Dr. Fred Eichelman: I Was Once Accused of Buying Dirty Books…
“Why are you buying dirty books?” was asked of me as a kid. I was in my hometown drug store, browsing through their amazing racks of paper back books. This was in the 1940s during World War II when paper backs became popular, when publishers found it was a cheap way to save paper. The asker was a lady who looked eager to warn my parents as I was looking at science fiction books that often had garish covers. They mostly featured robots carrying off young women, though no such thing would be in the books themselves. It was just a clever way to sell books.
I had no concerns as the science fiction I read was generally high class fiction written by writers, in many cases, with scientific backgrounds. Thanks to them I later made high grades in high school physics as I knew what Newton’s Third Law, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. This paved the way to rocket science before I even took the class.
Actually I had no concerns that my parents would have any objections to my reading science fiction. They had many reading interests of which that was one. In fact at a very early age they introduced me to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of Tarzan, Mars and Venus. It caused me to look up at the stars in a whole new way. And in fact science fiction introduced me to theology.
My father introduced me to an amazing trilogy by theologian C. S. Lewis, noted for some of the most famous books written on Christianity during the 20th Century including Out Of The Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. Lewis was inspired by the fear that future space travel would allow men to ignore sin and believe that technology could triumph over the universe. Lewis decided to write a series about imperialism while also including rather traditional Christian theology, incorporating and baptizing pagan mythology. The stories involving Mars, Earth and Venus mirrored the teachings in Genesis and opened a desire to read actual scripture for myself. Later Lewis would make a leading mark in the world of fantasy with his Narnian series beginning with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The Lion, Aslan, was symbolic of God and from the series there have been films made.
Of course I am not saying that science fiction writers in general have a theological leaning. However C. S, Lewis had a theory about all writing. He believed that no author has complete control of what he puts down on paper and that when we read a book there may be certain messages we will pick up, not intended by the writer, that come to us through the Holy Spirit. Leigh Bracket, both a writer of successful science fiction and a screen writer noted for several John Wayne films, had a plan for her own writing. A Christian herself she once told me, “While I do not believing in hitting someone over the head for my religion, I always hope I will write something that will appeal to their spiritual side.”
However, what greatly interests this writer, a former teacher, has been social science fiction. There are three that are favored as they hit a too realistic account of the future and what is happening now. One is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley which came out nearly a hundred years ago. It was about genetic engineering which we see promoted today by certain radical groups.
The second one came out during the cold war and predicted what would happen with communist globalization, 1984. Written by George Orwell who was well aware of life under Communism it was a frightening book about Big Brother Watching You and education and the news media completely under the control of big government. In his book even the children were taught to report any non-acceptable behavior by their parents. The book seems to illuminate the very path Socialist Democrats are trying to take us on now…
The third is my favorite and likely because my wife and I got to know the author, Ray Bradbury. In Bradbury’s world, Fahrenheit 451, the world is dominated by a new breed of firemen. They are firemen not trained to put out fires, but to burn all books. Censorship at its height. It is also a society very addicted to drugs. The protagonist, Guy Montag, finds the only salvation is to join a group of fugitives who hide out in the woods where they read and memorize classic books word for word to pass on.