(urth) the problem with gaiman, mieville, and pullman

Charles Reed cmreed at link.com
Mon Dec 6 11:23:52 PST 2004

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes wrote:

>>Someone mentioned earlier that it has become a fashion lately
>>to attack Lewis's work. 
>That would be me. I've seen it all over the place but especially in 
>the "Gaiman generation."
>>Despite my own problems with Lewis's particular worldview, I have read 
>>essay by Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, and Phillip Pullman which were
>>written basically to "debunk" Lewiss and for Mieville Tolkien as well. 
>I would very much like a pointer to Gaiman's essay, as up to now I 
>have only his fictions to base this on. (Not only "The Problem of 
>Susan," but also the _Sandman_ arc "A Game of You," which has 
>some details that have always seemed to me to be idle passing 
>swipes at the Narnia books.)

It had been quite a while since I last read A GAME OF YOU, but I 
couldn't recall any "swipes" at the Narnia books, so I took the 
opportunity to re-read it, and still couldn't find anything I would call 
classify as being derogatory toward Narnia.  Do you recall anything 
specific that made you think so?

There are some obvious Narnia references (as well as plenty Oz and 
Middle-Earth references), with the most obvious being the sequence 
toward the end where Barbie's dream world comes to an end.  This is very 
much an echo of Narnia's end in THE LAST BATTLE, but I couldn't detect 
any Narnia references in the writing that would not be considered an homage.

I did a little googling on the web, and came across a speech that Gaiman 
gave at Mythcon 35 (the Mythopoeic Society's big shindig) in 2004, in 
which he says some very complimentary things regarding C. S. Lewis.  I 
hope I'm not violating any copyright by quoting the entire Narnia passage:


I was six years old when I saw an episode of The Lion, The Witch and the 
Wardrobe in black and white on television at my grandmother's house in 
Portsmouth. I remember the beavers, and the first appearance of Aslan, 
an actor in an unconvincing lion costume, standing on his hind legs, 
from which I deduce that this was probably episode two or three. I went 
home to Sussex and saved my meagre pocket money until I was able to buy 
a copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe of my own. I read it, and 
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the other book I could find, over and 
over, and when my seventh birthday arrived I had dropped enough hints 
that my birthday present was a boxed set of the complete Narnia books. 
And I remember what I did on my seventh birthday -- I lay on my bed and 
I read the books all through, from the first to the last.

For the next four or five years I continued to read them. I would read 
other books, of course, but in my heart I knew that I read them only 
because there wasn't an infinite number of Narnia books to read.

For good or ill the religious allegory, such as it was, went entirely 
over my head, and it was not until I was about twelve that I found 
myself realising that there were Certain Parallels. Most people get it 
at the Stone Table; I got it when it suddenly occurred to me that the 
story of the events that occurred to Saint Paul on the road to Damascus 
was the dragoning of Eustace Scrubb all over again. I was personally 
offended: I felt that an author, whom I had trusted, had had a hidden 
agenda. I had nothing against religion, or religion in fiction -- I had 
bought (in the school bookshop) and loved The Screwtape Letters, and was 
already dedicated to G.K. Chesterton. My upset was, I think, that it 
made less of Narnia for me, it made it less interesting a thing, less 
interesting a place. Still, the lessons of Narnia sank deep. Aslan 
telling the Tash worshippers that the prayers he had given to Tash were 
actually prayers to Him was something I believed then, and ultimately 
still believe.

The Pauline Baynes map of Narnia poster stayed up on my bedroom wall 
through my teenage years.

I didn't return to Narnia until I was a parent, first in 1988, then in 
1999, each time reading all the books aloud to my children. I found that 
the things that I loved, I still loved -- sometimes loved more -- while 
the things that I had thought odd as a child (the awkwardness of the 
structure of Prince Caspian, and my dislike for most of The Last Battle, 
for example) had intensified; there were also some new things that made 
me really uncomfortable -- for example the role of women in the Narnia 
books, culminating in the disposition of Susan. But what I found more 
interesting was how much of the Narnia books had crept inside me: as I 
would write there would be moment after moment of realising that I'd 
borrowed phrases, rhythms, the way that words were put together; for 
example, that I had a hedgehog and a hare, in The Books of Magic, 
speaking and agreeing with each other much as the Dufflepuds do.

C.S. Lewis was the first person to make me want to be a writer. He made 
me aware of the writer, that there was someone standing behind the 
words, that there was someone telling the story. I fell in love with the 
way he used parentheses -- the auctorial asides that were both wise and 
chatty, and I rejoiced in using such brackets in my own essays and 
compositions through the rest of my childhood.

I think, perhaps, the genius of Lewis was that he made a world that was 
more real to me than the one I lived in; and if authors got to write the 
tales of Narnia, then I wanted to be an author.


The rest of the speech is worth reading (mainly about Tolkien and 
Chesterton), so if you want to read the entire speech, here's the link:  


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