SCMLA: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature

In live blogging this conference, I am following the conventions for conference blogging.

Chair: Bonnie Noonan at Xavier University
Secretary: Joe R. Christopher, professor emeritus, Tarleton State University


Joe R. Christopher (retired) from Tarleton State University
“JRR Tolkien’s Literary Influence on Narnia”

Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens of the Imagination of C.S. Lewis
casual dismissal of Christopher’s (speaker’s) Tolkien’s influence on Narnia

Lewis’ indebtedness

Tolkien told Lansling Green “Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe just won’t do”

parallel situation: When Lewis wrote his Ransom trilogy, Tolkien pointed out some borrowings in a series of letters. Suggests that several names are from his own unpublished works. Lewis’ references to Tolkien’s character in This Hideous Strength–Tolkien says it was plagiarism.

“Lewis was a very impressionable man…” Tolkien is regretting that Lewis was borrowing from Williams.

Ward was discussing works that influenced the structure of Narnia.
Christopher said “internal chronology” was probably indebted to Tolkien.
Also influence of Nesbitt in plot patterns.
Tolkien influenced Narnian cosmos (is speaker’s point).
Hutter said Narnia is a biblical parallel.

Tolkien’s structure: (not reading proper reading order)
ch. 8 Narnian creation story The Magician’s Nephew
singing is creating the world
from book of Job “when the morning stars sang together”

The tuneful Voice was heard from high,
Arise ye more than dead.
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And MUSICK’s pow’r obey.
From Harmony, from heav’nly Harmony
This universal Frame began;
From Harmony to Harmony
Through all the compass of the Notes it ran,
The Diapason closing full in Man. (“St. Cecilia’s Day” by John Dryden)

Ainur made first.

Spoke to them of themes of music.

It came to pass that he called together and unfolded a mighty theme. The ainur sing together. The creator brings them to see the model of their song, a flat-world universe.

In Tolkien ainur = middle earth cosmos.
In Narnia creation account is from singing.

Is there something unique matching Tolkien in Lewis?
In the creation, Uncle Andrew is “two half sovereigns, two half crowns, and a sixpence” fell from his pocket. The larger pieces created gold and silver tree. Similar to Tolkien’s angelic figures’ tree, caused to grow by her song in a limited recapitulation of her song.

Tolkien is creating a myth and Lewis is writing a children’s story. The trees are both destroyed. Lewis is punning on the names of the coins (sovereigns and crowns) since the trees are smithied into crowns.

Tolkien’s Silmarrillion becomes an adventure. Lewis’ works are a series of adventures.

Killing of Aslan and return to life is a retelling of Jesus. Why does he think he can get away with this retelling?

Could the story be both Jesus and Gandalf (death and resurrection)? Tolkien’s work was not yet published when Lewis’ Narnia story is published.

Gandalf the Great was sent back by a spiritual entity.

Geographic references are very similar.
African and places (such as those with elephants, Two Towers)
Lewis echoes something in Tolkien’s geography
Lewis sent the ship east in Prince Caspian, so he didn’t have to follow actual

Prince Caspian has trees coming to war. (Shakespeare uses it in Macbeth about a medieval poem that gives a discussion of the battle of the trees: Cad Goddeu or The Battle of the Trees.)
Tolkien uses the word for giants, applying them to trees.
Lewis calls the trees by the classical discussion: wood goddesses and wood gods. When they march they are birch girls, etc. accompanied by Bacchus.
In the Silmarillion, voyages go west (as in England), not east.
The end of the world and Aslan’s country are beyond the island of the star, just as Tolkien’s spiritual realm is beyond the western star.

Narnian part begins on top of tall mountain and ends there, the mountain of Aslan.
Tolkien’s cosmos, when it was flat, had the highest mountain west and the folks looked over the world there. Tolkien’s mountain has ice and snow.

Giants live in north in Lewis.
Tolkien mentions stone mountain giants in north.

1st group in Narnia throw rocks as a game.
In Hobbit throw rocks as a game.

Both use “land of giants.”
Gnome = dwarves
The Silver Chair uses classical view of gnomes, miners.
Tolkien uses the mining gnomes.
Narnia: “dragon-like salamanders swimming” like Tolkien: innocent barnards (?)

Second Prophecy of Nandis similarity (from Tolkien)

4 references to “day of death” in Lord of the Rings, evil will be cleared in “the last battle”
Narnia has the Last Battle.

Most of references are not conclusive individually, but taken together there is an impression of Tolkien.

Bonnie Noonan says she is convinced. (I was less convinced.)


Mark Hall at Oral Roberts University
“‘Carrying the Fire’: Images of Light and Darkness in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
co-editing a work on science and science fiction

Most in the room had already read the book. Many had seen the movie.

Paper prepared for those who had not read the work prior. (Full disclosure: I have not read the book.)

The tale is set in a post-apocalyptic world, bleak, barren, few humans remaining.
There is little punctuation (doesn’t like semi-colons, he told Oprah).
Only done three interviews in life and only one television interview with Oprah.
few contractions
unnamed main characters: boy and his father

disturbing and unforgettable tale as folks struggle to survive

carrying the fire is a central motif in the novel
The Road is essentially a spiritual journey.

first gray light
gunmetal gray light
swirling ash
dead trees

Father and boy
Father realizes he has one sacred responsibility.

“He knew only that the child was his warrant. If the child is not … God, then…” never God.

“You wanted to know what the bad guys look like. Now you know. … I will kill anyone who touches you. I have been appointed by God…”

“Are we still the good guys?”
“Yes, and we always will be.”

Father talks to God. Whispers. “Are you there? … Have you a neck to throttle?”

Father is sick the entire journey. He is trying to do everything for his son to prepare his son.
When they meet an old man Eli (who says it’s not his name later), he marvels at the boy.
(Similar to The Book of Eli.)

“When I saw that boy, I thought that I had died… I never thought to see a child again… What if I said he is a god? … Where men can’t live, there is no god. … To be on the road with the last god would be a terrible thing. … There is no god and we are his prophets.”

Boy realizes the future is in his hands.

“Yes, I am (the one who has to worry about everything). Yes, I am. I am the one.” (Reminds you of The Matrix.)
Boy seems to exhibit a messianic consciousness.

Observe all kinds of human depravity, especially cannibalism.
So vivid on the imagery. It is quite shocking.
See people holed up in a basement, being kept there as food for other humans.

Man struck by lightning.
Boy wants to help, but Father doesn’t.

A discussion about how to kill themselves and if the father would ever kill the boy.

Both father and son near starvation.
But the boy continues to want to help others.

“carrying the fire”
1. security for boy
2. hope to find another family
3. deathbed of father, encouraging son to go forward
4. son questions a new-found family’s beneficence

Cannibalism must be abjured.

“We wouldn’t ever eat anybody, would we?”
Not even if we were starving?
Because we are the good guys?
And we are carrying the fire?

The man and the boy reach the beach, would they ever see a ship again?

“What’s on the other side?”
“Maybe there’s a boy and his father and they are sitting on the beach. They could be carrying the fire, too.”
“But we don’t know so we have to be vigilant.”

Where is the fire? I don’t know where it is!
Yes, you do. I can see it. It is inside you.

Father confirms that son is the good guy.
“You’re the best guy. You always were. The best guys carry the fire.”

Carrying the fire: What does this mean? Some options include:
1. carrying seeds of civilization
2. intentions towards others
3. civility as honorable behavior
4. hope for the future

Hall does think McCarthy tells us what he means by carrying the fire.
As father faces impending death, he gives his final words to his boy.

“Do you remember that little boy? … Do you think that he’s all right? … Do you think that he was lost?”
I don’t think he was lost.
I think he was lost.
No, he’s all right.
But who will find the little boy if he is lost?
“Goodness will find the little boy. It always has.”

This revelation of the father to this little boy gives credence and meaning to the hopeful conclusion of this little boy. Goodness will find the little boy and give him a future.
Carrying = goodness motivated by human decency

People of the fire don’t eat other people.
They reach out to others, even when they are dangerous.

Boy stayed with his father for three days, after his dad dies.
arises out of the ashes of his father’s death
looks down the road

Meets a benevolent family who are willing to take him in.

“How do I know you are one of the good guys?”
“You don’t…”
“Are you carrying the fire?”
“Yes. We are.”
“Do you have any kids? We do.”
“Do you have a little boy?… You didn’t eat them?… And I can go with you?”
“Yes, you can.”
“Okay then. Okay.”

Bleak and terrible book and a hopeful ending.
Kennedy says: “The father was right about goodness. It arrives on cue as a deus ex machina that has been following …”
“redemption of the father and his child… holy”
“will bring goodness to the next generation”

The woman put her arms around him when she saw him.
She talked to him about God.
He didn’t talk to God, but he did talk to his father.
The woman said that was all right.

“He walked back to the woods beside his father. He was wrapped in a blanket as the man had promised. … I’ll talk to you everyday and I won’t forget no matter what. … Then he rose and turned and walked back out to the road.”
(end of book)


Jonathan Himes at John Brown University
“On Lewis’ The Dark Tower

produced the critical edition of The Old English Epic of Waldere

CS Lewis’ work less familiar to those than Tolkien.
The question of whetehr Lewis wrote The Dark Tower is a posthumous discussion. It was not published until 1977.
Men use chronoscope to see across universes.
Handwriting is indistinguishable from Lewis’, so it is not fake.
One may conclude that he worked on it in stages. Lack of polish and crudity is reasonable, because it was a draft and abandoned.
Himes said he was trying to write an allegory against sexual addiction.
Abortive attempt by Lewis to portray deviant and self-centered sexuality.

Notorious episodes of “stinging man” or “unicorn lord.”
Butting his head into the minds of victims.
McFee character (from That Hideous Strength, statements from both are the same) plays a major role and assists Lewis afterward in narrating them.
Scudamore is the assistant to the chronoscope’s views. He sees a double in another dimension and gradually grows a sting of his own. He has a headache in sympathy while waiting for his fiancee. The double of S- sees the double of his fiancee (admirable, old fashioned double), who tells what happened. They grew up together until he went to become a stinging man/unicorn lord.
People could either become a stinging man OR a minion.

The stinging man looks through his chronoscope at the Cambridge man.
Watches Lewis, Ransome, and McFee “while stroking his forehead’s appendage” for ten minutes
“They’ve got one of our buildings and hundreds of our people… It’s all mixed up with us somehow.”

Ransome: “contains these replicas… there may be any number of others”
McFee: “It’s long odds against particles … in the same body… got the boy and the girl…”

Lines of dialogue explains how they can find themselves in another universe.

Sting used to produce more replicas, while observing, and creating minions.

Lewis says the many-bodied idol can’t be described without endangering others…
Idol matches with the unicorn’s stinger
Scudamore finds that human brains are powered by chronoscopes in their alternate/evil universe.
Exchange twisted minds with happy, normal people.
Decent earth folk have their psyches erased while the evil folks have taken their place on our earth.

Near the end of the fragment McFee and Ransome realize that it is another time and it is coming closer to us. Eventually they won’t need a chronoscope to corrupt our world.

“deviant solitary” = masturbation

Lewis’ interpretation might be “just say no to sex.”
Spenser and others say Christian chastity is beautiful married sex. Not the absence of sex.

Lewis’ conservative view of normative sex: “full of goodwill, not forgetful of God… embraces…” and then next time may regard the person as a thing, a way to get a feeling

Radcliffe equates stingings with sex warned against.
BUT private sexual fantasy uses the other person as a sexual object without the other person’s permission, thus breaking their relationship in the masturbator’s psyche.
The stinging man is at the mercy of his own horn, but it grows wearisome and doesn’t want it.

Radcliffe believes Scudamore may castrate himself “handing over their stings”
BUT Lewis’ presentation introduces the option of sacrificial release
Stings are objectification, but

Warning against dangers of totalitarianism and sexual addiction.
Both have in common treating other people as objects.
In Dark Tower the semi-obscene literature is too crude to discuss totalitarianism and sexual addiction.
Scholars in Cambridge are watching Scudamore play with his sting.
Male or female victims– Their sex is immaterial to the unicorn man. “I am your son and your daughter,” says one of the drones/jerkies/minions.
Scholar is older and a bore. He sees the alternate universe as art. He isn’t shocked or titillated anymore by watching the unicorn man.

Thomas Hubbard’s Homosexuality in Greece and Rome
Plato has Socrates refer to their life as “much to be pitied”
Homosexual promiscuity and heterosexual XXX were similar.
Hubbard adopts word “pervert.”
Stoic philosophy was profoundly against any sexuality against nature.
refers to Romans

Lewis was well-read in these texts.
His ideas were influenced by the texts.
Long term vices, indulged without restraint, are worse.
If Christianity is true, an individual is very important because his vices are stronger, more, and thus become hell. (So a pederast becomes even more pederastic. How would that happen in Hell?)

Adjectives applied to The Dark Tower by Bonnie Noonan:


For Himes, some answered by Christopher and some by Himes.

Dark Tower was abandoned earlier in Lewis’ life? Yes.
Surpised by Joy was written in 1944. Is it the fact that he is getting married that causes him to abandon him?
He re-wrote the bulk of the Dark Tower in This Hideous Strength.

There are corrections on the Dark Tower in blue ink and the blue ink didn’t come into existence until after 1944. It came in later. So if Lewis’ work, he definitely worked on it two different times.

Alistair Fowler was shown a typed version when he was working under Lewis. We don’t know what that looked like, but it was in existence.

Dark Tower is poorly written. A bad rough draft.
Lewis normally wrote good first drafts.

Christopher thinks that Lewis wrote something like this. But Dark Tower was probably changed/padded by Hooper. (Had the tumult of his editing died down in the US? Hooper asked recently. Supposedly Lewis’ work was burned and Hooper took it out. The man who supposedly burnt the papers said he doesn’t remember any fire.)

Fowler said he doesn’t remember the white riders at the back, but they aren’t as interesting as the things in the first part, so he might not remember. (In letter to Christopher.)

Was Lewis reacting to any kind of Freudian psychology?
Yes. Says Scudamore has read his Freud.
Narrator admits this could be read in a freudian way.
Narrator says they would have been appalled to see this depravity in a back alley too.

Idea of depravity of man and yet the books are hopeful. Lewis is making a moment of critique. McCarthy is offering a possibility of hope.

For Hall
No Country for Old Men the sheriff has a dream where his father is carrying the fire.
Is there some kind of arc on carrying the fire in all three novels? Is there a McCarthy reaction against modernism and postmodernism in this?

Answer: I almost put that in. Do you think it has the same meaning as it does in this book?
Response: Maybe not a meaning, but insistence upon a functioning moral order.
Answer: He is interested in something that is worth carrying on in humanity.

For Christopher
Mentioned the story of resurrection in cannonical gospels, curious of how Lewis would have viewed that and how it might have shaped his thinking.

Answer: Lewis makes negative comments on the whole de-mythologized thing.
Hall says: Myth “dying god who without ceasing to be myth comes down from heaven to earth. … This myth is fact. It actually happened.”
Lewis saw myth and fact coming together in birth and resurrection.
Myth is fact.
Christopher: That is what Tolkien was arguing. B/c Lewis responded to myths where gods were reborn and Tolkien says “the Christian story is a myth and a fact.”
Lewis later stated that the resurrection myths were earlier prefigurings of Jesus. (responding to The Golden Bough.) They are marvelous myths and one time myth became fact.
Hall: Baldar the Beautiful is dead. That is one thing that attracted him to Christianity.

For Christopher
Are you advocating creative plagiarism?
So Lewis was plagiarizing from Tolkien?
Christopher: Yes, Tolkien would have thought it was plagiarism.
Tolkien children had the books. But Tolkien must not have read them, because he would have been writing to Lewis or others complaining of Lewis’ use of his work. Lewis was a magpie. At the end, Tolkien decided that no one should borrow or have ideas from others and so he denied all the influences on his own work.

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