C. S. Lewis’s name is on the cover of David G. Hartwell’s giant anthologyThe Science Fiction Century (1997, Tor Books, 1005 pp.) and “Ministering Angels” is included with the following introduction.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) is important both as a writer and critic of science fiction. He is indeed one of the sophisticated literary men of the century, whose scholarship and criticism of medieval and Renaissance literature were unsurpassed. Such critical works as The Allegory of Love (1936) and his volume in the Oxford History of English Literature are rich and illuminating. Lewis’s Christian fantasy fiction, including The Screwtape Letters (1942) and most especially his Narnia series of fantasy tales for children, is enormously influential. Nearly fifty books on Lewis and his works have been published, and a film has been made on his life.
He was a member, with Charles Williams, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Dorothy Sayers, of a casual literary society in Oxford called The Inklings, at whose meetings they read each other’s works in progress. His science fiction novels, also Christian allegories, Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1943), and That Hideous Strength (1945), overshadow the few SF short stories he published in the 1950s and 60s. They were only collected after his death (Of Other Worlds, 1966), along with his critical pieces examining and providing an eloquent defence of genre science fiction — which are generally overshadowed by his more famous critical work in other areas. Those, together with his learned and sensible An Experiment in Criticism, which includes perhaps the single best argument ever constructed on the appeal of science fiction, did not appear until the 1960s and have not, in the main, been given much notice. Perhaps the SF and fantasy novels and stories of R. A. Lafferty from the 1960s to the 1980s are the body of work after Lewis most centrally in that Christian tradition.
This story originally appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction. It shows how the ordinary tropes of genre SF can be applied with wit and humor to spiritual concerns. It is also uproariously politically incorrect.