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|The World's Last Night and Other Essays
by C.S. Lewis
Published by Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1960
Recommended by: Greg Slade
This is a collection of essays, originally published three years before Lewis' death, and periodically reprinted ever since. Most, if not all, of these pieces are available in other collections, but this particular collection is particularly interesting for fans or aspiring authors, because it includes a fairly high proportion of works which relate to science fiction, fantasy, or both.
"Screwtape Proposes a Toast" is an obvious candidate, being a continuation (in a sense) of The Screwtape Letters, which was Lewis' first work that was a best-seller, and still almost as well-known as The Chronicles of Narnia. (I classify Screwtape as fantasy, not because I don't believe in demons, but because it is, for lack of a better word, fantastic to think that humans could have such a detailed glimpse of the inner councils of hell.) "Religion and Rocketry", which discusses the possibility of intelligent alien life, is also an obvious item of interest. And, since Lewis' views on the subject are very much at variance with the usual view among science fiction authors and fans, it is all the more important for fans to be aware of them. "Lilies That Fester" is, perhaps, a less obvious choice, but in it, Lewis speculates about the possible outcome of a disturbing trend in society, and aspiring authors looking for a theme to develop into a possible future society could do a lot worse than develop the idea which Lewis raised. "Good Work and Good Works" is a piece which should be read by any aspiring author, no matter what the genre. (Or, for that matter, any artist in any medium.) Any author who is planning to write an "end times" thriller should definitely read Lewis' defence of the doctrine of Christ's return in "The World's Last Night", especially since he wrote from a completely different perspective from the school of thought which produces works like Left Behind, and therefore pays attention to different aspects of Christ's return than such works normally do. If the remaining essays, "The Efficacy of Prayer" and "On Obstinacy in Belief" (which happen to be the first two essays in the book) are of less direct interest to fans or writers, we are still talking about C.S. Lewis, and so they are definitely worth reading for their own sake.
If you already have an extensive collection of Lewis' non-fiction work, you may already have all of the essays included here, and some editions of The Screwtape Letters also include "Screwtape Proposes a Toast." Therefore, it may not be necceasry for you to seek out this collection to get access to these pieces. However, if you lack these pieces, this is a particularly good way to start exploring Lewis' non-fiction. Greg Slade (June, 2008)
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