Dr. Fred Eichelman: C.S. Lewis, the Line Between Fantasy and Science Fiction

Dr. Fred Eichelman

C.S. Lewis is considered the greatest apologist for Christianity both during his life time and passing to Heaven in 1963 to the present day. Many people were first introduced to this outstanding author through his many books like his classic Mere Christianity and The Problem With Pain. This writer must confess that he was introduced to this amazing man through science fiction.

A big fan of Sci Fi stories as a youth, who loved Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and others noted in the genre’ I stumbled upon a trilogy of science fiction stories by Lewis in my early teens. I very much enjoyed Out Of The Silent Planet, Peralandra and That Hideous Strength, so much so I reread them quickly after my first reading and sensed a meaning beyond just a good outer space tale.

They are allegories about the fall or man to sin and his only way to salvation.  The Space Trilogy tells the story of Elwin Ransom, a respected Cambridge University professor of philology (the study of languages), who goes for a walk one day and ends up on Mars. He is on Mars not by his own will but because he was kidnapped and smuggled there!

The first book written in in 1937, long before Hubble telescopes or space travel, C.S. Lewis was free to create a fantasy world on Mars. It was full of different kinds of “peoples” (certainly not what humans on Earth would call “people”): hrossa, seroni, and eldila. While there, Ransom learns to accept and love the “people” of Malacandra (their name for Mars). He also must defend the Malacandrians from the evil-doers who kidnapped him.  The second book deals with a new Eden, a view of the Paradise that awaits us in Heaven. The third contrasts the struggle in our world between the spiritual and so called scientific secularism.

C.S. Lewis also dealt with fantasy in a series of books this writer got to enjoy with his children, the world of Narnia beginning with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The Lion represented Jesus Christ and The Witch, Satan. The first book was made into both a successful stage play and film, a story for all ages.

It should not surprise anyone that in some science fiction you find religious allegories. This was true with successful media series like Star Trek and Star Wars though the creators of these programs had no intention of introducing religious values. Lewis had a theory that some authors dislike. No writer has complete control of his writing or what the viewing audience may see.

The original Star Trek series.was a good example of what Lewis had in mind. There was no pretense that this was a Christian vehicle and that those involved were Christians. However, the motives behind those who gave us Star Trek is unimportant. As C.S. Lewis once observed, writers do not have the total control of their plots and characters they think they do. These things can take a life of their own and God can work through authors whether they are aware of it of not. There are spiritual meanings and truths that can come through at the right time and place. There were some people connected with Star Trek who very much had these ends in mind. Two for example were DeForest Kelly (Leonard “Bones” McCoy) and Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Janice Rand) who in interviews with me admitted this was true in their cases.

In my lifetime I have heard many Christians be critical of science fiction and science fiction fans. C.S. Lewis had an answer for that “It is not escapism and should never be regarded as such. Fantasy and Science Fiction is by miles the best and most serious satire of our age.” Lewis reminds us that this genre’ is the oldest form on Earth.  You must consider Homer’s classic  0dyssey which was required reading in most college and high school literature classes at one time. Science fiction and fantasy did not begin with H.G. Wells who has often been called the father of that kind of literature. Lewis considered one of the best American magazines to be Fantasy and Science Fiction and this writer still has a couple old copies considered collectibles.

Of course there was only room in this article to cite a small number of authors, but one especially must be noted. Some science fiction has become reality today. George Orwell in 1948 was assumed to originally be a criticism of the Soviet Union however the book frighteningly mirrors what is happening in the United States today with Cancel Culture, Censorship of the News and Overt Government Control. Lewis preferred Well’s Animal Farm which allegorically painted a picture that could reflect where we are going today. In my opinion both the Orwell books should be required reading in every high school.

We also would do well to require studies of C.S. Lewis and thankfully there are some colleges that do so. Also there are free on the net courses on his writing available to everyone.

Dr. Fred Eichelman

Dr. Fred Eichelman is a retired teacher and a director for Point North Outreach, a Christian media organization. He recently had a book published, Faith, Family, Film-A Teacher's Trek. Fred is a former local Republican Committee chairman and has attended hundreds of conventions from political to science fiction. He sees the two as compatible. Fred also tells us he values very much a title we gave him since he could not be a PolitiChick. PolitiDude.

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