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Lewis looks thoughtfully out of the window of his big sitting room in Magdalen College on to the deer park it overlooks. It's the spring of 1936. … On his right hand is the reassuring sight of his favorite path—Addison's Walk—where, five years before, Tolkien, Hugo Dyson, and he had had that momentous nighttime conversation that led to his conversion.

He turns to address his friend, who is perched on a threadbare armchair, the room's handsome white-paneled walls behind him. Tolkien reaches for an enamel beer jug on the table and refills his tankard.

"You know, Tollers, there's far too little of what we enjoy in stories. You liked Williams's The Place of the Lion just as much as I did. Really it struck me how rare such books are."

Tolkien exclaims through dispersing wisps of smoke, "Not enough echoes of the horns of Elfland."

He sucks on his pipe to encourage its dying embers. "Some of the Scientifiction [science fiction] around evokes wonder—sometimes offers fleeting glimpses of genuine other worlds. There is some deplorable stuff, too, but that's true of all the genres. Space and time stories can provide Recovery and Escape." He says the last two nouns with sudden loudness, perhaps to emphasize that they should have capitals. "I hope to lecture soon on this as a quality of Fairy Story. I relish stories that survey the depths of space and time."

"To be sure, to be sure," agrees Lewis, drawing attention to the slight Ulster in his vowels. He is unusually quiet this morning. "Take H. G. Wells. Even Wellsian stories can touch on the real other world of the Spirit. His early ones I care for—it's a pity he sold his birthright for a pot of message. These kinds of stories that create regions of the spirit—they actually add to life, ...

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August 2003

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