Friday, 4 May 2012

CS Lewis: WWII and After

World War II looms large in CS Lewis' fiction:

children are evacuated in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe;
Lewis wakes from the dream of The Great Divorce to the sound of a siren;
the man tempted by Screwtape's nephew is killed in an air raid;
the volumes of the Ransom Trilogy are set respectively before, during and after the War.

The Ransom Trilogy, Vol III, That Hideous Strength, was published in 1945 but set "after the War," thus was near future fiction. It features both technological advances and political events that did not happen in our history. Thus, this novel, like many works by other authors, soon became a "past future." Although That Hideous Strength is not a future history, its characters envisage and advocate alternative human futures and the novel is Lewis' response to Wells' and Stapledon's future histories.

"Forms Of Things Unknown" is set later along a timeline of continued technological progress so it makes sense that it be read after That Hideous Strength in the proposed "Cosmic Journeys" sequence. In this sequence, Vols I and III are interplanetary, Vol II involves journeys that are made without leaving the surface of the Earth and Vol IV is in the future.  

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