I've never felt the need to defend the enjoyment I get out of reading science fiction or fantasy novels. As a result, though, I've never really considered what it is about these types of books that interests me so much. Fortunately, C.S. Lewis has, and in this collection of essays, he perfectly articulates why such stories are worth reading, writing, and discussing.
It's not worth summarizing each of the essays here (they are so efficiently executed that it's hard to trim anything out in summary), but there are a few points that Lewis makes that I want to highlight.
First, he repeatedly points out that, regardless of audience or subject matter, a good book is simply a good book. If it's not good enough for adult's to read, then why should our children? He also enjoys emphasizing the idea that one should not arbitrarily choose a genre, but should let the story dictate the best means of delivery. These are just two of the many points he raises, and I'm hardly doing them justice. Lewis brings so much warmth and humor to each essay that you should really just read them.
In addition to a collection of fascinating essays (see the number of times I had to mark a sentence or idea that I wanted to return to), Of Other Worlds also has several short stories and the beginning of an unfinished novel. While these stories were good, it was definitely the essays that make this collection worth reading.
This book has reminded me how much I love reading Lewis' writing and, as a result, you're probably going to be seeing a lot more posts about his works. Most of it will be nonfiction, not because it's any better than his fiction, but just because I haven't read most of it.
I recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about literature, even if they hate science fiction or fantasy. I say this not because I think Lewis will convince you to suddenly start liking them, but because his humility and insight may increase your respect for these genres. It won't make you want to read them, but it may help you understand where those of us who enjoy them so much are coming from.
"I am almost inclined to set up as canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story" (24).
"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up" (25).