Sunday, April 22, 2012

L'Engle and Sci-Fi History

Sci-Fi writer Paul Di Filippo has an interesting essay on Madeline L'Engle's probable debt to earlier science fiction. I'm not sure I agree with all of it, but it's worth reading.
Of course, one of L'Engle's key innovations lacking in Heinlein was the metaphysical angle, not precisely doctrinal Christianity but a kind of ecstatic theology of cosmic consciousness fully in tune with and foreshadowing the era of the High Sixties. In this mash-up of science and religion I see a deliberate echo of C. S. Lewis's great Ransom Trilogy, in which similar spiritual dimensions overlay conventional space travel.
I have not read L'Engle for a long time. I should probably refresh.

9 comments:

Kitten said...

I'm not familiar with Di Fillipo, is he perhaps not a beliver? I ask because it seems a common thing among non-Christians to assume that an author borrowed references from other authors rather than their own (similar)beliefs. Given that L'Engel was, I think, an Anglican it's hardly surprising there would be similarities between her works involving an aspect of spirituality and the works of others from the same belief tradition.

Texan99 said...

All I can remember is that the POV character in "A Wrinkle in Time" had a little brother with sick mitochondria.

Assistant Village Idiot's wife said...

That was actually in the sequel, A Wind in the Door. I just reread them since A Wrinkle in Time is 50 years old this year and there have been a lot of discussions on the books.

Wyman said...

The description of L'Engle's writing seems very accurate. Much of her writing, but particularly the Time books, were science-infused but focused more on the notion of a joyful, universal song playing throughout Creation.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Kitten, I had noticed the same many times. There just seems to be a cloud of misunderstanding, present even among sympathetic observers.

Lewis wrote in some amazement how none of the reviewers of Out Of The Silent Planet showed any evidence of even noticing the Christian references to our fallen planet and fallen angels. Most reviewers did not notice the Aslan/Christ/Resurrection connection in Lionwithchwardrobe!

Texan99 said...

That's hard to believe. It was obvious to me when I read them as a teenager, without any prior religious instruction. You'd have to be pretty determined not to notice.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, I remember how I thought Narnia a bit flawed because it was unsubtle in that way. But shortly after I had a hitchhiker who thought the series was about tarot cards.

Frankly, I think you have to put a character's arms straight out and put nails into the hands before people get it. And if the character is female, it might still elude them.

Sam L. said...

I have yet to read any of these. L'Engle was after my teenage years. The only Lewis I read (that I recall) was "Out Of The Silent Planet", and I didn't care for it. It's possible that I started "That Hideous Strength", given that I remember the title, but I couldn't have gotten far.

Sam L. said...

Ah, yes, Mr. R(eal) S(PAM) Gold, again.