THE INFLUENCE OF LEWIS CARROLL
ON SPECULATIVE FICTION

I noticed a young man hovering nearby. He seemed to want to speak but was too diffident to do so.

Deety jumped up, trotted toward him. "The Reverend Mister Dodgson, is it not? I'm Mrs. Zebadiah Carter."

He quickly removed his straw boater. "'Mr. Dodgson,' yes, uh, Mrs. Carter. Have we met?"

"Long ago, before I was married. You are looking for Alice, are you not?"

"Dear me! Why, yes, I am. But how--"

"She went Down the Rabbit-Hole."

Dodgson looked relieved. "Then she will be back soon enough. I promised to return her and her sisters to Christ Church before dark."

"You did. I mean, 'you will.' Same thing, depending on the coordinates. Come meet my family. Have you had luncheon?"

--- Robert A. Heinlein, THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST


Considering that he died years before the term "science fiction" was even coined, Lewis Carroll (aka the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) enjoys a unique place, both as inspiration and participant, in the genre of science fiction. From the fantastical whimsy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to the mirror-image world of Alice through the Looking Glass, Carroll's stories are a mix of mathematical logic and lyrical nonsense that appeal just as strongly to scientists, engineers, and science fiction writers of today as they did to their original audience in Victorian England.

Indeed, the unmistakable touch of Carroll can be found almost everywhere in modern science fiction. References to both of the Alice books and other Carroll works, such as The Hunting of The Snark, are liberally laced throughout countless SF stories and novels. Writers such as Jeff Noon, John Crowley and Lewis Padgett have created their own versions of Wonderland and Looking Glass House, extrapolating the originals into new and fantastic tangents. And Carroll himself has become a participant in these stories -- Robert A. Heinlein and Philip Jose Farmer have used Carroll as a character in the novels The Number of the Beast and The Magic Labyrinth (the last book in Farmer's Riverworld series, in which Alice Liddell also appears as a major character), and Roberta Rogow has introduced Dodgson to the Holmes mythos by teaming him with the redoubtable Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Case of the Missing Miss.

One might imagine that such notoriety would horrify the shy Oxford don, who had originally devised the pen name "Lewis Carroll" (a Latinized reversal of Charles Lutwidge) in order to protect his privacy. However, Carroll was also realistic about the effect of his fiction on the reading public. In light of this, perhaps he would understand how the genius that had created a pool of tears, living chess games and magical looking-glasses could also inspire future writers to pay homage to that genius through their own stories.

For more information on the life and works of Lewis Carroll, the excellent and eponymous biographies by Morton N. Cohen (Lewis Carroll, London, MacMillan General Books, 1995, ISBN 0 333 62926 4) and Michael Bakewell (Lewis Carroll, London, William Heineman, Ltd, 1996, ISBN 0 434 04579 9) are strongly recommended. The Annotated Alice and The Annotated Snark, by Martin Gardner, also provide a running commentary on all the "jokes, games, puzzles, trick, parodies, obscure references, and almost endless curiosities with which Carroll filled his writings."

Other excellent sources for Carrolliana on the web include the Lewis Carroll Home Page and Looking for Lewis Carroll.

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