This week we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the publication of That Hideous Strength (THS). While George Orwell’s 1984 is considered among the great 20th c. dystopian novels and C.S. Lewis’ THS is read mostly by fans of dystopia or of Lewis’ work, it is Lewis that preceded Orwell. Even Orwell’s genius “newspeak” finds its prepubescent cousin in the technocratic rhetoric of the evil N.I.C.E. in THS. Orwell was aware of Lewis’ project, and reviewed THS the day it was published–the same week that Animal Farm hit the stands.
Setting aside the connection between the two authors (which I will discuss on Wednesday), Orwell’s great bias is in his first line:
On the whole, novels are better when there are no miracles in them.
While you may or may not agree with him, this way at looking at books shapes his response to THS. Orwell is not without admiration for Lewis’ dystopia, and there is humour and enjoyment behind the review. Let me ask readers two great discussion questions:
- Did Orwell review the book that he wished Lewis had written (rather than the one Lewis wrote)?
- Are books really better without miracles?
Feel free to leave comments below, answering these questions or asking your own.
On the whole, novels are better when there are no miracles in them. Still, it is possible to think of a fairly large number of worth-while books in which ghosts, magic, second-sight, angels, mermaids, and what-not play a part.
Mr. C. S. Lewis’s “That Hideous Strength” can be included in their number – though, curiously enough, it would probably have been a better book if the magical element had been left out. For in essence it is a crime story, and the miraculous happenings, though they grow more frequent towards the end, are not integral to it.
In general outline, and to some extent in atmosphere, it rather resembles G. K. Chesterton’s “The Man Who Was Thursday.”
Mr. Lewis probably owes something to Chesterton as a writer, and certainly shares his horror of modern machine civilisation (the title of the book, by the way, is taken from a poem about the Tower of Babel) and his reliance on the “eternal verities” of the Christian Church, as against scientific materialism or nihilism.
His book describes the struggle of a little group of sane people against a nightmare that nearly conquers the world. A company of mad scientists – or, perhaps, they are not mad, but have merely destroyed in themselves all human feeling, all notion of good and evil – are plotting to conquer Britain, then the whole planet, and then other planets, until they have brought the universe under their control.
All superfluous life is to be wiped out, all natural forces tamed, the common people are to be used as slaves and vivisection subjects by the ruling caste of scientists, who even see their way to conferring immortal life upon themselves. Man, in short, is to storm the heavens and overthrow the gods, or even to become a god himself.
There is nothing outrageously improbable in such a conspiracy. Indeed, at a moment when a single atomic bomb – of a type already pronounced “obsolete” – has just blown probably three hundred thousand people to fragments, it sounds all too topical. Plenty of people in our age do entertain the monstrous dreams of power that Mr. Lewis attributes to his characters, and we are within sight of the time when such dreams will be realisable.
His description of the N.I.C.E. (National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments), with its world-wide ramifications, its private army, its secret torture chambers, and its inner ring of adepts ruled over by a mysterious personage known as The Head, is as exciting as any detective story.
It would be a very hardened reader who would not experience a thrill on learning that The Head is actually – however, that would be giving the game away.
One could recommend this book unreservedly if Mr. Lewis had succeeded in keeping it all on a single level. Unfortunately, the supernatural keeps breaking in, and it does so in rather confusing, undisciplined ways. The scientists are endeavouring, among other things, to get hold of the body of the ancient Celtic magician Merlin, who has been buried – not dead, but in a trance – for the last 1,500 years, in hopes of learning from him the secrets of pre-Christian magic.
They are frustrated by a character who is only doubtfully a human being, having spent part of his time on another planet where he has been gifted with eternal youth. Then there is a woman with second sight, one or two ghosts, and various superhuman visitors from outer space, some of them with rather tiresome names which derive from earlier books of Mr. Lewis’s. The book ends in a way that is so preposterous that it does not even succeed in being horrible in spite of much bloodshed.
Much is made of the fact that the scientists are actually in touch with evil spirits, although this fact is known only to the inmost circle. Mr. Lewis appears to believe in the existence of such spirits, and of benevolent ones as well. He is entitled to his beliefs, but they weaken his story, not only because they offend the average reader’s sense of probability but because in effect they decide the issue in advance. When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict one always knows which side is going to win. The whole drama of the struggle against evil lies in the fact that one does not have supernatural aid. However, by the standard of the novels appearing nowadays this is a book worth reading.
Transcription by Arend Smilde at www.lewisiana.nl. Original review found in the Manchester Evening News, 16 August 1945. Reprinted in The Complete Works of George Orwell, ed. Peter Davison, Vol. XVII (1998), No. 2720 (first half), pp. 250–251. If you haven’t found Arend’s page (which I’ve featured before), check it out.
On Wednesday I am asking the question, “Why did That Hideous Strength, which preceded 1984 and was reviewed by Orwell, not become a classic while Orwell’s 1984 did?”
I look forward to your comments!
I hope I’m not jumping the gun too much, but I’d like to give an obvious answer to your question regarding the relative success of 1984. I think that Orwell’s review provides the answer. For most people who read 1984, the world it describes is the world as it actually exists for them – bereft of God, in which there are merely degrees of evil. That 1984 world is merely the reductio ad absurdam of the postwar world. Thus its horror is simply not yet. Lewis’s world in That Hideous Strength has hope of a supernatural triumph of good over evil and thus the book is spared from being a tragedy. But people prefer tragedy because that’s what they believe life is, even if it is irrational to believe in tragedy in a meaningless world. Add to that Orwell’s skills as a writer and you indeed have a classic. The hope of That Hideous Strength cannot compete with such unremitting despair.
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Oh, this is a good point. I wonder if we really, truly believe in meaninglessness, but this is true about what we expect of a story–it’s what Orwell is talking about too. Pay attention on Wed to people’s responses.
1. Do we really want the despair? Huxley & Orwell end that way; Lewis ends in hope.
2. Is Orwell a stronger writer than Lewis?
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Indeed, it appears as if Orwell wanted THS to be something other than what it was, a religious allegory– more than that, a religious allegory written in the context of two previous works that dealt explicitly with religious themes and spirituality, despite the trappings of science-fiction. Orwell obviously was not ready to deal with THS, and the space trilogy, on its own terms.
He does put a finger on one perennial problem with Christian literature– if we are sure that God triumphs in the end, where’s the dramatic tension? I tend to try to resolve that by acknowledging God’s ultimate triumph, while recognizing that he has left in our hands the task of dealing with people who fly planes into towers and explode bombs on buses. In that context, we have plenty to do, and plenty of conflict.
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Lewis would resist the term “allegory”–he knew something about this, having written a full book on it. But most of us mean “religiously implicated world” or something like that. THS really is implicated, from top to bottom.
You ask an intriguing question: Do Christian stories need to be redemptive (in plotline/development)? Anne Rice moved from disintegration stories to stories of redemption upon her conversion to Catholicism; I’m probably not alone in thinking they were better before.
I don’t know if “eschatology” need limit much. The collapse of a family or community or civilization, for example, is just part of the normal growth of the human story. The future hope–ultimate triumph–is not distorted in that negative story.
And sometimes evil wins. In real life, I mean.
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“And sometimes evil wins. In real life, I mean.”
Yes. I should have added that, in our limited lives, we often do not live to see the victory of justice and righteousness in the short term. Tyranny often wins tactical victories that cannot change the ultimate course of God’s justice. I think of Sophie Scholl, of the White Rose, who died without seeing the death of the regime she opposed. Christians need to be honest about the fact that, like Job, our lives come with no guarantee of victory or happiness, and that should be reflected in our fiction.
It’s as old as Abe & Sarah, who dies without the fulfillment of the promise. Time can roll out slowly, and not all stories end well.
But do we HAVE to make evil win to have it be good writing?! I think Lewis was trying to write an apocalyptic story, and that probably had to have a happy ending. I think we shouldn’t bash writers for putting in happy endings if they want to, or for writing about big miracles.
I don’t think so. I mean, the vast majority of our stories have the “good” win in the end.
It’s natural for a pagan to consider miracles as “magic.” Without eyes of faith to distinguish them as the utterly “natural” interventions of a supernatural God, they are indistinguishable from other sources of unexplainable phenomena. Science, for the secularist, can act in similar fashion. The new invention, the latest drug, the amazing breakthrough, all require no other explanation or rationale than that they are scientific. Scientism is alive and well.
Was Orwell a pagan? It’s an intriguing question. Here’s an interesting article on that question: http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/7009903/orwell-vs-god/
I wonder when we look sideways at, say, Stephanie Meyers or L. Ron Hubbard, whether we confuse magic and the supernatural.
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Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.
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“Mr. Lewis probably owes something to Chesterton as a writer….”
Yeah, not exactly subtle!
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Here’s an article from the Spectator from a few years back. Seems rather relevant to this review.
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I know–I just found that yesterday. I thought it was sort of a clever piece.
“The whole drama of the struggle against evil lies in the fact that one does not have supernatural aid.” Well, there’s a sweeping dogmatic statement for you: how ideologized must one be, unblushingly to pontificate in such a critically and imaginatively unpersuasive way? (Two thousand or so years of Western literature, and more of world lit, devoid of “drama”? – give me a break!)
I’ll have to see if he commented on Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory…
“When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict one always knows which side is going to win.” But not when and how. Had Orwell not read Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross?
And what of R.H. Benson’s astonishing set of alternative futures, Lord of the World and The Dawn of All? (to plug the value of reading them again!)
A curious contextual detail about the explicit ‘supernaturalism’ of Lewis’s novel, is that Williams, intending his seventh novel and asking his wife for help with ideas on 21 June 1940, said, “let it be supernatural this time, because I am more certain there”: she later recalled his aspiration to write “a straightforward one” after the war. What might a ‘straightforward one’ by Lewis have been like?
“The Bell and the Cross” is a peculiar book, and one does not know who will win (or even what “good” is with reference to the narrative). I read that “sweeping dogmatic statement” and thought, “oh, good, now we know for sure!” But I hadn’t connected it, as you did, to the fact that most literature in the canon that Orwell would have had bowed the knee–or at least tilted the head a little.
Lewis never looked at anything “straightforward.” That is is one skill, I think, to see things just a little bent. Till We Have Faces, which I reread next week, is pretty straightforward as a narrative. And Narnia follows the forest breadcrumbs pretty well. But not straightfoward.
I do wonder, though, if THS is needlessly complex. I’m not sure.
I’ve now gone through Oliver Stallybrass’s Index in my copy of the Penguin 4-vol. Collected Essays, without turning up a reference to The Ball and the Cross, or (clearly) to Benson’s fiction (the only Benson refs are in another Lewis review: of Beyond Personality in 1944), but with some interesting attention to The Power and the Glory in a 1948 review of Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, where Orwell begins by saying, “A fairly large proportion of the distinguished novels of the last few decades have been written by Catholics and have been describable as Catholic novels. One reason for this is that the conflict not only between this world and the next world but between sanctity and goodness is a fruitful theme of which the ordinary, unbelieving reader cannot make use. Graham Greene used it once successfully in The Power and the Glory”, and later says that there “the struggle between this-worldly and other-worldly values is convincing because it is not occurring inside one person” and describes “the priest” as “a poor creature in some ways but made heroic by his belief in his own thaumaturgic powers”!
I take Mrs. Williams, in this context, to mean by “a straightforward one” a novel lacking explicit “supernatural” elements. Which I would expect to mean, not lacking “supernatural” depth in fact, but treating it… is ‘implicitly’ a good word? Fielding, I discover, browsing around, was one of Orwell’s favourite authors, yet he treats him, and other Eighteenth-century writers, as (sometimes) moralistic, but never – as I would – as Providentialist (if that’s a word). I have a sense of The Power and the Glory as, in its way, significantly Providentialist (though I’d have to reread it to test this!). Interestingly, I think a (cheeky?) case could be made, for a good bit of the length of Williams’s first published novel, War in Heaven, as being ‘ambiguously supernatural’ – is this or that effect or experience psychological or chemical in origin, or is there ‘more’ going on? Is it the Graal, and, what if it is?
Oops!: “ordinary, unbelieving writer”! (not ‘reader’).
That’s actually a great, clarifying Orwell quote, isn’t it? Better than he did here. You can see him develop in 3 years, moving toward clarity.
That’s perhaps why religious novels now are either:
1. Open new-agey inspirational tales like Paulo Coehlo (whom I love)
2. Open Christian framework novels, like the 20,000 Amish love stories or end-of-the world tales. You could slide a Providentialist in here!
3. Subtle, layered, hidden religious novels.
I think that Marilynne Robinson breaks this mold with Gilead. Maybe Ted Dekker slides a bit. I don’t know.
Orwell wasted his time in taking Lewis to task for the miraculous element. When I was an atheist< I read THS (along with the other two volumes of the trilogy) and found nothing in it to influence my belief in God. Years later, I would find THS to be one of the confirmatory bits of evidence that Lewis was talking about an actual conspiracy under the cover of a literary work. While Orwell writes with despair (1984 did seem to be full of it), Lewis, at least, gave some hope of deliverance. By the way the evidence lies in one name in the list of conspirators. Imagine a fictitious list that provides the mention of an actual historical personage. Try Cecil Rhodes, and then read Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope. Also see Lewis' Letters to An American Lady.
Thanks for telling this. Did you like the Ransom Cycle when you first read it?
For those peaking in, here’s the reference: “Haven’t you noticed that we are two countries? After every Arthur, a Mordred; behind every Milton, a Cromwell: a nation of poets, a nation of shopkeepers; the home of Sidney—and of Cecil Rhodes.”
I’d like to hear more about what you mean by an “actual conspiracy.”
Simple! There is a conspiracy that runs the world, and it is strong enough that they can brag about it. In Lewis day, they were still hidden to some degree, but he was in one of the seats of its power. In fact, the institution, the Rhodes House, might have well been the source of the materials for Quigley’s book, although he writes without a footnote, a fact noted by reviewers back in the year or so after publication. They thought it strange that the did not quote any sources. However, he said enough to give away the show as Cleon Skousen’s review, The Naked Capitalist, indicated. I suppose the library for the subject would amount to some 250,000 volumes, at least, if not more. They have been at it for over 200 years, and in the last half of the 20th century, they began to flex their muscles. Americans, unfortunately, have been brainwashed to the point that they would not believe it, if it smacked them in the face.
Sorry, what I’m struggling with is what the actual conspiracy is. Who is doing what, and why? (of course, with conspiracies, you might not know why)
To say that Lewis is addressing the conspiracy–I mean, to test that I need to know the base idea. Is it wrapped around Rhodes?
Dear Sir: The conspiracy is quite old; beyond the life time of one Cecil Rhodes. Not many have a thorough knowledge of what it involves. I am sure I do not. Even so, Rhodes spent two years at Oxford (and I presume the Rhodes House) doing research. somewhere I came across that info., but I do not now recall where. I have been following up on this thing for more than 50 years. I have known of it from childhood, having a relative who had been in a position to know. Just think of a grandfather with a 3rd grade education knowing that the USA would shortly be overseas in a World War and ask, “How could he know?” Well, he had a brother who had served in four wars, etc. Later, I started to check this stuff out. A guesstimate is that there are perhaps a quarter of a million volumes written on the subject or some aspect of the subject. If you know, where to look and what to look forward and who. I find it pays best to let people do their own research. There is nothing like examining the evidence for yourself, and even that does not always work due to brain-washing. A friend had a fellow who had belonged to a family in the evil thing. Since the man would not go along with the plan, he was kicked out (and they will do worse, if necessary). The man even gave a copy of Quigley’s book to my friend. I asked, “Well, do you now believe it?” He hem hawed about it, but finally admitted that he did not known (meaning he had never given it the attention or the research it deserved..
Okay, but you still haven’t described the actual conspiracy. Some one is conspiring to do something–what is the something?
The name of the game is control for a group of individuals who think they own the whole earth. You will find some indication of their ideas on the Guidestones of Georgia (just google it and look at the pictures on youtube and ask yourself about who would want to exterminate 5.5 billion people (probably 6.5 billion now). There is more to the story, but I simply believe it is best for a person to do the research rather than for me to recount 50+ years of knowledge. There are many sources, and they can indicate some of the answers. Most of the sources are now listed on the internet and the views of participants are discussed in written form on Google and on videos on Youtube. Look for confirmations in the independent individuals and events. I remember reading (and even have a book accusing some folks of being a part of such conspiracy) about one participant who later on admitted that he was in a public manner (he wrote a book in which he admitted that as he had been accused, he was guilty.
Okay, but we began with Lewis and a casual reference to an evil (or ambivalent) Rhodes. Do you think Lewis knew about the conspiracy?
Take a look at Letters To an American Lady. There is a reference there, if memory serves correctly, which seems to indicate that he did. Also there is a footnote to the Great Divorce which indicates a conspiracy, but is in such terms that it is questionable.
Sorry, I need more. Conspiracies are by nature secret. The whole Ransom Cycle is cast as a counter-conspiracy–a resistance not to a conspiracy of men but of angels. It is fictionally set in fiction as part of the intrigue (in the style of Wells’ “First Men in the Moon.”
So, if a secret, you have to have the proper set of clues. What are the references in the letters or the Great Divorce? A reference to Rhodes isn’t enough. Lewis had begun by about 30 to be dispirited about the British colonial project. Rhodes is surely an ambiguous figure, and Rhodesia a problematic project.
So what are those clues?
Dear brother, I prefer to let people follow up on the clues themselves, rather than do the work for them. I will say this as to Quigley: He said it in black and white, but you have to wade through the dullest history imaginable (and I love history). You can google most of this stuff and find out the truth, if you are willing to do the work.
I don’t get it? What’s the point of mentioning it if you don’t actually demonstrate what you are saying? Where in the letters does he give these hints? It is a paradigm shifting perspective: certainly there must be some evidence!
Sorry, dear brother, but I have indicated my reasons for not answering your questions. I have many more beside the few mentioned. In any case, THS mentions an actual conspirator, Cecil Rhodes, and you have Quigley’s work who also names Rhodes. And then there is Cleon Skousen’s The Naked Capitalist, a 100 page review which also provides other sources. Simply google the issues and do your own work. I am too tired and too old to do your work for you.
Well, best wishes.
If Quigley (whom I did not know before and have not tried to embark on reading, yet) is one good ‘starting point’, the Wikipedia article about him currently links to four books online, in its Bibliography: all at “a site dedicated to Professor Quigley”.
The article itself says “Quigley purports to trace the history of a secret society” known, among other names as “the Round Table Group” and assigns to it “the replacement of the British Empire with the Commonwealth of Nations” and includes this sentence, “Quigley argued that the Round Table groups were not World Government advocates but super-imperialists.
These characterizations – “the replacement of the British Empire” by “super-imperilists” –
have got me thinking. In the fifth section of Chapter 13 of THS, Merlin tells Ransom, “We must go to him whose office it is to put down tyrants and give life to dying kingdoms. We must call on the Emperor.” This seems to suggest Lewis imagines Arthurian Britain as Charles Williams does, integrated into The Empire. Merlin has emerged into a world of “empty thrones”, as ansom tells him.
Well, it has been a while, since I looked at the work. I suspect that Orwell, Lewis, and another fellow whose name escapes me for the moment, were literary figures of stature who dared to say something about the conspiracy. Lewis, however, was explicit, and I have often wondered if that was the hidden reason for his being turned out of Oxford. After all, the conspiracy is monied, and they can get give short-shrift to anyone they desire or do worse.
Wow! Lots of lines to follow, here, one way and another! For example, how far Chesterton may be in the background, here, where Lewis, Williams, and perhaps Tolkien, too, are concerned – the Inklings and the Seven and Imperialism – and Orwell’s critique of Chesterton as not critical enough of non-British imperialism. For another, Dr. Quigley in Oxford? (Where and how did he do his research for he Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden?) And, Dr. Roberts as historian of Secret Societies and junior Lewis colleague..
What is your impression of the Wikipedia Quigley article?
This is a pretty good-humored review, though it is very funny to me how much Orwell shows off his own biases without fully admitting to them. He shows it off, clearly, here: “He is entitled to his beliefs, but they weaken his story, not only because they offend the average reader’s sense of probability but because in effect they decide the issue in advance.” His use of “average reader” is telling of his view.
The point about the loss of suspense when the question is God vs. Satan is a good one, though as noted above, he does not take into account that, though that conflict cannot be in question, any human conflict under it, is very much in question.
I have yet to read THS, though I want to. It intimidates me, somewhat. But knowing Lewis’s writing, it seems obvious that if Orwell considers the supernatural element as non-essential, then he’s missed the whole point. But the book obviously speaks to him anyway, showing that there is some commonality between him and Lewis. They see some of the same things, though they draw different conclusions based on their information.
“Average reader” is like “most people think” or “we all know that…”–these are things I wouldn’t let writing students get away with.
Yes, Orwell missed the point. And he also didn’t assess this dystopia as dystopia–something he could do very well.
I think their books, Orwell’s and Lewis’, are each in continuity with their worldviews.
It seems to me very fitting that Orwell reviewed THS. It could have been a lot worse. Ayn Rand wrote some marginalia in her copy of The Abolition of Man that clearly revealed her utter disdain for Lewis. http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/03/ayn-rand-really-really-hated-c-s-lewis/ One could also imagine a snarky review from someone like Dawkins.
Orwell, on the other hand, was about to publish perhaps the sine qua non of dystopian novels. In his review he seems to me (at least between the lines) to understand the enormous responsibility of describing such a dystopia. He may have had an atavistic fear of enchantment – if you call for the devil he may come and you get more than you bargained for. In THS this in fact occurs to various characters on different levels. Of course, Orwell was not glibly recommending his dystopia as the Director might, but possibly he was preparing himself to deal with it realistically when it arrived as Lord Feverstone did.
By recognizing, highlighting and criticizing the supernatural element in THS Orwell showed his latent Christianity while at the same time rejecting it, not as wholly undesirable, but as just not possible. He was not a glib utopian. He (like Huxley and Lewis) knew that human beings are incapable of producing a utopia, try though they might and in the attempt, produce the opposite. As such, he seems to me to be approaching THS from two angles. From the first angle he considers THS as a dystopian novel and judges it good. From the other he considers it as simply a fantasy novel and is not satisfied with its miraculous deus ex machina ending. But he does feel the tension, I’m sure, even in his own works, where there is only machina and no deus and the disastrous outcome of this state of affairs. Do atheists sometimes get righteously indignant at God for not existing?
On a different tangetnt: I’m not sure if you have noted this before but there actually is a department of the UK government called NICE. Here is their website: https://www.nice.org.uk/
Clearly the government committee-persons who came up with this moniker had either not read THS or they were utterly tone deaf to its ironies.
errata in reply to Dickieson. Quigley spent two years at Oxford, presumably the Rhodes House.
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The comparison to A Man Who Was Thursday is just bizarre. I get the feeling Orwell was telephoning this one in a bit — though he certainly gets to the heart of the problem with That Hideous Strength succinctly. (Much as I love that mess of a novel.) Not that it contains miracles, but that it contains disorganized miracles.
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Orwell was Sooooooo ‘right’ – how could ANYONE appreciate the magic of Harry Potter. Oh, you’ve never heard of Harry Potter? Lol….Orwell was a sad man and he layeth in a deep, deep grave….
Well I think that invites a great question: What if we read Harry Potter as the prevention of a dystopia? Works well.
For Orwell, I think he would say, “well, the basic rules of the Harry Potter World are magical, so magic is the right response.” But he denies that the basic rules of our world include the spiritual, which is why Lewis fails for him.
Personally, I think Orwell is a Muggle in a Magician’s World.
If only Orwell could have read a collection of essays called “The Inklings and King Arthur”, then he would have seen that having Merlin in THS made PERFECT sense! Not sure what it would have taken for Tolkien to see it.
Like some other commentators above, I also feel that Orwell is missing the point by claiming that the magical or supernatural elements diminish the story. The Space Trilogy is science fiction, and SF often takes a premise of ‘what if X were true’ and makes a story from it. “What if faster than light travel were possible”, “What if we create a drug which prolongs life” and so on.
The SF in the Space Trilogy is “what if Christian theology were true – on a cosmic scale” – and then explores the implications of this in the stories.
In the context of this premise, the supernatural elements of the story are not ‘super’ natural. They are just natural. Equally, the reality of the mythic elements, where these are at the same time real, but also retain their mythic power in their effects on the characters in the story.
I think this is well-put, Richard. I do think, though, that the world has moved on, that the “what if” of the Christian worldview just doesn’t strike readers in a literary way.
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1984 aswell as Brave New world are no predictions, but blueprints. Huxley in an interview close to his death regretted it all, he said because he thought it would all happen later and not that fast. The thought was he, or more importantly his children, were still on the lifeboat.
The reason 1984 and Brave New World are so popular, is because it has a similar affect to controlled opposition. People have the feeling they understand what’s going on, while in reality if those books would truly expose the modern dystopia, they wouldn’t be quiet as popular. For example, 1984 is even more popular and more quoted than Brave New World, even tho the 2nd is way more accurate and detailed, mostly due to Huxley’s inside knowledge. But both books describe blueprints put in place decades ago, and merely too late and irrelevant to do anything about it now.
In contrast, THS is much more updated and hints at horrors to come aswell. Truely horrors beyond your imagination. The criticism of containing magical things, and sci-fi in general, is just the sugar to make the medicine go down.
That goes into the conspiracy angle we cannot know, but as things play out in real time now, I would predict THS won’t ever be popular until it’s too late again. Just like for 1984.
That does flip the angle, though it isn’t clear to me how. I lack the power of prophecy and prediction. However, novels shape the world, not just describe it, so that part is true.