August CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1: Past

Have you ever tuned into one of your favorite television or radio shows, expecting fresh content, only to discover that they’re playing a re-run or a “best of” episode? You may feel let down, or you may be delighted to encounter an old favorite or catch up with a classic show that you missed somewhere along the way.

Fred's Choice

That’s kind of what happened with this month’s Tour. We lost our planned review book for August, so this is now “Favorites” month, with everybody blogging on something in the world of Christian spec-fic that’s particularly stirred their interest, past, present, or future. We may see some old reviews recycled, we may get the latest scoop on the next big thing, but probably the most interesting part of this exercise is that we’ll gain a little insight on the tastes and passions of the various Tour members, which I think is pretty cool. Kind of like going to a restaurant and ordering the “chef’s choice.” Mmm…tasty.

Being a “got to have it all” kind of guy, I’m going to talk about past, present, and future during the next three days, focusing specifically on Christian science fiction, which is an odd literary bird. The Christian community often has an uneasy relationship with both science and speculations about the future. We see a fair bit of science fiction written by Christian authors (Cordwainer Smith, for example), but not a lot of unambigously Christian sci-fi.

Onward…to the past!

C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra is my favorite Christian science fiction novel. It’s the second book in his celebrated Space Trilogy, which chronicles the adventures of British philologist (language expert) Edwin Ransom as he travels between Earth, Mars, and Venus and discovers his fate is inextricably connected with events both physical and spiritual on all three worlds.

In Perelandra, Ransom is transported to Venus, “Perelandra,” a world of vast oceans and floating islands. There he meets Tinidril, a beautiful woman, human in all respects other than her green skin, who is both piercingly intelligent and oddly naive. And naked. Fair warning, everybody in this story is naked, but it’s just a matter-of-fact thing. She resides on one of the floating islands, having been instructed by the spiritual ruler of her world to await her husband there, and under no circumstances to spend the night on the continent, the “fixed land.” Ransom soon discovers he’s not the only visitor. Professor Weston, an evil scientist who shanghaied Ransom onto a spacecraft to Mars in the trilogy’s first book, Out of the Silent Planet, lands on Perelandra. He assures Ransom that he’s learned from his mistakes and reformed, but he seems focused on convincing Tinidril to disobey the one restriction on her idyllic life. As Ransom attempts to counter Weston’s arguments, it becomes clear that Weston is the puppet of a supernatural force that dwarfs Ransom in both strength and intellect, yet Ransom must somehow prevail if he is to rescue Tinidril and her infant world from the enslavement to evil that has already befallen Earth.

Not so much.

Okay, this sounds more like fantasy than science fiction. We know that there are no oceans or life of any sort comprehensible to us on Venus. In 1943, when the book was written, what lay beneath the clouds of Venus was still a mystery, and many writers thought it might be a water world. This story continues the theme of travel between planets and speculations on the nature of what life might exist elsewhere in the solar system, how it got there, and what its ultimate purpose might be, begun in the trilogy’s first book and continuing into the third book, That Hideous Strength. In Perelandra, Lewis combines the wondering about other worlds with a very interesting question that is firmly in the realm of Christian speculation: If there is intelligent life on other worlds, how might God’s plan for them be similar or different than in our experience? Lewis posits a world whose Adam and Eve have not fallen from grace, then brings a member of our own fallen race into their story as an ally in their first encounter with temptation. In the best tradition of science fiction, this speculative twist on the familiar can be both thought-provoking and illuminating. Some may find the idea of a race of beings beyond Earth, whose redemption is carried out in a very different fashion than our own, scandalous.

I thought it was some kind of awesome when I read it for the first time as a high school kid, and the scientific anachronisms didn’t bother me a bit. The last couple of chapters are very powerful, stirring thoughts of what could have been and what might be.

If you’ve not read the book, you should. It stands alone quite well, though you may want to read Out of the Silent Planet first to get the larger context of the story.

If you have read it, tell me what you thought of it.

And don’t forget to sample the delicious fare at the other stops on our “chef’s choice” CSFF Blog Tour:

Brandon Barr
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
George Duncan
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Mike Lynch
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Jason Waguespac
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

Oh, one more thing–voting continues through the end of August for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction. It’s a reader’s choice award, so you’re on your honor to have read at least two of the nominated books to be eligible to vote. My own novel, The Muse, is among the nominees. If you’ve read it and feel it’s worthy, you have my permission to vote for it. If you haven’t read it and are willing to post a review somewhere after reading it, let me know, and I’ll hook you up with an electronic review copy.

Clive Staples Award voting information
Clive Staples List of Nominations

9 thoughts on “August CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1: Past

  1. Ah, another tour, another plethora of thoughtful posts from Fred! (You’ll see why I chose “plethora” if you visit my Monday post).

    I haven’t read Lewis’ Space Trilogy yet, but this certainly whets my appetite. Too many good books out there. I’m with you – I am excited to see where this one goes.

    BTW – where do you get all your train banners. I’m amazed each month.


    1. Well, I don’t know about a plethora of thoughtful posts, but if I can get at least two of the three reasonably coherent, I’ll be happy. 🙂

      I find the train banners via a lot of google image searching, and I usually try to narrow it to some general theme for the month (happened to be circus trains this time). The hardest part is finding a long shot that has the correct proportions for the banner without forcing me to crop off important parts of the image.

    1. It’s been way too long since I read it. It always makes me wonder how things might have turned out differently if Eve had a little extra help from someone who’d been around the block with temptation a few times. She wouldn’t have needed an English professor–any Army Ranger would have known exactly what to do with that snake.

  2. Love, love, love the Space Trilogy! I need to read that again soon. Never gets old. I actually considered posting about it, too, but I am going in a different direction.

  3. It’s been years since I read Perelandra, but I thought it was profound, and powerful, and tremendously frightening. It made see face the reality of our fall from grace in a way I hadn’t before. And actually, I’ve never read That Hideous Strength. I didn’t have a copy on hand when I read the first two, and I’ve just never gotten to it. Should remedy that.

    Thanks for your comment–I only recently learned that you had a book out! I look forward to reading it (when I get a chance–hopefully it will not suffer the prolonged state of That Hideous Strength). The concept of it is really fun; I’d actually considered writing a short story with the same idea a while ago.

  4. I thought about doing the space trilogy for my posts. It fits so neatly into three days. But I knew someone else would pick it. I’m not a fan of science fiction but when I was browsing at a book store, I came across Lewis’s SF trilogy. It’s Lewis, so I knew the writing would be first rate and the cover was funky for Out of the Silent Planet and it wasn’t very long. After blazing through the first book, I had to read the rest of the trilogy. Perelandra is my favorite. His descriptions of the world of Venus are awe-inspiring. If writers want to know how to create a sense of place or what the gold standard is, they should read Perelandra.

    1. I thought about just marching through the Space Trilogy too, but I didn’t want to talk about fantasy, and That Hideous Strength feels more like fantasy than sci fi to me, though there’s a little mad science mingled in with it. The change in protagonist, plus suddenly bringing Arthurian legend into the mix, clashes with the other two stories for me, even though it ties everything up at the end.

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