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They Write Stories Too

May 31, 2005

Dear C.S. Lewis: If you were still with us in body, would it please you to know that the best minds of a generation have found a way to give a remarkably accurate picture of what Narnia might have looked like? Could you even imagine what CGIs could accomplish, turning the stuff of imagination into delicious eye-candy? Would it hearten you to learn that the man given the responsibility for turning Aslan’s visage into a true-to-life looking form is a believer in Jesus Christ and lives in Northern California? Well, you probably wouldn’t care about the No-Cal connection, but would the rest of it all inspire you and maybe bring a tear to your one good eye?

Or would you, as so many of the so-called “Builder” generation of writers have done, castigate Hollywood for turning the imagination of man into a static image…well, many images, but unchanging…for the sake of clarity and the celebration of special effects?

We don’t know what he would think, but I am not sure he would express awe and wonder. His generation grew up on the idea that the mind is a more vivid canvas than any painting, movie or other visual capture could ever be. He drew up his Chronicles of Narnia with two express purposes. First, to grab the heart and soul of man with enduring images. Once that was accomplished, he hoped to seamlessly slide in something else – like chocolate filling in a plain-looking glazed doughnut – the message of God’s enduring Love for his Creation. Rather than preaching, Lewis found a way to grab the picture-making part of our brains and use them to paint a charicature of such beauty and subtlety that we don’t know we have been preached to until long after the sermon’s echoes have faded.

Some would call this ‘sneaky’. I call it genuine art.

Lest we think that only Christians seek this avenue of propulgating their beliefs, atheists have been doing it just as long. Some have done it so successfully that we also do not realize how much we have had our faith challenged until the knife strikes the Artery of Faith and tries to sever it. Since atheists didn’t openly declare themselves until the last two and a half centuries, most of their work is found in the modern era. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Shelley, William Saroyan and others have crafted stories that attack the underlying concept of God.

I just finished reading a Science Fiction book that won the Hugo Award in 2003 for best novel. It is called “Hominids” by Robert Sawyer. The story is unique and it is for this reason alone it won the award. It is about a parallel universe where Neanderthals survived and homo sapiens sapiens did not. These two universes cross over and a Neanderthal (a modern one that understands physics and medicine and computers) comes into our world. I won’t spoil the story which is clever and contains some fascinating science (especially in the field of quantum theory), but it is the understory that I need to mention. The Neanderthal has several lengthy conversations with moderns about religion and the nature of God. It is amazing how this Neanderthal immediately knows all the subtleties of the classic atheist argument from the moment he hears about God. He also immediately sees the “dangers” of over-population, monogamy, heterosexuality, and living with both parents. His society has no war, no poverty, no real disease, and….no God or gods! There is no doubt left in the reader that the development of the idea of God is to blame for all of life’s ills.

The writing is not bad, but it is not exceptional. His dialogue is phony, and the plot is contrived and predictable. I tried to imagine how this won the Hugo Award (one of the hardest Novelist prizes to win). There are probably two reasons. First, the idea is one never before explored in a Science Fiction novel; and that is hard to do. Second, story ideas which attack everything about religion are now in vogue and are sure to receive critical acclaim.

Caveat Lector (reader beware).

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