H. G. Wells Module Week 3: The First Men in the Moon (1901) Part II

* by Mr Andy Sawyer

C. S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (1938)

Minor Wellsian echoes:
* First reference to Ransom as "the Pedestrian": a distancing effect. We later come closer and know more about him.
* Devine and Weston representing Commerce and Science (Bedford and Cavor).
*Pseudoscience of the spacecraft: "we work by exploiting the less observed properties of solar radiation." (Ch 4)
* On each world gold is a common metal used in everyday life.
* The "pidgin-English" of Weston speaking to Oyarsa (see Cavor trying to speak to the Selenites).
* The effect of gravity on the hills, water and planet life of Mars. Sense of wonder as Ransom discovers the environment and inhabitants of Mars.

Weston's speech echoing the final scene of Things to Come. "to march on, step by step, superseding, where necessary, the lower forms of life that we find, claiming planet after planet, system after system, till our posterity -- whatever strange forms and yet unguessed mentality they have assumed -- dwell in the universe wherever the universe is habitable." (Ch 20)

Major Wellsian echoes:
* Response to Wells: Lewis's religious conservatism contrasts with Wells's concern with the future, with social evolution of humanity. Lewis's solar system based upon the medieval system of each world/sphere with its own tutelary spirits. Eldila/angels: see Postscript where explicit links to medieval philosophy are made.

References to Wells:
* (Following Weston and Devine's conversation about his fate): "He had read his H. G. Wells and others." (Ch 5)
* "He did not want to tell them too much of our human wars and industrialism. He remembered how H. G. Wells's Cavor had met his end on the Moon; also he felt shy." (Ch 11)

Weston as J. B. S. Haldane. "If any of my romances could be plausibly accused of being a libel on scientists it would be Out of the Silent Planet." An attack on "scientism": "the belief that the supreme moral end is the perpetuation of our own species." CSL sees this in Shaw's Back to Methusalah, Stapledon and Haldane's "Last Judgment" (in Possible Worlds, 1927). See Haldane: inhabitants of humanity are now on Venus: "Among ourselves an individual may not consider his own interests a dozen times in his life." (p. 303) "The evolution of the individual has been brought under complete social control ... So rapid was our evolution that the crew of the last projectile to reach Venus were incapable of fertile unions with our inhabitants, and they were therefore used for experimental purposes." (p. 304-5)

Wells also caricatured as Horace Jules, the journalist in That Hideous Strength who fronts the N.I.C.E. (National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments): Jules was a distinguished novelist and scientific populariser whose name always appeared before the public in connection with the new Institute." (Ch 2): He became famous as a novelist. His self-importance, short stature, cockney accent and education ("any science he knew was that taught him at the University of London over fifty years ago") are all mocked. (Ch 14)

Also in That Hideous Strength (1945):
The disembodied Head which is the focus of evil: see Wells's image of future humanity in "The Man of the Year Million" and elsewhere.

Mark's attention being drawn to the Moon by Filostrato in Ch 8: its "cleanness" and "purity", inhabited by a race which has "broken free (almost) from the organic ... they can keep [their intelligence] aritficially alive after the organic body has been dispensed with -- a miracle of applied biochemistry."

Frost to Mark (Ch 12): The Apocalypse described in deterministic, pseudo-scientific language. With the help of the "macrobes", "The masses are therefore to disappear. The body is to become all head. The human race is to become all Technocracy."

"On Science Fiction" (1955) -- cites The First Men in the Moon as an example of "speculative" rather than technical ("Engineers' Stories") science fiction. We are interested in the lunar landscape, not how Bedford and Cavor get to the moon. Also as character in sf. "Wells's Cavor and Bedford have rather too much than too little character ... To tell how odd things struck odd people is to have an oddity too much."

Lewis's essentially religious viewpoint. Space as Heaven. Compare Lewis (Ch 4) and Wells on space. The tinkling of the meteorites on one level ignorance of science, on another an image of the Music of the Spheres.

See "On Science Fiction" and "Unreal Estates" in C. S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. "Unreal Estates" also appears as "The Establishment Must Die and Rot" in SF Horizons (Spring 1964).

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