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OOTSP Dedication and Note

An archived study of the first book in Lewis' theological science fiction Space Trilogy.

OOTSP Dedication and Note

Postby Kanakaberaka » 29 Jan 2006, 02:25

The dedication of "Out of the Silent Planet" is as follows :

To my brother W.H.L
a life-long critic of the space-and-time story

There's nothing odd about C.S. Lewis dedicating a book to his brother Warnie. But isn't it strange that he should choose a book whose subject was disliked by his brother. I wonder if Lewis was trying to say that OOTSP is a science fiction novel for people who don't like science fiction? Or maybe that he was attempting to correct all those things his brother disliked about the genre?
(Your thoughts are welcome)
-------------------------------------------------------------

Next comes the Note. Lewis states that slighting references to earlier science fiction stories have been included for purely dramatic purposes. This seems reasonable as a means for suspension of disbelief. The old gimmick of making an incredible story appear reasonable by having the protagonist state his cynisism towards the adventure he is about to embark on. But I think there is more to this apology in advance than that.

The one science fiction author Lewis mentions in this note is H.G. Wells. I think that Lewis may have been trying to deflect critisism from Wells and his numerous supporters by acknowledging Wells as a legitimate master of fantastic fiction. And not just for the put-downs of science fiction. The entire Space Trilogy is almost Anti-Wells in it's outlook. In Wells' "War of the Worlds" it is the Martians who invade our planet Earth. In "Out of the Silent Planet" it is us Earthlings who are the agressors against planet Mars.

so it goes...
so it goes...
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Dedication and Note Comments

Postby Kanakaberaka » 30 Jan 2006, 12:53

The following comments originaly followed the study post -

The Big Sleep J wrote:
Just some disorganized thoughts.

>>> The one science fiction author Lewis mentions in this note is
>>> H.G. Wells. I think that Lewis may have been trying to deflect
>>> critisism from Wells and his numerous supporters by acknowledging
>>> Wells as a legitimate master of fantastic fiction. And not just
>>> for the put-downs of science fiction. The entire Space Trilogy is
>>> almost Anti-Wells in it's outlook. In Wells' "War of the Worlds"
>>> it is the Martians who invade our planet Earth. In "Out of the
>>> Silent Planet" it is us Earthlings who are the agressors against
>>> planet Mars.

Wells was alive (wasn't he?) when the Space Trilogy was published; I wondered what he thought of it. Off course Wells (in a 1939 interview with Orson Welles after the whole "War of the Worlds" radio-play debacle) admitted that he had a dreary world view. His story "The Time Machine" off course suggested that man kind would eventually die out, sort of attacking Darwin's evolutionary optimism. He later said that man-kind should take control of his own evolution, which is sort of what Weston does later in the book.

Arthur C Clark calls "OOTSP" and "Perelandra", more or less, "two of the few novels about space travel that could be qualified as literature" which is high praise.


And I replied:
It just so happens that C.S. Lewis praised Arthur C. Clark in a essay published posthumously entitled "On Science Fiction" (1966). In it Lewis states that Clark has picked up on the technical sort of Science Fiction which Jules Vern and H.G. Wells pioneered. Lewis confessed that he did not care very much for this sort of speculation about hardware. But that he thought Clark's "Prelude to Space" worth a read.


Sven pointed out:
Wells was still alive (up to 1946). He has a cameo in the trilogy, the charector 'Jules Horace' in "That Hideous Strength" is a caricature of Wells.


Stanley Anderson had this to say:
Boy, "Dedication & Note" is probably a smaller section of the book than any I've ever done yet over in the TDI study! I love it! (ok, longer sections to start next week, I realize:-)

Yes, the dedication was probably a friendly jab at his beloved brother, or as you say, perhaps a hopeful attempt at correcting those things his brother didn't like about SF.

Regarding your comment about the note --

>The old gimmick of making an incredible story appear reasonable by
>having...

Are you sure you're not thinking of the postscript here? In the postscript he tries to give the literary illusion that the story is real and only disguised for "practical" purposes ("only the names have been changed to protect the innocent"). Lewis loved H. Rider Haggard's stories and Haggard does the same sort of thing (is it in "She", I think?) where he claims to be reporting a real event having changed the names at the request of the people he got the (supposedly true) story from. I think of the OSP postscript as a sort of tribute to Lewis' love for Haggard's stories. But this is of course jumping the gun on that postscript -- we have lots of intervening chapters to get through first.

In any case, I suspect Lewis' introductory note is really more just what it seems -- ie, a disclaimer and explanation that despite any slights to Wells' work in the book, Lewis really did enjoy his books and respected their position in the SF canon.

--Stanley


To Which The Big Sleep J replied:
Some more disorganized thoughts from my head...

>>>> where he claims to be reporting a real event having changed the names at the request of the people he got the (supposedly true) story from.

Old Haggard is had spent several years in South Africa and there is a real source here from which, he later admitted, he got the inspiration for "She".

Deep in the province of Limpopo, past the Magoebaskloof, past Tzaneen and Duiwelskloof there lies the Rain Forest of Mojadji, the Immortal Rain Queen. Not immortal, really, but for the last few hundred years that what a lot of people (whites included) believed.

Still today she is perched on top of her hill (surrounded by trees) in her small village where she harbors the ancient rain making secrets of her ancestors. Everyone from the great Zulu Chief Shaka to the farmers of Duiwelskloof (Devil's Ravine) has asked her to make rain during droughts. For years they claimed she was immortal but she admitted that they choose a follower to guard the rain-making secrets before a current Rain Queen dies, but still she is respected.

I don't believe, though, she can, because during droughts it's always the dams nearest her that dry up first (although she has to get the moisture to make rain somewhere ). But Haggard heard of her when he was in the Transvaal area and had heard tales of her, so, in a way, he's not entirely fibbing, but he's not telling the truth either. Mojadji does not entertain many and she does not ensnare lone travelers with her majig and femine wiles.

But I still have to read "She." Sigh. I borrowed it once from the library, their only copy, and it got lost before I could read it. I had to pay for it too! But I never read it. However he did do similar things (like claiming it was real) at the beginning of "Allan Quartermain" and "King Solomons' Mines" both of which I have next to me right now. Off course, both of these are "introductions" done by Allain Quartermain the participant and author, not Haggard.

What Kanakaberaka refers to is not the post-script written by CS Lewis the inhabitant of Ransom's world, but the story itself. In it (at some point) Ransom says that he feared (more or less; I read the book a year ago) the lifeforms of Malacandra because of the books he's read. He was insinuating HG Wells and others. This is what Kanakaberaka means when he says "The old gimmick of making an incredible story appear reasonable by having..." whatever.

As for it appearing in the dedication, that was written by Lewis, the inhabitant of the Real World (where we are now), citing the source of Ransom's fear for Malacandrians. Or something like that.


And I replied "Au Contrere" to Stanley:
NO. Please don't jump ahead of things. I know what you are refering to and when I first announced that I would begin the study with the introduction to OOTSP I had forgotten that there is no introduction. I must have mixed it up with the postscript.
What I am thinking about in the note is the fact that Lewis mentions other SF novels being slighted for "dramatic purposes". I just wanted to explain that this is a rather old trick. And that the idea is to make the reader belive that the protagonist is sceptical about what is about to happen rather than simply gullible.

You are probably right about the "Note" being simply what it appears to be, Stanley. But this being a serious study, I just could not resist seeing some motivation behind Lewis' disclaimer.

(Hope I'm not starting off on the wrong foot. Or as a pfifltrigg maybe I should say "hopping off on the wrong feet?")


This did not clear things up for Stanley who replied to me:
[from K]:
>What I am thinking about in the note is the fact that Lewis mentions
>other SF novels being slighted for "dramatic purposes". I just wanted
>to explain that this is a rather old trick. And that the idea is to
>make the reader belive that the protagonist is sceptical about what
>is about to happen rather than simply gullible.

Sorry, I still don't get it. I'm not trying to be argumentative (yet:-), I just don't understand your point yet. I'm not sure what the "old trick" is. Can you tell me more (I'm sure I'm just being dense at the moment). You say "the idea is to make the reader believe that the protagonist (you mean Ransom, right?) is skeptical about what is about to happen rather than simply gullible". Skeptical about what? Do you mean Ransom being skeptical that the malacandrians might really be friendly rather than nasty as aliens are portrayed in other SF novels? And if so, what would be "gullible" about Ransom if he hadn't been familiar with the nasty aliens of other SF stories? Do you mean that if he happily went off after landing on Malacandra to offer himself to whatever creatures Devine and Weston had made a deal with, that Ransom would be gullible for doing so?

>You are probably right about the "Note" being simply what it appears
>to be, Stanley. But this being a serious study, I just could not
>resist seeing some motivation behind Lewis' disclaimer.

Again, I'm not sure I see the point here. Are you connecting the "motivation" with the "old trick" you mention above (if I understood what you mean by the "old trick" I would probably slap myself on the forehead for being so blank here)? To me there is plenty of motivation in wanting to acknowledge his literary debt to earlier writers alone. And I don't get what connection any "motivation" on Lewis' part in writing the note would have to do with Ransom's gullibility or skepticism in the story (or maybe the skepticism/gullibility issue is a separate point entirely from the motivation under discussion?).

As I said above, I'm not being disagreeable at all here -- I simply don't understand the point enough to agree or disagree. I have little doubt that it is my own blindness that is preventing me from understanding. Lead me on a bit more. Sorry to be difficult here. I'm truly interested in finding out what you mean. And I may agree with it once I do:-)

(is there a Braille version?:-),
--Stanley


Instead of attempting futher clarification I told Stanley to Hold That Thought :
Stanley, I really want to aswer your question now. But instead I must go on to Chapter 1. When I come to one of those "suspension of disbelief" passages I will take note of it and try again to explain. Untill then please be patient. I have read OOTSP about 5 times in the past 23 years. So whle I am familiar with it, I can't quite recall every verse. Don't worry, I will deal with it when we come to it. In the meantime please remember that I am not putting down CSL for using this literary devise.


Which caused Stanley to reply:
[from K]:
>In the meantime please remember that I am not putting down CSL for
>using this literary devise.

Nor did I think so. Nor did I think you weren't, either. As I mentioned, I simply don't understand the point either way and am looking for clarification on your meaning. But I'll wait for it to come up later, as you say.

(And, by the way, it's very ok with me if you -- or anyone else -- do ever happen to have occasion to put down CSL for any particular literary reasons. Heaven knows Monica has some reservations about THS that we've discussed here in the past:-)

--Stanley


Finally I added this clarification about what I meant about Skeptisism:
NO. Ransom's skeptisism (thanks for the spelling correction) is directed toward's the notion of building an inter-planetary vessel in one's back yard. A very practical doubt, if you ask me. Not toward any extra-terrestrials. Lewis expresses this skeptisism by making the scoffing remark about science fiction through Ransom. It will come up in the next chapter or two.
Oh boy! I did not mean to cause so much confusion with just a dedication and Note. I hope to clear things up as we examine the whole novel.


Sven was critical of my interpretation of the word "critic":
I believe you're mistaken in thinking that Warnie disliked science fiction. I believe Jack here is using 'critic' as in critical reader, not critic of the genre. I'm not sure how much science fiction Warnie read, but I seem to remember somewhere that he and Jace read to each other David Lindsay's "A Voyage to Arcturus", and he must have read Well's "The Time Machine":


Sunday 14th November (1971)
All day a squad of Morlocks has been at work destroying the hedge in the lane below the Community Centre, and with it goes the last reminder of the unmade country lane down which J and I would trudge to the Chequers in the silent darkness of what could still pass for country side.
"Brothers and Friends:Diaries of Major W.H. Lewis"

Selah,
Sven


To which I replied:
I agree, Sven. Critic doesn't have to mean he didn't like them. It could have meant he had a keen interest in good Sci Fi!


Carol reported "I wuz robbed!":
My copy has no dedication to Warnie!
It's the Pan 1952 paperback, 19th printing 1977.
Its cover has vertical stripes like corrugated bronze (not iron), with a 2-metre-diameter green dome at the bottom, surrounded by large succulents and a golden-haired, bearded man in a pale coloured shirt.
Don't buy it, anyone - it is incomplete!
My "note" is on the page is opposite the first page of text.


So I asked her - Are you sure that the page was not ripped out or stuck to another leaf?

And Carol replied :
I looked through very carefully, in case it was hiding on another page. I didn't know until now that I was short-changed back when I bought these books (about 1981).


I added one more note:
Oh, one more thing. Along with the dedication and note, I should add that "Out of the Silent Planet" was published in 1938. Just a year before the outbreak of WWII. It helps to keep the historical context surrounding the writting of any book in mind.


Finally, Carol had this observation about the name of the publisher of her book copy:
Mine says the book was originally published in 1938 by

"John Lane the Bodley Head Ltd"

I know of the name "Bodley Head" as a publisher, but this odd combination of words has me stumped.

I have checked the other two books, and yes, they were all published by John Lane the Bodley Head... how uncannily appropriate for THS especially!!!


Mere Coincidence?
so it goes...
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