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 nullity of its climactic final line – "For the Snark was a Boojum, you see" – ghosts the success story implicit in the standard narratology of the Voyage, including the merciless male triumphalism of Joseph Campbell's Monomyth in The Hero of a Thousand Faces (1949). The incidental whimsy of the Bellman's exercise in crypto-mathematics, "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); a curve-ball use of this application serves, in "Chaos, Co-Ordinated" (January 1946 Astounding) by James Blish and Robert A W Lowndes writing together as John Macdougal, to flummox an Alien Computer. 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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