Session #27: June 9th, 2010

Soviet stamp, part of a 1967 series depicting ...
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First of all, a very big thank you to all of you who attended today. I know some members have suffered personal bereavements, and for that reason some were unable to attend today. My thoughts go to them.

Today, we read almost all of chapter 1 of C.S. Lewis‘ science-fiction story Out of the Silent Planet. It is a more challenging story than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is aimed at adults. However, I hope for these reasons it will also prove to be a more satisfying read.

The homework is to finish reading chapter 1, and also read chapters 2 and 3 before the next session, June 23rd. I would prefer not to spend much time actually reading the text in future sessions, and instead to spend more time talking about questions that you have and discussing the themes of the story.  The questions and difficulties that you have about the text always surprise me. That is one reason I enjoy our sessions together.

Feel free to write comments here about chapter 1-3 even before next session.

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Session #28: June 23rd, 2010

This is the cover to the January 1953 issue of...
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We had a good turnout today, despite the heavy rain in the morning. A big thank-you to all of you who attended today.

First, we discussed about the definition of science fiction, and the difference between science fiction and fantasy. We also talked about Lewis’ own ideas on science fiction. You can read more about his ideas in the essay “On Science Fiction” in “Of Other Worlds“. (I also recommend the first essay, “On Stories”.)

Then we discussed chapters 1-3.

  1. What do we learn about Ransom’s character?
  2. What do we learn about Devine and Weston?
  3. What is “social Darwinism“?
  4. What does Weston think of Harry and why?
  5. Why does Ransom ignore Weston’s “barefaced lie”?
  6. Why does C.S. Lewis put Ransom out in space?

The next session will be July 14th, and that will be our last session before the summer. There will be no sessions in August. We will meet again in September.

Finally, here’s C.S.  Lewis writing about fairy tales, but I think what he says is also relevant to science fiction ( I posted this earlier, too):

“It goes beyond the expression of things we have already felt. It arouses in us sensations we have never had before, never anticipated having, as though we had broken out of our normal mode of consciousness and “possessed joys not promised to our birth.”  It gets under our skin, hits us at a level deeper than our thoughts or even our passions, troubles oldest certainties till all questions are reopened, and in general shocks us more fully awake that we are for most of our lives.”

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Session #27: June 9th, 2010

Cover of "Space Trilogy"
Cover of Space Trilogy

In this session we will start to read the first book of C.S. Lewisscience fiction trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet. I shall bring photocopies of the first chapter, just in case. The Japanese translation is titled   沈黙の惑星を離れて―マラカンドラ 火星編 (別世界物語.

I am now reading a biography of C.S. Lewis. Lewis was an Oxford professor, later also a professor at Cambridge. He was not known outside of university until he wrote a book called The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (translated into Japanese as 愛とアレゴリー―ヨーロッパ中世文学の伝統 (1972年) (筑摩叢書).  (There are two copies in the Tezukayama University library: one in Higashi Ikoma, the other in the Gakuenmae campus library.) This book had a big influence on C.S. Lewis’ science fiction story. How odd! What on earth can be the connection between science fiction and medieval literature? Perhaps we can explore this a little after reading the story.

Meanwhile, here are a few sentences from the autobiography:

When Lewis began to write fiction, much of the inspiration was set moving by the academic studies on which he was engaged or which were still fresh in his mind. Perelandra [(#2 in the Space Trilogy, in Japanese 沈黙の惑星を離れて―マラカンドラ 火星編 (別世界物語)] was obviously the result of his concentration on Paradise Lost [Preface to Paradise Lost
]between 1939 and 1942 [in Japanese  『失楽園』序説]; the spark that set Out of the Silent Planet [in Japanese  沈黙の惑星を離れて―マラカンドラ 火星編 (別世界物語)] on its course… we know to have been due in part to the ‘joint project’ conceived with J.R.R. Tolkien… But another clue is to be found in The Allegory of Love, published in 1936 and followed by a second edition ‘with corrections’ in 1938, the year in which “Out of the Silent Planet” was published.

Tezukayama University library has several books by C.S. Lewis in English and in Japanese. Check it out here (just type “C.S. Lewis” into the search box).

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