Carroll, Lewis

Tagged: Author

Pseudonym of UK photographer, mathematician and author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), whose famous children's stories, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871) – an early example of the novel (sf or otherwise) structured around the moves of a game of Chess – have had a profound impact on a wide range of writers. It has been argued by Brian W Aldiss, among others, that the underlying logic of these "nonsense" adventures has provided a significant model for much of sf's typical reorderings of reality – certainly in most sf novels whose heroes' Paranoia about reality turns out to be justified. Both novels were assembled much later, very usefully, as The Annotated Alice: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (omni 1960; rev vt More Annotated Alice 1990; The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Version 1999) edited and extensively annotated by Martin Gardner. Alice Through the Needle's Eye (1984) by Gilbert Adair is, interestingly, not a Wonderland Parody (these are very numerous; Saki's political sketches assembled as The Westminster Alice [coll 1902] are effectively Carrollian in style) but a genuine continuation.

The extraordinarily resonant metaphysical pathos of The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony, in Eight Fits (1876 chap) has many literary and personal implications. In sf terms, it can certainly be understood as a reductio ad absurdum of the extraordinary voyage (see Fantastic Voyages) of a Ship of Fools, in pursuit of a McGuffin; the incidental whimsy of the rule "What I tell you three times is true" (laid down in the second verse) has been much quoted as an anticipation of protective redundancy in Computer applications (see Information Theory). Carroll's mathematical and logical fantasies, as found in the puzzle stories of A Tangled Tale (coll 1886), have also had repercussions in sf. Even the generally unsatisfactory and over-sentimental Fantasy diptych Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) contains some notable sf Inventions, including an early Time Machine – the Outlandish Watch – permitting Time-in-Reverse travel into the past. Understandably, Carroll's mutable and arbitrary realities have had at least as great an impact on Fantasy. [JC/DRL]

see also: John MacDougal; Mathematics; Paradox; Virtual Reality; Underground.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson

born Daresbury parsonage, Cheshire: 27 January 1832

died Guildford, Surrey: 14 January 1898

works (highly selected)



Sylvie and Bruno

individual titles

about the author

further reading


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