Aldiss's Hothouse, Tolkien, C. S. Lewis

Extollager

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I haven't yet read Aldiss's novel, but I have just learned that Aldiss gave C. S. Lewis a copy. Lewis bought a copy to give to Tolkien. Tolkien sent Aldiss two letters to praise the book. Does Lewis and Tolkien relishing Hothouse make sense to anyone who's read the novel and works by CSL and Tolkien?
200px-Hothouse%28Aldiss%29.jpg
hothouse-long-afternoon-earth-brian-wilson-aldiss-paperback-cover-art.jpg

Btw my understanding is that the American version was called The Long Afternoon of Earth and that it was shorter than Hothouse.
brian-aldiss-the-long-afternoon-of-earth.jpg
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My source was a notice in the new issue of the Tolkien Society's monthly magazine Amon Hen, which was reporting something from Aldiss's 2012 book An Exile on Planet Earth.
 

dask

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I read the Signet edition in the lower right a long time ago. I enjoyed it immensely though some thought the spider thing was a little too much. Never felt the need to read the more complete version (maybe it was cut some too), the short being satisfying enough. I don't remember too much about it but am not surprised the likes of Tolkien and Lewis were impressed.
 

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I'm not that surprised, as it reads like a far future grand fantasy, rather than SF as we more usually come across it. Aldiss also has many of his characters and creatures named in a whimsical childlike way, often at odds with the tone of the book and the part they play. There are "Tummy-Belly men", for instance! I see some parallels here with Tolkein's childlike Tom Bombadil and other characters. I think such childlike fantasy can bring a richness and depth to a story, and perhaps this is why Tolkein and Lewis liked it?

Incidentally, the episode with the tummy-belly men was one that his publishers tried to remove, but Aldiss insisted they stayed in, because he liked them. Perhaps the US version is shorter because the US publishers did manage to trim this section? I'm only guessing.
 

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Worth reading. Dripperlips, SpeedSeeds, the Morel Fungus, singing volcano, trappersnappers, stiltwilts... and I haven't read it for years. The spiders are the giant vegetables.. called.. uhm. Traversers. Right, good one , Brian. )
 

j d worthington

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No, it wasn't the "Tummy-belly Men" that got axed... those sections are still very much a part of The Long Afternoon of Earth. I've not yet read Hothouse -- the American edition, that is; I don't know if there are differences between the American and British editions, though my understanding is that this edition is much closer to the original series, which won the Hugo award.
 

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Aldiss himself has written about the publishing ups and downs of Hothouse, but I can't remember where... it must've been an edition of the novel. Which is a great novel, btw...
 

BAYLOR

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Ive read 3 novels by him Non Stop, The Malacia Tapestry and Dracula UnBound. Superb stuff. (y)
 

Zendexor

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I haven't yet read Aldiss's novel, but I have just learned that Aldiss gave C. S. Lewis a copy. Lewis bought a copy to give to Tolkien. Tolkien sent Aldiss two letters to praise the book. Does Lewis and Tolkien relishing Hothouse make sense to anyone who's read the novel and works by CSL and Tolkien?
200px-Hothouse%28Aldiss%29.jpg
hothouse-long-afternoon-earth-brian-wilson-aldiss-paperback-cover-art.jpg

Btw my understanding is that the American version was called The Long Afternoon of Earth and that it was shorter than Hothouse.
brian-aldiss-the-long-afternoon-of-earth.jpg
4650446980_3074ab5354.jpg

My source was a notice in the new issue of the Tolkien Society's monthly magazine Amon Hen, which was reporting something from Aldiss's 2012 book An Exile on Planet Earth.
I'm interested to hear CSL liked it. I am more surprised that Tolkien liked it - his reading tastes were much more limited! Mind you, I didn't go much for Hothouse when I first tried it, decades ago; I think I got to page 72, judging from where the bookmark still lay when I picked it up again last week. And now I'm enjoying it. Stories set in a world of eternal day tend to be "just one damn thing after another", a bit overpoweringly formless, like Burroughs' "Pellucidar" series. But the way round that is to appreciate the detail, wallow in it. I am now wallowing.
 

Ray McCarthy

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Does Lewis and Tolkien relishing Hothouse make sense to anyone who's read the novel and works by CSL and Tolkien?
Sort of.
My memory is weak on this as I read it in late 1960s, I don't have a copy so I looked up
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hothouse_(novel)

I do know I liked it and found many other Aldiss books disappointing. I've been meaning this last 25 years to get a replacement copy. I think maybe Aldiss best from my point of view. A lot of them are tedious.

I have read I think all Lewis's fiction (starting maybe 1965), some of his Apologetics and some other Work. I've read LOTR (about 1968 1st, many times since), Hobbit, Silmarilion.

Both Tolkien and Lewis certainly read stuff unlike what they wrote.
Lewis liked The Worm Ouroboros https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Worm_Ouroboros and some Victorian fantasy that Tolkien didn't like (I forget if McDonald or Lord Dunsany). No idea if Tolkien read Ouroboros.

So I have no difficulty in Lewis liking it (much SF he thought stupid and shallow, he'd not have said that without reading the stuff, which is why someone challenged him to write SF, resulting in the Planetary Trilogy, though the Earth based one That Hideous Strength is best, very "dystopian near future" style and better characters).
Did JRR T really like it? That surprises me a little.

It's disappointing that Lewis and JRR T didn't write more fiction :(
 

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I went to a library some while ago and spotted Hothouse on a trolley waiting to be reshelved in the kiddies section. The librarian, who had only a vague idea what the book was about, felt it belonged with Spot the Dog and suchlike as she had heard the characters in Hothouse were tiny and cute and had adventures in a magic forest. I suggested she read the book herself, but she wasn't interested. Somewhere in Surrey there are a bunch of toddlers struggling to come to terms with nudity, sex, violent death and giant spiders. Aldiss is one of those authors who blows hot and cold, but Hothouse is first class.
 

Extollager

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Here's what I ended up writing for the New York C. S. Lewis Society on this novel:


Jack and the Bookshelf #21

Brian Aldiss’s Hothouse


by Dale Nelson


Looking back at this novel, Aldiss remembered being “adrift in Oxford in the 1960s” and getting to know C. S. Lewis. Faber and Faber published Hothouse in 1962 and Aldiss gave Lewis a copy. Aldiss reports that Lewis liked it so much that he bought a copy for J. R. R. Tolkien, who sent Aldiss an appreciative letter after he read it, and a second letter after he reread it, in which he said he enjoyed his second reading even more than the first.

Not troubling himself with scientific plausibility, Aldiss imagines a remote future in which earth has stopped rotating, presenting always the same side to the sun. Beneath perpetual sunshine, a banyan tree has spread until it covers almost the entire extent of land, so far as we see can tell in the early pages. The tree’s mid-level is inhabited by diminutive descendants of humanity who struggle for survival against mutated and often sentient plants that are capable of motion. The sun is the “indifferent begetter of all this carnage.” Vast spider-like creatures have connected the earth to the moon and traverse a vast bridge of webs. This hothouse world possesses strange beauty and horror.

Originally published as a sequence of stories in 1961 issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the novel includes a journey to the terminator, where blazing day gives way to a region in which only the peaks of mountains still receive light from the sun, low on the horizon. Along the way, Gren, Poyly, and Yattmur encounter bizarre or even ludicrous creatures, including a telepathic morel that attaches itself to Gren and compels his obedience. Poyly does not survive, but the other female effects Gren’s deliverance from the morel. At one point, Aldiss ensures that readers will think of Genesis, but allusions to the Odyssey are obvious too. There are moments of peculiar humor. The narrative focuses on a handful of adventurers, but underlying it is a fantasia of evolution, devolution, panspermia, and galactic cycles.


Sometime in 1962, Lewis, Aldiss, and Kingsley Amis recorded a conversation on science fiction. A transcript was published first in SF Horizons #1 (1964) and reprinted in a 1965 issue of that excellent magazine Encounter. As “Unreal Estates,” it is readily found now in Of Other Worlds. I am obsessed by the question of what happened to the tape.

Aldiss says that he and Lewis “got together to found the Oxford Speculative Fiction Society.” Fancyclopedia 3 (online) states that the Oxford Speculative Fiction Group was “formed” in 1962 by Chris Miller, Mark Wigan, and John Pewsay, with Aldiss and Lewis as faculty sponsors. The version of Aldiss’s afterword in my copy of the 2008 Penguin Classics edition does not contain the Lewis-Tolkien anecdote. It appears that the longer version, found on pages 25-32 of An Exile on Planet Earth: Articles and Reflections by Aldiss, published 2012 by the Bodleian Library and containing the anecdote, is a complete text and the Penguin version is an abridgement.

(c) 2015 Dale Nelson
 

Extollager

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So I have no difficulty in Lewis liking it (much SF he thought stupid and shallow, he'd not have said that without reading the stuff

Lewis was very well-read in science fiction and was one of the first academics (or the first?) publicly to promote it. Here's an article relevant to the topic.


C. S. Lewis and American Pulp Science Fiction


By Dale Nelson


C. S. Lewis, Oxford don and then Cambridge scholar specializing in medieval and Renaissance literature – an impressionable reader of American science fiction pulps?

The inventor of Narnia – indebted to the co-founder of Arkham House?

It seems so. Lewis made no secret of these debts. In The Great Divorce, he refers to two stories that he thinks came from the cheaply-printed pages of the pulps. He was wrong about one of the stories. The story he refers to in the preface has to have been “The Man Who Lived Backwards,” by the forgotten British author Charles Hall and appeared in a British magazine. But apparently Lewis was so deeply read in the American pulps that he just assumed that he’d read the story, which features raindrop like bullets, in one of them. The other story is alluded to in a footnote: “This method of travel also I learned from the ‘scientifictionists’.”

“Colossus,” which first appeared in the January 1934 issue of Astounding, appears to be the story that suggested to Lewis the idea, central to The Great Divorce, of travel from one universe to a much vaster one -- travel during which the vehicle and passenger(s) expand concomitantly so as to “fit“ the new cosmos. The universe -- ours -- that is left behind in Donald Wandrei’s story is but an atom relative to the size of the universe that is entered. Similarly, in The Great Divorce the immense, sprawling city of Hell is an invisible point relative to the vastness of Heaven’s borderland. The spaceship White Bird, piloted by the intrepid Duane Sharon, expands in Wandrei’s story: “According to the law propounded decades ago by Einstein, the White Bird, all its contents, and he, himself, would undergo a change, lengthening in the direction of flight” as they travel thousands of times the speed of light (54, 56/130). The busful of passengers from Hell expands so that, when it emerges from a tiny crack in the celestial soil, the holiday-makers are “to scale.”

Wandrei’s story may also have suggested to Lewis something of the splendor of outer space that Ransom discovers in Out of the Silent Planet. Sharon beholds “[w]hite suns and blue, pale-orange and apple-green stars, colossal tapestry of night blazing with eternal jewels” and an “emerald sun, flaming in the radiant beauty of birth” (Wandrei 58,59/133, 134). Ransom contemplates “planets of unbelievable majesty, and constellations undreamed of: there were celestial sapphires, rubies, emeralds and pin-pricks of burning gold” (Lewis 31); space is not dead but rather is “the womb of worlds” (32).

I wonder if Wandrei ever read The Great Divorce or Out of the Silent Planet. Lewis may have been aware of the small press that Wandrei and August Derleth founded, since a catalog of books from Lewis’s library, prepared a few years after his death, included at least one AH book, Robert Bloch’s The Opener of the Way. But don’t get too excited about the prospect. Likely enough, the book had belonged to Lewis’s wife, Joy, an American.


Now that you’ve had the chance to wrap your head around the idea of Lewis as pulp-mag reader, let’s consider a little historical background. C. S. Lewis’s “On Science Fiction” was read, or was the basis of a talk, at a 1955 session of the Cambridge University English Club (Hooper xix). In this paper, Lewis said that, “some fifteen or twenty years ago,” he “became aware of a bulge in the production” of stories of the type pioneered by H. G. Wells. Lewis said: “In America whole magazines began to be exclusively devoted to them” (“On Science Fiction” 55). This statement nails down the fact that Lewis read American pulp “scientifiction.” Such magazines were readily available to British readers. Richard Kyle recalls “bins of ‘Yank Magazines – Interesting Reading’ in the English Woolworth stores of the middle ‘30s” (Lupoff 92).

Historian of science fiction Mike Ashley regards the “mid-thirties” as the time in which these magazines exhibited a phase of “cosmic sf,” emphasizing stories that dealt with “not just the exploration of space but the nature of time, space and the universe” (231). Along with “Colossus,” a couple of other such stories may have left traces in Lewis’s own science fiction.

Jack Williamson’s “Born of the Sun” (Astounding, March 1934) may have had something do with Weston’s “rind” remarks at the end of Chapter 13 of Perelandra (1943). In the Williamson story, some at least of the solar system’s moons, as well as its planets, are actually spawn or “‘seed of the Sun’” (Asimov 532): huge egg-like objects from which eventually hatch immense monsters (which possess the ability to fly in a vacuum!). When the planet Earth begins to hatch, there ensue apocalyptic consequences for human beings living on the outer surface of the shell. In Lewis’s novel, Weston describes the universe as a globe with a crust of “‘life’” (the crust, however, being time; it’s about seventy years thick for human beings). As one ages, Weston says, one sinks through the crust until he emerges into the dark, deathly “‘reality’” that God Himself does not know (168). In each story, there is the idea of humanity living on a thin surface beneath which is something truly appalling.

OK, maybe that’s a stretch. How about this one? Edmond Hamilton’s “The Accursed Galaxy” (Astounding, July 1935) may have contributed two essential components to Lewis’s Ransom trilogy.

Hamilton’s story proposes that organic life, viewed very Un-Lewisly as a loathsome contagion, originated two billion years ago when one member of a race of immortal “volitient beings of force” was experimenting with matter. He accidentally released “the diseased matter” from his laboratory, and it rapidly spread from world to world. This “experimenter” (Asimov 717) was punished by the other force creatures by being confined in a “shell of frozen force” (719) that eventually descends to the earth. Human beings involuntarily set him free at the climax of the story. In addition to imprisoning the offender, the other force-creatures also caused the primal super-galaxy to break up into millions of galaxies, all the others rushing away from the infected core -- our own Milky Way galaxy. The vast (and increasing) distances of space effect a cosmic quarantine. Central to Out of the Silent Planet (1938), of course, is the idea of the confinement to our earth of its “bent Oyarsa” (the devil), lest he do further damage, having already stricken the moon and Mars ages ago (121). In the first of the Ransom books, and in Perelandra, human beings are the means by which the devil is enabled to threaten Mars and Venus.

Lewis’s eldila are described, in the Ransom trilogy, as appearing as light. For example, in the first chapter of Perelandra, the narrator sees “a rod or pillar of light” of an unnamable color (18). The force-being who appears in “Accursed Galaxy” is a “forty-foot pillar of blazing, blue light, crowned by a disk of light” (Asimov 719). The edila “do not eat [or] suffer natural death” (Perelandra 9), and Williamson’s force-beings are “immortal” and “[need] no nourishment” (Asimov 717).

It’s reasonable to surmise that Lewis was influenced by impressions of Hamilton’s story as he wrote his own “planet books,” but also that he had forgotten “The Accursed Galaxy,” or judged that his “revisions” of elements from Hamilton’s story were so thorough as to make allusion to it not obligatory.

So, was Prof. C. S. Lewis not only a reader of American pulp mag science fiction, but a writer influenced by it? I think so!




Ashley, Mike. The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines

From the Beginning to 1950. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000.



Asimov, Isaac (ed.). Before the Golden Age: A Science Fiction Anthology of the 1930s.

Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1974.



Hooper, Walter. “Preface.” On Stories and Other Essays on Literature by C. S. Lewis.

San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1982.



Lewis, C. S. The Great Divorce. Glasgow: Fontana, 1972.



----------.“On Science Fiction.” On Stories and Other Essays on Literature. San

Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1982.



- - - - - - - - - -. Out of the Silent Planet. New York: Macmillan, 1973.



- - - - - - - - - -. Perelandra. New York: Macmillan, 1969.



Lupoff, Richard A. and Patricia E. Lupoff. The Best of Xero. San Francisco: Tachyon,

2004. This book is a selection of contributions to a classic fanzine of 1960-1962.



Wandrei, Donald. “Colossus.” Astounding Stories Jan. 1934: 40-72. This story is reprinted, with some changes by the author, in: Colossus: The Collected Science Fiction of Donald Wandrei. Ed. Philip J. Rahman and Dennis E. Weiler. Minneapolis: Fedogan and Bremer, 1989, pages 110-153. “Colossus” does not appear to have been reprinted until 1950 (several years after the composition and publication of The Great Divorce), when it appeared in an anthology, Beyond Time and Space, edited by August Derleth. “Colossus” may also be found in Asimov’s Before the Golden Age anthology.

(c) Dale Nelson 2015; printed originally in Pierre Comtois's magazine Fungi, (c) ca. 2010.
 

Extollager

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I have also written a paper arguing the possibility that Lewis's famous Screwtape Letters owes something to inspiration from Eric Frank Russell's Sinister Barrier -- but this thread is supposed to be primarily on Lewis, Tolkien, and Hothouse!

However, the curious might wish to look at:

http://apilgriminnarnia.com/2015/10/28/a-cosmic-find/

...including the comments.
 

Ray McCarthy

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Aldiss says that he and Lewis “got together to found the Oxford Speculative Fiction Society.” Fancyclopedia 3 (online) states that the Oxford Speculative Fiction Group was “formed” in 1962 by Chris Miller, Mark Wigan, and John Pewsay, with Aldiss and Lewis as faculty sponsors.
Fascinating.
Speculative Fiction includes Science Fiction and Science Fantasy.

So obviously Lewis didn't object to SF, only what he regarded as bad SF?

Now that you’ve had the chance to wrap your head around the idea of Lewis as pulp-mag reader
No, not surprising. I'd be surprised though if Tolkien read them though.

Some "club" they had
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inklings

This web site is the closest I have to it, but no beer and peanuts.
 

Ray McCarthy

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I'm very familiar with the Screwtape Letters, Screwtape Proposes a toast (much different) and the Ransome Trilogy. Interesting.
I read Hooper's edited Dark Tower and other stories. Hooper has always made me uneasy in his adulation of Lewis and postumous editing of material Lewis wanted destroyed. I felt Dark Tower wasn't completed because Lewis was unhappy with the direction of it?

He always said it was too easy to write what devils might say and nearly impossible to write about angels.

Anyway, perhaps the biggest Aldiss contrast to Hothouse was the The Eighty Minute Hour?
I found Barefoot in the head unreadible and Frankenstein Unbound awkward. (The two I have most recently read).
Certainly each book from Aldiss isn't more of the similar (Clive Cussler, Larry Niven).

I'd have loved another Hothouse novel. It's amazing Aldiss is still with us and outlived so many great authors he knew.

Hellconia trilogy seemed to have great promise, I quite enjoyed the 1st, but found the next two increasingly tedious.
 
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Extollager

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So obviously Lewis didn't object to SF, only what he regarded as bad SF?

Lewis loved sf. First he'd read his Wells and Stapledon and so on, but he clearly read American pulps. There seems little doubt that he bought such magazines and perhaps regularly. Think what some of those covers looked like! But then, though he was one of the outstanding professors of the century for Oxford and then for Cambridge, Lewis himself didn't look like a don, neither in how he dressed nor in his face. When (supposing this happened) he paid for his pulps at the Woolworth's store, he might have looked like an "ordinary tradesman" with a taste for that "rubbish."

Lewis objected to writing that told conventional spy or love stories with sf trappings. That's about all he objected to. He also allowed as some stories that were focused on extrapolations of inventions -- he refers to stories of most interest to engineers -- didn't interest him. But he admitted to a craving that was a like a lust for sf.

He must have been such a scandal to the professoriate, twice over -- for those radio broadcasts and popular books on religious themes, and then for a taste for sf! In fact I wonder if there was a connection. His public appearance as an apologist for Christian orthodoxy and his delving into the pulps may have occurred more or less around the same time -- late Thirties, early Forties -- I wonder if Lewis knew the one was liable to bring disapproval, so he might as well be disapproved of for the other too; may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
 
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Ray McCarthy

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So he liked proper SF :)

some stories that were focused on extrapolations of inventions -- he refers to stories of most interest to engineers
The writers think they are. I don't much see the point, and I never met engineers I worked with that liked them. Often hugely inaccurate and poor characters/stories.
 

BAYLOR

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Lewis loved sf. First he'd read his Wells and Stapledon and so on, but he clearly read American pulps. There seems little doubt that he bought such magazines and perhaps regularly. Think what some of those covers looked like! But then, though he was one of the outstanding professors of the century for Oxford and then for Cambridge, Lewis himself didn't look like a don, neither in how he dressed nor in his face. When (supposing this happened) he paid for his pulps at the Woolworth's store, he might have looked like an "ordinary tradesman" with a taste for that "rubbish."

Lewis objected to writing that told conventional spy or love stories with sf trappings. That's about all he objected to. He also allowed as some stories that were focused on extrapolations of inventions -- he refers to stories of most interest to engineers -- didn't interest him. But he admitted to a craving that was a like a lust for sf.

He must have been such a scandal to the professoriate, twice over -- for those radio broadcasts and popular books on religious themes, and then for a taste for sf! In fact I wonder if there was a connection. His public appearance as an apologist for Christian orthodoxy and his delving into the pulps may have occurred more or less around the same time -- late Thirties, early Forties -- I wonder if Lewis knew the one was liable to bring disapproval, so he might as well be disapproved of for the other too; may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.


I wonder if Lewis and Tolkien ever read Robert E. , Howard, H P Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith.:unsure:
 
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