Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Three SF Writers

CS Lewis, James Blish and Poul Anderson were sf writers who addressed theological issues. How did they differ? Lewis was a British Christian and an occasional writer of soft sf whereas Blish and Anderson were American agnostics and professional writers of hard sf. Some of Blish's works are "post-Lewis."

Theological conviction was the primary motivation of Lewis' fiction whereas Blish and Anderson addressed every important issue, including theology. Blish has Believers in Volume I of Cities In Flight, Warriors of God in Volume IV and similar characters or situations in other works. The volumes of his After Such Knowledge Trilogy are respectively historical fiction, contemporary fantasy and futuristic sf. Volumes II and III acknowledge Lewis. Volume II treats angels and demons as real beings and describes a change in the supernatural realm.

Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys Tetralogy combines historical fiction with fantasy, treats gods as real beings and describes changes in the supernatural realm. Maybe After Such Knowledge and The King Of Ys have more in common than I previously thought.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I was surprised to find out James Blish was either agnostic or an atheist. That was not the impression I got from reading A CASE OF CONSCIENCE.

    Yes, Poul Anderson called himself an agnostic in of his letters to me. But, I'm not at all sure how STRONGLY agnostic in his later years. Certain passages in his later works and poems like "Prayer in War" makes me think Anderson at least wished he believed in God.


    1. Sean,
      Blish said he was agnostic in his Introduction to ACOC. He also described himself as "Epicurean," meaning he thought that there might have been a Creator but one who was not necessarily around any more and certainly did not want worship.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Then I probably did not pay much attention to Blish's Introduction to A CASE OF CONSCIENCE the first time I read the book. Not all will read forewords, introductions or prefaces.

      Off the top of my head isn't Epicureanism the philosophy which argues that all we can hope is to enjoy this world as best we can TEMPERATELY? Not in a gross wallowing in self indulgence.

      And Blish's comment about God reminds me of the 18th century Deist conception of the Creator as One who created the universe and then showed indifference to it. Needless to say, Judaism/Christianity rejects such a view, saying God CARES about His creation.


    3. Sean,
      Yes. Refined hedonism. If pleasures are mental as well as physical and shared as well as individual, then it is not a bad philosophy.

    4. Kaor, Paul!

      I agree, Epicureanism as here defined does not have to be a bad philosophy. Ultimately inadequate, but not bad.