Lewis, Tolkien and Different Views of Fan Fiction

One of the assignments that I give my students, adapted from the late C.S. Lewis scholar Dr. Bruce Edwards, is for students to get into groups and sketch out an 8th Chronicle of Narnia in the form of a book proposal or film treatment. It is always a rewarding assignment for both me and the students. Students may insert another court tale like The Horse and His Boy, explore the background of Puddleglum or the secret history of Tumnus, or spend time thinking about “The Problem of Susan,” as Neil Gaiman called it. As students creatively integrate their reading experience, artistic talents, and writerly instincts, I have never failed to enjoy reading these assignments. Plus, it helps students think through the process of the creation of Narnia and some effective ways to read the series.

And the assignment fits pretty well with Lewis’ view of the matter. Lewis approved of teachers reading the books with students and playing dramatically with the content (see the 2 Nov 1956 to Walter Hooper). Letters to Children is filled with notes about Narnia, including moments where Lewis encourage children to continue his Narnia tradition:

The Kilns, Kiln Lane,
Headington Quarry,
Oxford.
29th March 1961

Dear Jonathan Muehl,
Yours is one of the nicest letters I have had about the Narnian books, and it was very good of you to write it. But I’m afraid there will be no more of these stories. But why don’t you try writing some Narnian tales? I began to write when I was about your age, and it was the greatest fun. Do try!
With all best wishes,
yours sincerely,
C. S. Lewis

The Kilns,
Headington Quarry,
Oxford
8 Sept 62

Dear Denise
I am delighted to hear that you liked the Narnian books, and it was nice of you to write and tell me. There is a map at the end of some of them in some editions. But why not do one yourself? And why not write stories yourself to fill up the gaps in Narnian history? I’ve left you plenty of hints–especially where Lucy and the Unicorn are talking in The Last Battle. I feel I have done all I can!
All good wishes.
Yours
C. S. Lewis

Even with the thing most troubling to fans–Susan’s excision from Narnia–Lewis invited readers to write up the story of her return to Narnia (see the 19 Feb 1960 letter to Pauline Bannister). When you read through his letters, you see that Lewis has a pretty loose view of intellectual property.

The same is not the case with J.R.R. Tolkien’s later work. Delighted to have The Hobbit in print, from the time it became popular through the two decades of working on The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien worked to ensure that his text was as accurate as possible. It drove him crazy when people carelessly “corrected” his spelling and grammar (see the 4 August 1953 letter to Christopher Tolkien). If Tolkien thought that this would be a great obstacle for him to deal with, he underestimated the response of the world to LOTR. Almost as soon as it was clear LOTR would sell, it was pirated in America. Tolkien took some months to create an authorized American edition, but many North Americans read about Númenor and the war of the ring for the first time in copies that Tolkien was never paid for.

Then there were the fan fiction requests. This letter to his publisher is among the spiciest of Tolkien’s responses to the phenomenon, filled with a sense of defeat and somewhat lacking in the open approach that Lewis had to his fans.

12 December 1966
76 Sandfield Road, Headington, Oxford

Dear Miss Hill,
I send you the enclosed impertinent contribution to my troubles. I do not know what the legal position is, I suppose that since one cannot claim property in inventing proper names, that there is no legal obstacle to this young ass publishing his sequel, if he could find any publisher, either respectable or disreputable, who would accept such tripe.

I have merely informed him that I have forwarded his letter and samples to you. I think that a suitable letter from Allen & Unwin might be more effective than one from me. I once had a similar proposal, couched in the most obsequious terms, from a young woman, and when I replied in the negative, I received a most vituperative letter.

With best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
J. R. R. Tolkien.

Vituperative indeed. It is notes like this that has created a tentative approach to fan fiction within Tolkien and Inklings scholarship. And is there an author that has created more fan fiction and shadow books that Tolkien? There are memorial volumes, like After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien (1992), and careful disciples like Guy Gavriel Kay‘s The Fionavar Tapestry (1984), but copies of Tolkien’s style, atmosphere, and his elfin invention are myriad and quite varied in quality. Tolkien and Lewis each created a new framework for writing fantasy in the late 20th century, but the degree to which Tolkien’s vision has inspired and impelled fans to write similarly is unparalleled.

Lewis’ relative ease in the face of fan response has a context. If Lewis had faced the pressures that Tolkien felt from early fans, publishers, and pirates, he may have responded differently. Both Lewis and Tolkien were skeptical that film could capture their authorial vision–were they correct? Lewis discouraged stage productions of The Screwtape Letters, encouraging them to simply adopt the “general diabolical framework” and create their own stories. Lewis and Tolkien each attempted to exert editorial control over translations, and Lewis resisted what he considered “fundamentalist” appropriations of his work (see the 9 May 1960 letter to his publisher).

And certainly the Lewis estate did not retain a completely open approach to publishing (as can be expected). Someone did write an 8th Narnian chronicle on the topic of Susan–a Carmelite nun, it turns outs, with the title The Centaur’s Cavern–and it is rumoured to have been denied permission to print. I have read authors that have quietly looped Narnian elements or Tolkienesque elves into their work to good effect. And I generally love intertextual looping. Still, I have little hope that The Centaur’s Cavern and the 30 or 40 others like it out there would be any good.

While Lewis and Tolkien each had their own feelings about how their work was met in the world, I don’t think either of them could have imagined today’s world of fan fiction, spurred on by the digital connectivity that our technology allows. And I’m hardly the person to speak critically about the field. My students get it and they write excellent papers about fanfic, but I just don’t know it well enough. Reading comments by Lewis and Tolkien, though, stirs up opposing feelings.

For one, I feel both rebellious against editorial control and yet I am grateful when the work is protected from idiotic things (see the Anne thing below or what could appear on the right).

And I also wonder if my ignorance of fan fiction has been given to me by osmosis rather than critically chosen. What am I missing? I’d love to know.

Here is a couple of pictures I smooshed together of interpretations of Anne in the Anne of Green Gables series. Anyone who has read the story knows what Anne should look like. Should it be the thin, (sort of) homely, red-headed orphan on the right (Kevin Sullivan’s film), or the blond, buxom, “come-hither” farm-girl on the left (the Amazon print edition)? Perhaps copyright control isn’t totally a bad thing.

Advertisements

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
This entry was posted in Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

90 Responses to Lewis, Tolkien and Different Views of Fan Fiction

  1. dalejamesnelson says:

    Today’s posting prompts an abundance of thoughts.
    As regards prequels, sequels, branch stories, etc. by other authors (fan or professional), a good starting point might be to question the likelihood of real success in such an enterprise. Here’s a thought experiment. I imagine most people would agree that C. S. Lewis possessed enormous imaginative gifts. Everyone would agree that he also revered Tolkien and profoundly loved Tolkien’s fantasy (Tolkien himself credited Lewis with helping him stick with the task of getting The Lord of the Rings written and into print). Both men were deeply read in Old and Middle English, to a degree probably almost no one is, especially today. Their degree of agreement about the Christian faith, morals, the state of society, and the right understanding of the sexes, and their experience of, and love of, nature, and other topics was great. So C. S. Lewis would start with huge advantages, if he were to set about writing a Middle-earth tale. And yet who is there who believes that a Middle-earth story by Lewis would have been a complete success?

    Where Lewis would not have trod, shall I?
    Dale Nelson

    Liked by 1 person

    • It must be the generation from which I come but I would not dream of writing Lewis or Tolkien fanfiction. I allow my imagination to play with the healing of Frodo in the Undying Lands for example or the history of Middle-earth beyond Aragorn but I do so philosophically or theologically. I simply do not think myself to be good enough as an imaginative writer. However, I do think about if Tolkien’s desire was to create a mythology then, like all myth, it has to keep growing. Parsifal travels a long way from Eschenbach (surely a fanfiction writer adding to the Arthurian myth?) to Wagner but I wouldn’t not do without either. There are some wonderful and some dreadful takes on the legendarium waiting yet to happen.

      Like

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Interesting to think of varieties of scholarship, in this connection – such as the Holmesian scholarship stimulated by Ronald Knox and Dorothy Sayers in its early stages – which has its Ardalogical counterpart where Tolkien is concerned – but also ‘traditional’ scholarship – how many of us direct our ‘fan’ enthusiasm into scholarship, which ‘adds’ interpretatively rather than strictly ‘fictionally’?

        I remember a review in Lembas of a book about Holmesian and analogous scholarships, but can’t remember author or title, and so far have not ‘dug up’ the relevant issue to look these up! Anybody help me, here?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Renée Vink says:

          Hi David, were you thinking of my review of Michael Saler’s “As If”? I can’t find it (!), but it has to be in a Lembas published between 2012 and 2016. In any, case, I can recommend the book.

          Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Hmm… what if we consider That Hideous Strength as “a Middle-earth story by Lewis”?

      Like

      • I did write about THS in that way in Sorina’s Inklings & Arthur volume, but not as a Middle-earth story, but as a “wood between the world” story, so that THS brings together numerous stories: past, present & future; mimetic and fantastic; actually written and fictional; modern and mythological. It was a theory paper, so I spent 30 pages setting up the concept and just a few describing it like that.

        Like

    • Well, this started a lot of discussion!
      I didn’t in this brief piece distinguish between kinds and intensities of response to a great work. For example:
      -Someone writes a Narnian Court Tale like Horse & His Boy. This could be done either in Lewis’ voice or in a new voice. The first is like an 8th chronicle, but the second is just using that world.
      -That would be different than someone writing a Susan tale to finish up–or correct–what Lewis wrote.
      -Think of all the works that shade like Tolkien. I haven’t read most of them, but my favourite is Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry. A gorgeous trilogy, even more overtly Nordic, but coming from a different worldview than Tolkien–and by an author well versed in Middle-earth tales, having worked on the Silmarillion.
      -Tolkien’s elves are no longer Tolkien’s elves, so that almost any elf today (and most dwarves) is responding to Tolkien. How can you not after that invention?
      -This is different, the shading, than someone who writes a story within the ages of Middle-earth we have, or in the new age, or uses hobbits.
      -This is different again than people that write loves stories between characters, like Frodo & Sam or some kitchen worker from Rohan and a buff warrior.
      And then there is poetic response, and visual art, and film adaptations. Etc.

      Like

  2. Joe R. Christopher says:

    The cartoon version of _The Screwtape Letters_ whose cover you reprint appeared during a period when Lewis’s _Screwtape Letters_ was out of U.S. copyright. Macmillan failed to renew it, and it was a few years before the Lewis Estate recaptured the copyright, the recapture coming when Congress passed a new copyright law that extended the dates of the copyright. (I’m told the new copyright law was nicknamed the Mickey Mouse law because the Disney Estate wanted to extend its control of the Mickey Mouse image and lobbied Congress.) Of course, a commercial adaptation is not the same thing as amateur “fan fiction,” but you included the image… (Come to think of it, the sexy picture of Anne [of Green Gables] that you included is is not far removed from one area of fan fiction.)

    Like

    • I heard of the Mickey Mouse law; Canada opted out of it, so all of Lewis’ stuff that he published is in public domain based on year of author’s death + 50 years.
      Visual art is a kind of fan fiction and a kind of criticism, isn’t it? Where does fiction and criticism begin and end as a discipline? After all, when I retell a story for a critical piece I am actually creating a new story, not merely abridging it.

      Like

  3. dalejamesnelson says:

    It might be suggested that Lewis would have been comfortable with the idea of someone writing new Middle-earth stories because he was comfortable with the medieval-Renaissance practice of various writers taking up the “world” of Arthur, or Roland, et al. No one author has a lock on these. But then, they are intertwined with a people(s) or nation(s). We can’t say that the Roland-Orlando cycle begins with some specific, named author, whose personality pervades it. But that is the case with Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Lewis’s Narnia.

    Dale Nelson

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Interesting to ponder if Lewis was being ‘more mediaeval’ about this than Tolkien – even while (on whatever level) realizing all that had happened in the world of copyright since the days of Mark Twain and George MacDonald.

      Like

      • dalejamesnelson says:

        David, I’m glad you mentioned George MacDonald — such an important author for Tolkien and for Lewis. But neither of them wrote “another” Curdie book, though either of them could have given that a very credible try.

        Dale

        Like

      • Yes, both points are good. Lewis consciously rejected the modern view of authorship (I wrote about that in the Arthur and Inklings book, but it is common thought), though he did protect his nonfiction a bit. Is that more medieval than Tolkien? Potentially, though with these guys perhaps we should think in terms of “different” rather than “less and more”.

        Like

    • Joe R. Christopher says:

      Dale– I wonder if the copyright laws don’t make the difference. In the medieval period and the Renaissance, anyone could imitate another person’s work. Wasn’t a sequel written to the first part of _Don Quixote_ before Cervantes wrote his own? Note what has happened after the courts declared that Sherlock Holmes was no longer copyrighted–we currently have a flood of Holmes stories and novels. (Yes, I know that the court’s decision was a partial one–the Doyle Estate controls the last two books by Doyle about Holmes, but the important part was that the characters of Holmes, Watson, etc., in the early books are no longer protected.) If the copyright had been in place in the medieval period, wouldn’t Marie de France have had the rights to King Arthur, since she sets two of her lais in the Arthurian world? (I realize the courts might have decided something else in that case since she said she was imitating the oral tales by minstrels at the courts–it would have depended on how the laws were phrased–but my example makes the general point.) –Joe

      Liked by 1 person

  4. dalejamesnelson says:

    What about a modern author who expressly invited other authors to contribute to the “world” he invented? Take Lovecraft, who invited some of his correspondents to write – for publication — “Cthulhu Mythos” stories in the same “universe” as some of his own stories. Lovecraft wanted to make a game of it, and various people became players, and that’s still going on. I admit I haven’t read very widely in this category of fiction, but what I have read suggests that the results feel, to the reader, in fact like a game, or products of a game. Are there any “Mythos” stories by hands other than Lovecraft’s that have the interest of his own stories? Are there even any of them that are really worth reading? The ones I’ve read by August Derleth, J. Ramsey Campbell, Frank Belknap Long, Robert Bloch, &c., seem to me, offhand, without exception, at best minor entertainments with which one might pass an idle half hour. While I wouldn’t make great claims for Lovecraft’s fiction, some of it does seem to me to rise well above that level.

    Dale Nelson

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      I remember devouring and (variously) enjoying all sorts paperback collections of these in the 1970s, but have not reread (many? any? of) them, since, and so can’t really make a comparison of the sort you do, here. (I do remember thinking how hair-raisingly idiotic Dr. Laban Shrewsbury and his companions were in some of the ways they went about things, but don’t remember if I could make a similar complaint about analogous characters in stories by Lovecraft.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. dalejamesnelson says:

    My guess is that the more time one invests in movies, TV, and games, the more readily he or she would accommodate the practice of (unauthorized) sequels, prequels, etc. All of these tend to have an open-endedness that is unlike the closed-endedness of books, although their influence is having, I suspect, an effect on authors of books, who, in the past 30-40 years or so, seem to have become increasingly given to endless, and, I suspect, imaginatively and intellectually flabby, spinnings-out. It’s really quite impressive to see how science fiction used to be pretty-much idea-driven, and an author would work out that idea in 120-300 pages or so; but now, he or she will spin out it. If Orwell were a writer today, he would, I suppose, be pressed to write sequels to 1984, in which there’s a secret underground of rebels who are trying to set Oceania free, but whose midst contains spies in the service of Big Brother, etc etc etc etc etc.

    Dale Nelson

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you watch the new Spielberg film “Ready Player One” you get an idea of just how far fan fiction can push the original out of shape and create cognitive dissonance by cannibalizing their pictures and messages . An entire movie produced as a homage to virtual environments advertising their graphic splendour and escapist beauty by piggybacking on every form of popular digital art since it’s invention, dedicated to the meassage that “reality” is “real”. I don’t know what Raoul Dahl would have thought of this Willy Wonka remake for the computer gaming generation but I hope every creator of the original material got royalties from Spielberg.

      Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      This reminds me of all the Planet of the Apes movie sequels I was foolish enough to keep on seeing in my youth…

      Then again, what about series like, e.g., Sexton Blake (to name but one in a world of such things throughout the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries)?

      Like

      • Where does imitation end and plagiarism begin? The world of music, and I am not musical at all, seems to have highlighted this question by having only a limited set amount of chords which different musicians can use to create new music from, the fact that in the past different musicians have used those chords in the same order as you intend to use them does not seem to have stopped them doing so, and making large amounts of money in the process.

        Like

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          A good question! Back in the pre-copyright days, Bach, Telemann, Handel, and Vivaldi used to borrow things happily back and forth, to the extent that (I think I’ve read) there are some ‘tunes’ where it’s not clear who wrote it and who first borrowed it. Now I read here and there about all sorts of plagerism law-suits… Style is another part of this – I’ve read about battles over Wagner’s influence being embraced or criticized (the “Camille Saint-Saëns” Wikipedia article is worth a look for an example of the complexities of this!).

          There’s a fun YouTube video called “Gustav Holst – Jupiter vs. Jeremy Soule’s Morrowind Theme (Mashup)” – I’m glad we have ’em both, and don’t know if Holst’s is in or out of copyright, making life easier for Jeremy Soule or not. John Williams’s Darth Vader theme’s a lot like Holst’s Mars to my ear (in certain respects), too.

          Like

    • Yes, I think that the generational divide on fan fiction is driven by technology, access, and the rising greatness of these early authors of fantasy (adjust for other genres).

      Like

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I wonder how tolerance (at the least) of pornography is part of this picture – and for that matter of blasphemy among sorts of so-called ‘strong language’ – I’ve been watching a lot of gaming podcasts and live-streaming (videos) lately and, whew! – casually ‘swearing like a trooper’ (to use a historical expression) seems nearly omnipresent!

        Liked by 1 person

        • There are certainly a lot more options for responding to a work of literature. We have, I think, lost oral storytelling and folk song as typical responses though we have gained the rest.

          Like

          • Hannah de Miranda says:

            Would PD James’s “Death Comes to Pemberley” be considered fan fiction, or a work of literature in its own right? It is a great sequel to Jane Austen’s?
            And as to fantasy literature, William Horwood’s sequel to “The Wind in the Willows” “The Willows in Winter”?

            Liked by 1 person

            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              I wonder what Jan Needle’s Wild Wood (1981) would best be called – ‘anti-fan’ fiction? (And what of Shamela and Joseph Andrews, here?)

              Liked by 1 person

  6. dalejamesnelson says:

    The experience of Tolkien himself is interesting. He did begin a sequel to The Lord of the Rings (“The New Shadow”). It’s mildly interesting, but one is thankful that he abandoned it. It was as if he gave “fan fiction” a try himself; and thought better of it.

    DN

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bookstooge says:

    Hmmm, how to say this diplomatically and nicely (by the way, that is code for me about to say something very cut and dried)

    FanFic can die. No, that is wrong. It SHOULD die.

    I don’t think when Lewis was encouraging those children to write their own Narnia stories that he was encouraging them to write publishable books. That’s not the vibe I got from those little snippets you posted anyway.

    I’m with Tolkien on this. Amateur, vituperative and just plain bad, that seems to sum up fanfic.

    Like

    • dalejamesnelson says:

      Good point, Bookstooge. Lewis encouraged -youngsters- to write Narnian books. So far as I know, he never indicated that he’d like adults to do so.

      One idly wonders what would’ve happened if someone like, say poet Kathleen Raine had given a Narnian book a shot, as an adult. My guess is that we’d have ended up with an enjoyable curiosity, but it wouldn’t have been something that felt like it truly belonged to Narnia.

      I appreciate Lewis’s encouraging of children to write Narnian books. From my own experience as a boy writing stories 50 years ago, I recognize that natural tendency for a verbal youngster to write his or her own imitations and “sequels.” That can be an important part of the development of literary gifts. But these are always childish things.

      DN

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bookstooge says:

        I concur about the verbal youngsters. They should use a pre-existing story frame to hang their own thoughts on. It can hone their little skills and give them an outlet.

        My problem is that with ebooks and selfpubbing (I read almost exclusively on a kindle now by the way) has allowed those children to write in the adult world and clutter up the place. And that’s not me being a snob but just recognition of the huge amount of garbage written and thrown out on the net in hopes of making a few bucks. My time is precious and it’s only getting more precious 😉

        Like

        • dalejamesnelson says:

          Publishing and selling fanfic encourages the erroneous idea that fantasy is all about (baneful term) “worldbuilding,” the use or construction of elaborated “background,” across which one marches one’s gameself or one’s own characters. This is a dreadful diminution of what matters in fantasy, about which Tolkien writes so searchingly in “On Fairy-Stories,” that “kind of Elvish craft.” Middle-earth and Narnia are the creations of poetic scholars whose imaginative work is an integrated whole, a secondary world. The fanfic idea, I suspect, falls far short of, or even betrays, this; it deals in wares, theatrical properties. In de Quincey’s terms: it treats the Literature of Power as the Literature of Knowledge.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Joe R. Christopher says:

    Hmm. Would you say Tolkien was writing fan fiction in his Arthurian poem? Actually, Tolkien pretty much tried to write poems in every medieval Celtic genre.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe R. Christopher says:

      Maybe I should rephrase that to “every medieval Celtic and Teutonic genre.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • dalejamesnelson says:

      Dr. Christopher, I’d say that Tolkien wasn’t writing fan fiction in his Arthurian effort. There you have something that doesn’t belong to one author, and no author’s presentation of it, not even (in this case) Malory’s is the definitive one. But Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Lewis’s Narnia exist in definitive versions. No one will ever write sequels worthy of these originals; no one else will ever BE Tolkien or Lewis, whose distinctive personalities pervade their work. There may be imitations, but they will always be works that good, mature readers will detect to be imitations.

      Tolkien did, somewhere in a letter, say that he dreamed of other hands writing music or painting pictures relating to his mythology for England. But he doesn’t say he imagines other writers adding to it, does he?

      There can never be “definitive” Middle-earth paintings and musical compositions, or so I suppose, though some of these might someday be excellent.

      DN

      Like

    • I think both are interesting points:
      1. There is a lot of bad fanfiction.
      2. There are different kinds of fanfiction.
      So integrating the Arthurian world into your own fiction is bringing in the atmosphere and setting. That’s what most fantasy author’s do with Tolkien’s or Lewis’ or whoever’s work.
      But there is also a distinction between Arthur, who is legend, and Faramir, who is fiction. So using Arthur is normal: he is there to be filled by authors. Faramir is a psychologically defined character, so the filling is less authentic.
      But I don’t know that all fanfiction is bad, even if you precisely define fanfiction.

      Like

  9. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

    Like

  10. Joe R. Christopher says:

    There have been some works that have re-written Lewis. Walter Martin, in _Screwtape Writes Again_, had Screwtape writing some more letters to Wormwood (Vision House, 1975). (Most imitations of _The Screwtape Letters_ use other names.) And there was at least one book, and I think more books, written for younger children laid in Narnia. These were commercial publications done by the Lewis Estate. I had a copy of the first one, but I don’t find it at the moment.

    Like

    • Joe R. Christopher says:

      Okay, found it. I was thinking of Hiawyn Oram’s _The Giant Surprise: A Narnia Story_, illustrated by Tudor Humphries (Harper Collins, 2005).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t read it, but I have read most of the Screwtape rewrites. That seems to be a genre that encouraged imitation. Lewis’ biggest effect would have been to invite fantasy as a children’s genre in a new kind of fairy tale form.

        Like

  11. David Bratman says:

    Note that when Lewis was encouraging his correspondents to write their own Narnian stories, they were children who would be writing privately for their own amusement. (No web publishing then!) Whereas Tolkien’s angry letter regards someone who submitted a sequel for publication. Quite different situations. And you report an adult who wrote an 8th Narnian chronicle and was denied publication, a situation more like one in the Tolkien letter than in the Lewis letters.

    What makes “fan fiction” noxious is not that it’s bad fiction – much of it is bad, of course, but that’s true of any amateur fiction, and some fan fiction can be quite good – still less that readers are thinking up their own stories in response. You can do anything you want in your own head, and it won’t disturb anybody. The problem is that they’re publishing them – and posting something on the open web is publishing it – and thereby interfering with the creator’s moral right to control their own creation under copyright. (Whether copyright terms should be as long as they are is a different question.)

    Lastly, let us drop the pretense that being inspired by another author, or retelling an old story like Arthur that’s already been retold in hundreds of different ways, or even writing by permission in a shared universe like that of Dr. Who, has anything to do with what we are in these discussions calling “fan fiction.”

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      How could we frame a discussion that would include things like “writing by permission in a shared universe like that of Dr. Who” or the whole intricate world of Star Wars and authorized fiction and canonical convolutions, and the range and scope of Tolkien’s interactions with old and recent (Nineteenth-century) works ‘out of copyright’?

      Like

    • I do think imagining all fan responses as a single idea is unhelpful, but fanfiction is a broad term. The examples I gave–the sequel attempt to be published, kids writing Narnian stories, and Screwtape–are all under the fanfic band as people are defining it.
      I did note that there was a difference between the examples I gave, and that the responses of L & T are shaped partly because of the bad way that publication, piracy, and fan response went for Tolkien. Lewis was largely left alone (and his work doesn’t invite the same response).

      Like

  12. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    The Hobbit-The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia have been (I venture wildly) analogously successful, but not (in my impression) analogously ‘influential’. Tolkien seems to have been – and/or to be perceived to have been – far more ‘influential’, ‘imitated’, and (in the opinions of assorted in some or another sense ‘Inklings fans’ I’ve talked to) balefully so, with respect to mainstream print publishing.

    What is, or might there be, to this, and why?

    Does ‘fan fiction’, in various of its forms or areas, differ from ‘mainstream print publishing’, in this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure exactly, but I do note that the on Twitter there is more openness to fanfic than in these comments. I think the generational divide is shaped by a few things, including technology and access. Honestly, in 1968, I would have bought whatever copy of LOTR I could find, pirated or not. I just wanted the books. Now I can walk into any of 20,000 bookstores and 19,000 of them will have LOTR. Things change.
      Plus–and isn’t this true–aren’t there 639,000 aspiring authors who were inspired to write because of Tolkien, Lewis, Gaiman, Rowling, and the like? That some of these shade into using the same atmosphere, to using characters or worlds, to fanfic love stories or near piracy or plagiarism is not surprising.
      Finally, 25 years ago, we wouldn’t know about 98.4% of fanfiction. It is the world wide web, after all.

      Like

  13. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Has anyone written a ‘De Descriptione Temporum’ attending to the watersheds of the development of copyright law (1) in the English-speaking world and (2) further internationally (which I think I remember Grevel MacDonald discussing his father’s and Mark Twain’s dedicated contributions to, in his biography of his father), and of the technological developments re., e.g., the world wide web and gaming – as well as the recent and continuing development of (attention to) ‘intellectual property rights’?

    (Back when I was a member of the MLA, I got an issue of the PMLA with a paper putting an interesting case for Montaigne’s revisions of his essays in respect to contemporary French copyright law – perhaps there’s already a whole field of ‘literary copyright studies’, which has eluded me in my daily village life…)

    Like

    • I thought you might find this point of view interesting:
      “If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”[Thomas Jefferson]

      Like

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Yes, indeed – thanks! Jefferson was quite an inventor himself, as well as a lawyer (and, of course, writer) – I guess the history of patents and patent law is part of this picture, too!

        Like

        • I don’t have much experience with Patent law history but I do know that in the history or beginning of copyright law in the early 17th century, governments controlled publishing by controlling paper, ink, and especially printing presses. When England licensed the printing of Bibles by the Oxford and Cambridge academic guild centres, copyright law could only be enforced in the same way that it was possible for governments to control the sale of liquor during the prohibition era in the US, namely by controlling the sale of bottles – the bottle was protected by law, not the wine. Today’s electronic media has destroyed the manageable container (the bottle, paper, film or vinyl). As soon as you communicate your idea on the internet, all of the expressions once contained in books, films, comic strips,vinyl or any format of idea, will almost instantaneously exist as something like thought itself, or something very much like thought, merely ones and zero’s in electronic voltage format, that will dart around the Internet at the speed of light, in conditions that one may behold in effect only as a mixture of coloured glowing pixels and electronic sounds.

          In digitized format the creator, the plagiarizer and the patent law enforcement officer can never touch or claim to “own” or “control” those digitized ideas in the pre-computerized sense of the word.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I started a ‘Wizarding World’ sort of fiction six years ago which I fear may only has a chance of avoiding actionable things as ‘fan fiction’, as I somehow doubt J.K. Rowling would permit it, and so tried to have it be clearly ‘all about’ while avoiding any specific references (maybe this is a big part of its having bogged down…)

    Like

  15. louloureads says:

    I think there is a big difference between fanfiction published online, by and for fans (and not for profit), and fanfiction which people published through traditional routes. The former tends to build an excited and engaged community of people who are enthusiastic about the original work, and is a social experience. As a lonely teenager, I made friends through online fan communities for Tolkien, Lewis, and other authors. There was always a lot of respect of the original material, discussion of the books (and sometimes films), and I feel like it was just an updated online version of friends meeting at a pub to share ideas and theories about their favourite books. This was often expressed through fanfiction, as well as in essays, online conversations etc. I wrote a lot of fanfiction as a teenager – the earlier stories were dross, as anybody’s early stories would be, but I still like some of the things I wrote later on. I still love writing, though I mostly write nonfiction now, and I am sure it is because I was part of that rich and vibrant community. It provided me with an interested audience at a young age when I would have been too embarrassed to share my writing with real-life people, and invaluable critical feedback that absolutely improved the quality of my work. I think that people who believe fanfiction is all badly written/trashy/dishonours the original work have perhaps not read much of it. Lots of it is nonsense, but some of it is absolutely stunning.

    Traditionally published fanfiction is trickier. I have read some excellent responses to classics (for example, Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which is Jane Eyre fanfiction and is also a modern classic). There is a good argument to be made that excellent authors have always written fanfiction – Lewis wrote Greek mythology fanfiction in Till We Have Faces, even if he didn’t call it that; The Once and Future King is Le Morte D’Arthur fanfiction; the Aeneid is Odessey fanfiction. Just because the term only emerged in the past fifty years doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been happening forever. I’ve also read some really awful traditionally published fanfiction – Pride and Prejudice is particularly prone to this for some reason. A few years ago I read a “sequel” about Mary Bennet that I still think might be the worst novel I’ve ever read. So, though, I am not opposed to fanfiction being traditionally published for a profit, I think that it should wait until works are in the public domain so that it doesn’t hurt the author or their families.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Where does the whole business of including safely dead (and so, unable to sue) real people as characters enter this picture? What springs first to my mind are detectives – how early an example is Lillian de la Torre’s use of Dr. Johnson? – but I immediately think too of Elliott Roosevelt-William Harrington novels featuring the former’s mother, Eleanor – and then have surprising difficulty finding more examples I seem to remember hearing of (!) – though the Wikipedia article, “List of female detective characters” (as “last edited on 11 July 2018, at 04:25 (UTC)” already has three pre-20th-c. examples from late 20th-21st-c. authors under A: Abigail Adams, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen…

    Like

  17. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I wonder where Tolkien’s letter of 25 September 1954 to Naomi Mitchison (Letter 154) fits into this discussion – with things like “Yours is the only comment that I have seen that […] sees it as an elaborate form of the game [italicized] if inventing a country – an endless one, because even a committee of experts in different branches could not complete the overall picture. […] I think as far as the ‘mortals’ go, Men, Hobbits, and Dwarfs, that the situations are so devised that economic likelihood is there and could be worked out”? “Could be worked out”, but who, if anyone ‘might’ do that? What if “a committee of experts in different branches” were somehow formed – what ‘might’ they do? Who may join the “elaborate form of the game”, and in just what ways?

    Like

  18. dalejamesnelson says:

    I wish everyone could take time out to (re)read C. S. Lewis’s little essay “On Stories.” There he writes of an elusive quality that is caught, or at least suggested to the right reader, by the things, events, and words of a story. “The Well at the World’s End” — don’t we, he asks, feel something just by those words alone?

    Now there’s a lot that we can, do, and ought to read out of, say, The Lord of the Rings, about ecology, justice, humility, courage, etc. But there’s also a Middle-earthly quality that helps to keep some readers coming back again and again for refreshment.

    But does fanfic refresh readers?

    I think, again, that fanfic tends to come out of the “world-building” aspect that, yes, you need to have, to some degree at least, if you are going to have literary fantasy at all, but fanfic seems to proceed on the basis that “world-building” is the main thing. Lewis would have us understand that (however much we might enjoy this “game”), it is mainly there to serve something else. But focusing on “world-building” may actually tend to make us -less- susceptible to the poetic magic that Lewis treasures. That kind of focus may lead us to falsify our own experience: we may think it’s, wow, Tolkien’s amazing thoroughness (which we can imitate or add to) that’s the secret to why we love, or used to love, those books. But it wasn’t — not for many readers, not for its own sake.

    Good fanfic probably helps writers with an apprenticeship, but its value for them would likely be in their getting Tolkien (or whoever) digested and otherwise out of their systems, not (much) in the fanfic’s value as some kind of addition to Middle-earth, or Narnia, etc.

    Tolkien and Lewis’s fantasy offers enchantment. I suspect that the “enchantment” experienced by writers of fanfic is often more like a sort of daydreaming or self-hypnosis.

    ?

    Dale Nelson

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Dear Dale,

      Lots of interesting facets, here – thanks! That Letter 154 invites more detailed discussion, as Tolkien begins with reference to ‘the literary’ before adding “Yours is the only comment that I have seen that”… I should reread “On Stories”, but reading your comment, that transcription of a discussion on science fiction between Lewis, Aldiss, and Amis springs to mind – among assorted other comments by Lewis I’d need to track down, e.g., about how good in other ways badly written (science) fiction can be (while longing for lots of better writing), about atmosphere, about the force and appeal of a story distinct from any telling of it, about the weight of ‘worldbuilding’,…

      And, perhaps we should try to get John Stanifer over here (see his 29 April Oddest Inkling contribution) to bring experience of gaming to this discussion of the contemporary situation. I’ve been fascinated, listening to podcasts with gamers, hearing not only about different genres (e.g., story-driven or ‘sandbox’: playing around in a built world and building further), but also mixed genres, and different aspects of particular games and different ways of enjoying them – including atmosphere, artistic style, character development (or resolute lack of it). And, there are (sometimes slightly interactive) animated ‘novels’…

      I wonder how much overlap there is between gamers, fan fiction writers, and ‘classical’ readers?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Roald Dahl’s short story “The Great Automatic Grammatizator” provides a proposal for a future where computers mass-produce non-original “fanfic” in a “garbage in – garbage-out” format. The story (a spoiler warning though for those who value the climactic twist of most short stories as the most important aspect of the story), is a story about a computer genius who has always longed to be a writer. He convinces his boss, to let him build a computer that will write stories based on a database of all stories currently available. He succeeds and sets up a publishing company as a front for this new mass-produced literature. Later the modified machine succeeds in writing so many novels that it begins making massive profits. The ironical final step in their domination of the publishing industry is that they are then forced to buy out the original authors and pay them to never write again. An important lesson here I think.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Stopped at the spoiler warning, and will go looking for a copy to read – thanks! (Generally meaning to catch up on Roald Dahl for ages…)

        Like

    • I took your advice and re-read “On Stories” and I wonder if Lewis was not encouraging “fanfic” when he said – “Those forms of literature in which Story exists merely as a means to something else – for example, the novel of manners where the story is there for the sake of the characters, or the criticism of social conditions – have had full justice done to them; but those forms in which everything else is there for the sake of the story have been given little serious attention.” [C S Lewis] – or am I grasping at straws interpreting “stories for the sake of story” as “fanfic” ?

      Like

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I’ve read next-to-no ‘fanfic’, but can imagine some has “everything else […] there for the sake of the story” (with varying degrees of stylistic success and ‘mythopoeic’ success in varying proportions – as I think of Lewis’s comments in different places on George MacDonald’s writing).

        Like

      • I’m not sure I see the fanfic connection there, Patrick. I don’t think there is much we could call fanfiction in the Inklings. Dorothy Sayers & Charles Williams each wrote Screwtapian letters, though that might just be good ole parody. Lewis had Geo. MacDonald appear in Great Divorce, but again I think that’s just the use of an historical figure (like Dante did). The echoes of Middle-earth material in the Ransom Cycle is just that, a series of echoes and hyperlinks. I think fanfiction is really about characters or fictional world, but not necessarily either. Legends and myths are open for original use, I think. And some “worlds” are open to us, like real cities or the Cthulu universe or Mars or the stock fairy woods. I think fanfiction is clearly about using characters or worlds that are proprietary and can be as soft as a distantly linked spinoff story all the way up to a sequel or prequel.

        Like

        • I’ve read no “fanfic” Brenton, at least I can’t remember any that I have read. Like you I also believe that you would have a struggle to relate anything the inklings produced as such, especially work that used a real author like George MacDonald as a character. and like you I don’t think Lewis wrote any “fanfic” whatsoever.

          I was suggesting that Lewis, who was discussing “stories” , as a “series of imagined events”, in “On Stories”, was implying or suggesting that there was nothing wrong with “fanfic” or any type of story, and, whatever you lable any story is, in the end, irrelevant, because each reader is a unique individual – “What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what kind of person you are” [C S Lewis] … so what you bring to the story, any story, to a large degree determines what you will get from it. –

          “As I have admitted, it is very difficult to tell in any given case whether a story is piercing to the unliterary reader’s deeper imagination or only exciting his emotions. You cannot tell even by reading the story for yourself. Its badness proves very little. The more imagination the reader has, being an untrained reader, the more he will do for himself. He will, at a mere hint from the author, flood wretched material with suggestion and never guess that he is himself chiefly making what he enjoys. The nearest we can come to a test is by asking whether he often re-reads the same story.” It is, of course, a good test for every reader of every kind of book. …He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.”[On Stories]

          Liked by 1 person

  19. dalejamesnelson says:

    Some further thoughts…

    1.Some fictional properties invite fanfic and additions by professional authors. I’d say that Howard’s Conan the Barbarian would be an example: the stories were becoming formulaic even while Howard was writing them (Conan ventures into a lost city while protecting a princess or slave girl, or finds one there; lost city is inhabited by one or more vampires or psychopathic apes, etc.). Since the character doesn’t develop and no other characters lastingly associate with him, it is easy to conceive of further adventures. But one would “have to” stick closely to the formula or that sort of thing. One cannot and must not ask questions that could become the basis of other types of stories (e.g. what about all those bastard children Conan must have left in his wake?), because if one did write stories of that sort, they wouldn’t really BE Conan stories, even though that was the name used.

    2.It does seem that when some fairy simple and straightforward characters have been around long enough and have left a deep enough impression on the popular imagination, they offer themselves for use by other writers, fan or pro. But how often, if ever, do these stories have the quality that made the originals so captivating? Has anyone (including Doyle himself!) written any Sherlock Holmes stories that are as satisfying as the ones before the great detective wrestled Moriarty to the death (I do include The Hound of the Baskervilles here, although it was written after Doyle had thought he had done with the character)? I vaguely remember reading some of August Derleth’s Solar Pons stories, which are thinly disguised Holmes stories (right?) — none has left an impression. Heard’s A Taste for Honey — entertaining, not terribly memorable. I confess that I would like to write my own Sherlock Holmes story. I think I have a good idea: set the great detective to work to figure out what really happened to Mrs. Bathurst. The story might be called (how original is this!) “A Face in the Crowd.”
    https://www.spectator.co.uk/2007/12/the-enduring-mystery-of-mrs-bathurst/
    Anyone who wants to take a whack at writing this Holmes story should go ahead, because I never shall.

    3.I’d probably feel vaguely that, if one’s ambitions were really modest, one might dare to write a tale of Middle-earth or Narnia, but out of reverence and affection, not impudence. Verlyn Flieger’s “Green-Hill Country” would be an example. What’s probably being written now, even as we speak, by some fan — let’s say a story of a “gender dysphoric” kid in Narnia or a homosexual Elf-Man romance — one shudders.

    Dale Nelson

    Like

  20. dalejamesnelson says:

    Along with “On Stories,” readers ought to (re)read Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism. There, as some folks here will remember, Lewis distinguishes between how the Many and the Few use books. The Many use books as stimulants for daydreams and to pass the time, etc. The Few are relatively disinterested, though they may read with passionate interest indeed. I won’t attempt to summarize the book here.
    Now it seems obvious to me that “fanfic” encourages reading as the Many read. Rather than returning to (say) the Narnian books and growing in their receptiveness to them, the Many read them as pleasant daydreams, and Narnian fanfic extends that sort of activity. One of the sad results is likely to be a dulling of the ability really to read the Narnian books well at all. Instead, Lewis says, “Get yourself out of the way.”

    Will an analogy help? Let’s take a symphony, say the Beethoven #6 “Pastoral.” What would you think of someone whose response to it was an enthusiasm taking the form of wanting to add his or her own movements to it? Beethoven wrote five — very well, let’s add a sixth, a seventh! Ah, but who would think he or she had the talent to do that? Very well; so you think you have the talent to add to The Lord of the Rings or the Narnian Chronicles?

    Incidentally, if Michael Ward is right, “additional Narnian chronciles” would spoil the planetary theme of the set. I’ll refrain from working out a pun on someone who thinks to add his little asteroids to the Chronicles.

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      The Wikipediast tells me that Leonard Bernstein improvised a “Pluto, the Unpredictable” in a (partial) 1972 performance of Holst’s Planets – as well as there being Colin Matthews’ 2000 “Pluto, the Renewer”. (And that “Kenyon D. Wilson composed a trombone quintet piece” of ” five movements, each named after one of the five known dwarf planets, Eris, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Ceres”!)

      Now, I want to know what a Plutonian Narnia chronicle might be like… (And what of Uranus and Neptune, which Holst does imagine, and Lewis enjoyed him doing so? Or do I just need to reread Planet Narnia…?)

      This gets me thinking about completions – musical and literary: such as, of Edwin Drood, of The Watsons and Sanditon, of Thrones, Dominations, of Elgar’s Third, and Beethoven’s Tenth – and their mediaeval predecessor, Continuations (e.g,, of Chretien’s Perceval).

      Like

      • dalejamesnelson says:

        David, Ward points out that Lewis was working with the traditional scheme of the heavens — so no Uranus and Neptune, let alone Pluto. Lewis was aware of all three of these solar bodies, I’m sure, and could have violated the integrity of the traditional cosmos had he wished to. As I’m sure you don’t need to be told.

        Personally, I don’t mind modern “completions” such as you mention, that are published as such, but I suspect they almost always are nothing but interesting or amusing curiosities.

        Dale Nelson

        Like

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Ach, ach, I can’t remember what, if anything, Lewis does about the planetary intelligences of those ‘modern’ planets in the Ransom cycle. (Another reason to reread Planet Narnia – and OSP, Perelandra, and THS?)

          I haven’t tried many ‘completions’ (yet?), myself – but we have enjoyed, en famille, not only Thrones, Dominations but the ‘wholer cloth’ of Jill Paton Walsh’s A Presumption of Death, The Attenbury Emeralds, and The Late Scholar. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Matthewses’ completion of John James’s The Fourth Guenevere (though it was pretty nearly complete).

          Like

          • Well, I think the Field of Arbol in Ransom is structured along medieval cosmological lines. It is incomplete–room for fanfic responses?–and the last book, on Earth, brings all the planets in. I don’t think Lewis intended anything like completeness (in either world, Narnia or Arbol), and played along the edges of both (even in Ward’s model, the Last Battle is not simply a one-planet/one-book deal).

            Like

  21. Sorry I haven’t been able to keep up with the discussion, everyone. I appreciate the conversation (which is, as always, tasteful and critical). I am in the mountains of New Hampshire at a music festival with my family. We have never been so wet (and we live next to the ocean! It has poured rain for days–they count the rain in inches here. Flash flood warnings lit up our phones at a concert and there has even been a tornado warning. As a result, the internet has been pretty spotty.

    I will note that I did write some of what we call fan fiction under any definition. It is satire, using the Harry Potter world: https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2017/01/20/trumpbriefing/.

    Like

    • dalejamesnelson says:

      Brenton, a benefit of this discussion for me has been to lead me to definitively abandon a bit of fan fiction I started a while back, an unauthorized, somewhat covert, prequel to That Hideous Strength — working title The Hares. (The “hares” were probably several unheroic Londoners, including a fearful solitary dealer in black market pork during a time of rationing, who flee to the St Anne’s household that is just beginning to grow during World War 2. The origin of the NICE as a Ministry’s Office of Co-ordinated Experiments would be revealed.)

      Like

      • Why abandon it? It could be fun, actually. Another space with THS could be the next Pendragon (if there is to be one)–so not taking any characters but the general Arthurian redivivus premise with a line that went through the Manor at St. Anne’s 100 years earlier.
        You will find outside of these comments and in Inklings chatrooms there is much more openness to fanfic, done well anyway.

        Like

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          I haven’t caught up with them yet, and they are obviously ‘authorial’ and so I assume ‘canonical’, but Baroness Orczy, having written a lot of Scarlet Pimpernel novels and stories, jumped back 170 years for a couple ancestral prequels: The Laughing Cavalier and The First Sir Percy.

          It might be interesting to try something with Evelyn Underhill’s Column of Dust and Ransom’s background (and even War in Heaven?) and explore Grail and Pendragon prequels, parallel branches, and sequels – as, in a certain sense, Stephen Hayes is already doing.

          Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      I hope you find high enough ground (I remember some astonishing rail-journeying in Wales where some bridges were submerged and others not quite yet) – and avoid any concert combinations of electricity and water!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Aonghus Fallon says:

    A couple of thoughts occurred to me reading your article.

    (1) Tolkien vs Lewis. I think (as has already been pointed out) Tolkien was incensed by a genuine case of plagiarism, whereas Lewis was simply encouraging children to use their imagination and embellish on what he had already written, but another factor may have been the time both authors spent creating their respective worlds; Tolkien worked on his creation for decades, Lewis wrote the bulk of the Narnian books in a very short time – ie, Lewis wasn’t very precious about his work because it was done very quickly and without much forethought.

    (2) Fan Fiction. I think fan fiction fails because it tends to fixate on the external trappings of a story rather than what’s actually about. Someone mentioned ‘Planet of the Apes’ and this is a good case in point. The first film can be read an allegory about racism. The Burton re-make simply focuses on what made the original visually appealing while ignoring its actual point with the result that something fundamental gets lost in the process.

    (3) Lewis the Plagiarist? I guess everybody here is all-too familiar with how Lewis casually appropriated other author’s ideas and concepts for his stories. Nesbit was a big source of ideas, specifically the ‘The Story of the Amulet.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Re. (3), I wonder if there is much specific Lewis Narnia ‘influence’ that is distinct from reprinted ‘magical’ Nesbit fiction?

      Like

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        As I ruminate… did Lewis to any extent see variable and extendable things in Nesbit’s ‘magical’ works, much as he did in David Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus, in turn producing the Arbol works in the context of the latter, and Planet Narnia in the context of the former?

        In how far as Nesbit’s ‘magical’ works in the background of, say, Alan Garner and Madeleine L’Engle, with Lewis ‘more in between’ in the latter instance than the former (or, ‘in between’ in distinctly different ways)?

        Quickly consulting the Wikipediast, I find, “she was a direct or indirect influence on many subsequent writers, including P. L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins), Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones and J. K. Rowling. C. S. Lewis was influenced by her in writing the Narnia series and mentions the Bastable children in The Magician’s Nephew. Michael Moorcock would go on to write a series of steampunk novels with an adult Oswald Bastable (of The Treasure Seekers) as the lead character. In 2012, Jacqueline Wilson wrote a sequel to the Psammead trilogy, titled Four Children and It”- !

        Like

    • Thanks for this. I’m not sure the term “plagiarism” is much help except in terms of someone taking up a substantial portion of literature, or perhaps a character or plotline. I would argue that there is very little that we ever write that isn’t “the world’s”–given us by our community, family, books, etc. I like Lewis’ “intertextuality” and spend a lot of time studying it.
      I probably should have been a bit more clear above that piracy and plagiarism are two different things (perhaps the former a subset of the latter?).

      Like

      • Aonghus Fallon says:

        I was just being facetious (re insinuating Lewis was a plagiarist) but I do think the Narnia books draw on a huge range of sources – a lot of their charm for me is the sheer variety of influences and how Lewis melds them into one.

        That said, I suspect Lewis’s casual attitude towards other people riffing on his work may have been due the fact that he knew everything in the books was secondhand.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oops, I let this go a week! Sorry.
          I agree that for me part of the charm of Narnia is its many sources. For others, they despise “pastiche” and find it not original. Lewis was not accidentally “non-original,” though. You are right that there is an intentional link between the grand source material of Lewis’ work and how he viewed authorship.

          Like

  23. Aonghus Fallon says:

    I never realised Lewis had read ‘Voyage to Arcturus’, but it’s exactly the sort of thing he might have read. I wonder if it influenced his space trilogy? I would agree with you that he’s a bridge between two very different bodies of children’s literature – you mentioned Alan Garner, but maybe Susan Cooper as well? ‘Over Sea, Under Stone’ has a very Lewisian flavour, whereas ‘The Dark is Rising’ is much more its own book and much more of its time (ie, it belongs to what I’d classify as ‘modern’ children’s literature).

    Like

  24. molehunter says:

    I don’t know if it counts as fan lit, but I wrote my first novel ‘Darwin’s Adders: A hronicle of Pagan England 2089’ with a CS Lewis inspiration. It was July 2009, a month after attending the Perelanda Opera and Colloquium in Oxford that I woke up one morning with the thought ‘What if the bad guys (and devils) in That Hideous Strength had won, and extinguished liberty and Christianity in England, decimating the population, and an eldil had come to a mentally handicapped boy and pronounced him the Pendragon?’.

    The story (out on Amazon kindle for a dollar) became a vehicle for various of my religious and philosophical preoccupations, and despite advertising has not sold. Whether it is any good is not for me to say, but the trigger for me to start writing was definitely Lewis. The sequel ‘Hecate’s Daughters’ (I’m planning a trilogy) is in the pipeline.

    I agree about his collected letters, they take some ploughing through but are a rich seam.

    Kind regards

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.