The 'other worlds' of the title here given to a gathering of miscellaneous pieces by C.S. Lewis are presumably Malcandra and Perelandra - Mars and Venus as they are revealed to Lewis's space-traveller, Elwin Ransom - and also perhaps the spiritual world as set against the natural. In the USA, however, the same collection has been published under the title On Stories. This is equally valid, since what Walter Hooper has usefully brought together is a score of essays and reviews in which Lewis outlines his theory of fiction and affords commentaries both on his own individual romances and on related depictions of imaginary regions and societies as varied as The Wind in the Willows, Nineteen Eight-Four and The Lord of the Rings. Two pieces, an admirable discussion of the novels of Charles Williams and a slightly odd 'Panegyric for Dorothy L. Sayers', are printed for the first time. Near the conclusion of the essay on Williams, he expresses himself as 'horribly afraid' that he may have given the impression that Wiliams was a moralist, and in several places he shows himself as anxious to obviate a related misconception about himself. In writing fiction he has never started off with any didactic intention, and much less any eristic impulse, but always simply from a picture or pictures swimming up in his mind - he doesn't know from where. 'All my seven Narnian books,' he says of his stories for children, 'began with seeing pictures in my head. At first there was not a story, just pictures. The Lion [The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe] began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.' And similarly with his three 'science fiction books' for adults. 'The starting-point of the second novel, Perelandra, was my mental picture of the floating islands. The whole of the rest of my labours in a sense consisted of building up a world in which floating islands could exist. And then of course the story about an averted fall developed.'
LRB 21 October 1982 | PDF Download