson

I am very impressed with the way CS Lewis, literary scholar and friend of JRR Tolkien, put himself on the map of science fiction. In any discussion of interplanetary or philosophical fiction, he is up there with Wells etc. See recent posts.

But how many authors have in any way followed after Lewis? I can think of three:

James Blish, post-Lewis fantasy and sf in After Such Knowledge;
Philip Pullman, anti-Lewis juvenile fantasy, His Dark Materials;
Poul Anderson, characters pondering the Problem of Pain and the Universal Incarnation in hard sf contexts.

However, it is the hard sf contexts that make the difference. Lewis' projection of anti-Darwinian Biblical fundamentalism onto Venus is impossible! If and when we detect extraterrestrial organisms, we expect them to be composed of energized complex molecules that had changed randomly until one of them became self-replicating. Thus, we expect life in any part of the universe to be another instance of temporary and local negative entropy, neither immortal nor Paradisal.

Lewis' Ransom Trilogy confines sin and error to this side of the lunar orbit. Of course, that is fiction but Lewis did believe that any extrasolar races would not necessarily be Fallen and therefore could be like the perfect and immortal Venerians in his Perelandra. Like hard sf writers in general and Anderson in particular, I expect extrasolar intelligences to be either nonexistent or in a state that Lewis would regard as "Fallen."

Some day someone is going to comment that I repeat myself on this blog. However, it happens over a period of time and these statements always feel fresh to me when I articulate them. The blog does go somewhere even if in a cosmic circle.

Addendum: See "God and Alien in Anderson's Technic Civilization" by Sean M Books here.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Yes, I agree, Poul Anderson in stories like "The Problem of Pain," "The Season of Forgiveness," "The Three Cornered Wheel," THE GAME OF EMPIRE, etc., was one of those hard SF writers who took religious and philosophical questions seriously. And treated honest believers in God with respect. In fact, certain passages here and there in his later works makes me wonder if Anderson at least WISHED he believed in God.

I also agree that the way C.S. Lewis postulated the beginning of life is not scientifically plausible. At the same time I don't believe that evolution per se does not mean God has no role in creating life. My view is that God created the cosmos at the Big Bang and then acted thru the laws of biology and evolution he himself had ordained.

I think you've been rereading my "God and Alien in Anderson's Technic Civilization" essay again! (Smiles) I have to agree with Lewis that it is possible that some non human intelligent may not have fallen. But as Fr. Axor comments in THE GAME OF EMPIRE, all the non human races mankind had discovered up till then were also fallen, prone to sin, error, and death.


Paul Shackley said...

Re "God and Alien..." Yes, and will add link to post.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Aw, many thanks! I hope some visitors to this blog look up my little piece and were interested. I even hope some will leave comments either there or here.