Why I wrote THE LOTUS CAVES – Part 1
In 1971, two years after its publication, John Christopher (alias Hilary Ford, alias Sam Youd) published an article in the children’s magazine ‘Puffin Post’ to explain his reasons for writing THE LOTUS CAVES — recently republished (November 4th) by Simon & Schuster.
Thirty-eight years ago, at the age of eleven, I was wandering through Woolworth’s when I saw a strange thing. It was green in colour; something like an octopus but much bigger and with far more than eight tentacles. It was on the cover of a magazine called Astounding Stories.
I found my threepence and bought it, and for many years after was a fanatical devotee of science fiction. We had a vogue once at school for compiling what we called ‘minibiographies’: chiefly lists of favourites – songs, books, colours, foods – and aversions. One item was: Chief Ambition. Mine, I remember, was to own a complete set of the science fiction magazines, all three of them. I was far too awestruck to think I might ever write the stuff.
For me, in those far-off days, science fiction really had a sense of wonder. This is no longer true, except in a few rare cases, perhaps because I am old and have lost it myself. When I did actually start writing science fiction I did not let my mind travel very far. The books I wrote for adults were more about natural disasters than monsters: a virus disease attacking grasses, a new ice age, a world destroyed by earthquakes, that sort of thing. And they all took place here on earth.
To some extent this was due to the fact that by the time I came to write them we knew too much about the solar system. It is no longer possible to visualize Venus as a planet living through something like our own Carboniferous Age, Mars as a dying world with ruined cities and large-chested Martians still breathing its thin cold air. And while I accept the possibility of planetary systems other than our own, what’s left of my school Physics makes me doubtful of the means proposed of getting there in any reasonable time. Hyperdrives and gliding through the fourth dimension are fantasy devices as far as I’m concerned; and popping in at Aldebaran’s third planet or Betelgeuse’s eleventh does not carry conviction.
When I turned to writing for young people, what I wrote was not really science fiction, though it was called that. The two trilogies – the Tripods books and the books about the Prince in Waiting – are more historical in nature, even though the setting is a future one, and THE GUARDIANS, too, harks back to the past. The one exception – the exception to all my books – is THE LOTUS CAVES. It is firmly about the future and it is set not on the Earth but on the Moon.
And here I would like to digress a little…
To be continued