(1886-1945) UK poet, lay theologian and author whose novels are essentially theological Fantasy thrillers; he was closely associated with C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien as part of the Oxford reading group known as the Inklings. His romantic and obscurely devout use of Tarot and Grail imagery helped bring these themes into the generic mainstream [for Arthur, Grail, Inklings and Tarot see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Of his novels, the first-written though not first-published is Shadows of Ecstasy (1933), featuring a false Messiah and an uprising of Black African peoples against European civilization; there is related upheaval in London. Many Dimensions (1931) bears the closest though still remote resemblance to sf, in that it depicts our world as being threatened by the dangerous powers of a magical stone that can be split into endless identical copies without diminishing the original. These powers include Teleportation (with consequent disruption of Transportation economics), healing and some curious variations of Time Travel. Nevertheless, as in the remainder of Williams's fiction, the bent of the fantasy is towards Religion, with human exploitation of the numinous stone's properties being regarded not as exhilaratingly, science-fictionally transformative but as blasphemous. The Timeslip contact between different centuries in Descent into Hell (1937) is similarly devoted to idiosyncratic theological ends. Fantastic devices in All Hallows' Eve (1945) include sympathetic ghosts (see Supernatural Creatures) and a kind of Golem.
Williams also wrote a long series of connected poems on the subject of King Arthur, beginning with Taliessin Through Logres (coll of linked poems 1938 chap). A play, The House of the Octopus (1945), is set on a Pacific Island suffering an Invasion from a Satanic empire; the play thematically exploits (with some missionary pieties) a Pacific religion with features similar to H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, including a war god in the shape of an octopus. Williams seems to have been unaware of the resemblance. Though never achieving the sales of his friends Lewis and Tolkien, this author had and retains many devoted followers, and continues to be the subject of numerous Inklings-oriented literary studies. [DRL/JC]
see also: Mythology.
Charles Walter Stansby Williams
born Islington, Middlesex [now London]: 20 September 1886
died Oxford, Oxfordshire: 15 May 1945
- Witchcraft (London: Faber and Faber, 1941) [nonfiction: working title was «The History of Witchcraft» (seen on proof copies): hb/]
about the author
- Alice Mary Hadfield. An Introduction to Charles Williams (London: Robert Hale, 1959) [nonfiction: hb/]
- Mark R Hillegas, editor. Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969) [nonfiction: anth: hb/nonpictorial]
- Humphrey Carpenter. The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1978) [nonfiction: hb/nonpictorial]
- Alice Mary Hadfield. Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983) [nonfiction: hb/]
- Gavin Ashenden. Charles Williams: Alchemy and Integration (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2008) [nonfiction: hb/]
- Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015) [nonfiction: hb/Donna Cheng]
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