It was no surprise that the Apple TV+ series Silo caught my eye. I am a sucker for mind-bending tales about imagined futures. But it was a surprise that Silo managed to hold my attention. Most of the time I am initially spellbound by the “world-building” aspect of such stories, but soon bored by the characters. This puts me at odds with C.S. Lewis, whose 1955 essay “On Science Fiction” asserts that for “speculative fiction,” as he prefers to call it, to be truly mind-bending, the characters depicted should be mind-numbing:

Every good writer knows that the more unusual the scenes and events of his story are, the slighter, the more ordinary, the more typical his persons should be. Hence Gulliver is a commonplace little man and Alice a commonplace little girl…. To tell how odd things struck odd people is to have an oddity too much: he who is to see strange sights must not himself be strange.

Against this, I would argue that, for Lewis, the word “ordinary” entailed having a moral compass in keeping with the virtues of a decent society—which is to say, a society more or less anchored in the universal virtues enumerated in his 1943 classic, The Abolition of Man. Thus Mark and Jane Studdock, the main characters in his 1945 novel That Hideous Strength, are as commonplace as can be,

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