Thursday, 25 August 2016
"How Does It Work?"
In the previous post, I discussed one novel in which Anderson imagines interplanetary travel that is based on the fantasy premise of magic rather than an sf premise like rocketry, solar radiation, gravity control etc. I compared Anderson's magic with Wells' Cavorite and ERB's planetary rays and wondered about CS Lewis' Weston, whom I have since checked up on. Lewis' approach provides an interesting contrast to Anderson's. Lewis does not understand technology:
Lewis' unfamiliarity with technology is shown by his use of the word "...gimmicks.." for the instruments that Jenkin must use. (5)
-copied from here.
Consequently, Lewis imagines a Classics scholar like himself contemptuously addressed by a hostile physicist:
"'As to how we do it - I suppose you mean how the spaceship works - there's no good you asking that. Unless you were one of the four or five real physicists now living you couldn't understand: and if there were any chance of your understanding you certainly wouldn't be told. If it makes you happy to repeat words that don't mean anything - which is, in fact, what unscientific people want when they ask for an explanation - you may say we work by exploiting the less observed properties of solar radiation.'"
-CS Lewis, Out Of The Silent Planet (London, 1963), p. 27.
Perfect. This passage:
establishes the characters of Ransom and Weston and the interaction between them;
absolves Lewis of any responsibilty to write a scientific explanation;
nevertheless, informs the reader that not rocket science but solar radiation is involved.
Poul Anderson does not do it this way but that is why we value both approaches.