Smuggling Theology into Fiction

I like what Lewis wrote to Sister Penelope on August 9, 1939. She wrote to him about Out of the Silent Planet, the first of three space novels that came out in 1938. The other two were published in 1943 and 1945, respectively. Lewis says that a student that really believed in humanity going to whatever lengths necessary – including outer space habitation – to progress or ascend from our common lives, you might say. 

Lewis says, “What set me about writing the book was the discovery that a pupil of mine took all that dream of interplanetary colonisation quite seriously, and the realisation that thousands of people, in one form or another depend on some hope of perpetuating and improving the human species for the whole meaning of the universe — that a “scientific” hope of defeating death is a real rival to Christianity.”

Because 1938 came with the realities of another impending world war, he says that this thought of improvement rather “damped them.” And, unlike some commentary that may come out of the church even today about events, Lews suggests that this, “shows that whatever evil Satan sets on foot God will always do some good or other by it.” Yes, indeed. Selective providence is no providence at all. 

And this is Lewis’s point regarding the Space Trilogy and his other fictional work, that people are shaped by what they read (and nowadays, what they watch), and Christians are in a position to share the Truth. “But if only there were someone with a richer talent and more leisure,” Lewis says, “I believe this great ignorance [about Satan and evil here specifically] might be a help to the evangelization of England: any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance without their knowing it.”

He ends his letter referring Sister Penelope to read George Macdonald. “Phantastes & Lilith I found endlessly attractive,” he says, “and full of what I felt to be holiness before I really knew that it was.” He also suggests Charles Williams – “rather wild, but full of love and excelling in the creation of convincing good characters.”