Wednesday, January 29, 2020

From Things To Come into The Space Trilogy-Part Four

H.G. Wells reappears in That Hideous Strength (1945), the last volume of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, this time as a fictionalized character. Before getting to that, I should point out that the title of the book is from a couplet in Ane Dialog betuix Experience and ane Courteour, a poem from 1555 by the Scotsman Sir David Lyndsay:

     The shadow of that hyddeous strength,
     Sax myle and more it is of length.

This is obviously not the same David Lyndsay who wrote The Voyage to Arcturus, but it makes for a strange coincidence.

That Hideous Strength is the longest and I think the weakest of The Space Trilogy, this despite some good writing and exciting plotting. It reminds me of nothing so much as a James Bond thriller, complete with an organization of baddies known by their acronym. (1, 2) They are the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments, or N.I.C.E., and, like H.G. Wells, they subscribe to a creed of collectivism and Scientism. Here is a key quote from Chapter 2:
"But it is the main question at the moment: which side one's on--obscurantism or Order. It does really look as if we now had the power to dig ourselves in as a species for a pretty staggering period, to take control of our own destiny. If Science is really given a free hand it can now take over the human race and re-condition it: make man a really efficient animal. If it doesn't--well, we're done."
For the sake of context, obscurantism is a Marxist-Leninist pejorative, while Order, "control over our own destiny," Science, and the reconditioning of the human race are here given as the values and goals of the progressive-leftist-socialist-statist-collectivist-utopian program represented by N.I.C.E. (Boy, that list is getting longer and longer all the time.)

Then, Wells shows up in the person of Horace Jules, "a distinguished novelist and scientific popularizer" but only a figurehead in the N.I.C.E. organization:
"Jules! Hell's bells!" said Feverstone. "You don't really imagine that little mascot has anything to say to what really goes on? He's all right for selling the Institute to the great British public in the Sunday papers and he draws a whacking salary. He's no use for work. There's nothing inside his head except some nineteenth-century socialist stuff, and blah about the rights of man. He's just about got as far as Darwin!" (Chapter 2)
Ouch. By the way, Wells was seventy-eight years old when That Hideous Strength was published. He died the following year--almost exactly a year after George Orwell's review of the book appeared in the Manchester Evening News.

To be continued . . .

Notes
(1) I wonder if Ian Fleming (1908-1964) read That Hideous Strength sometime between its publication (1945) and that of his own first James Bond book, Casino Royale, in 1953. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was a decade older than Fleming but died less than a year before him. Lewis and Bond were born in the same month, November. The deaths of Wells and Fleming both happened in August. By the way, James Bond has an Indiana connection: he is supposed to resemble Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981), the Hoosier composer of "Star Dust" and hundreds of other tunes. Lewis died on Carmichael's birthday.
(2) Speaking of James Bond, he is now a woman, as I and others predicted. He's not really a woman, though, only kind of a woman. James Bond is still the same guy, but now 007 is a woman. See how clever that is? We can have our cake and eat it, too. Put another way, we can hold onto the man who brings other men into the movie theater, but we can also try to draw in women by emasculating him. The new 007--all 134 pounds of her--is no doubt capable of taking down men twice her size with her tiny fists and dainty feet. The fact that she's a twofer, almost a threefer, makes her only that much more attractive. (Although she was born in London, thus not an immigrant, her family came from Jamaica, which was, by the way, home to the original James Bond.) Look for this movie to tank at the box office when men stay away in droves. Or, as the saying goes, "Get woke, go broke."

Original text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

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