I am NOT the next C. S. Lewis. What a shocker. The thing is, I can name at least four writers who are—or who have been told they are by a fan, a reviewer, a publisher, or an endorser. I actually had an agent who doesn’t represent fantasy say to me, “I may be passing up the next C. S. Lewis.” Well, said agent can be assured. I am NOT the next C. S. Lewis.
It dawned on me today, as I read yet another C. S. Lewis comparison—this one a glowing review saying the style of the work in question was “reminiscent of C.S. Lewis,” (the author had the sense to distance himself from that statement)—that I don’t want to be the next C. S. Lewis.
It also dawned on me that I’ve heard these kinds of comparisons before. I’m a basketball fan, and those who’ve watched the pro game for any length of time know all about the comparisons.
When Michael Jordan was beginning to make a splash, reporters started talking about him being the next Dr. J. That’s Julius Erving for those who might not know—one who made the list of 50 greatest NBA players.
But before long, young stars were coming into the league, and they were being touted as the next Michael Jordan. First there was Grant Hill, then Vince Carter, and eventually Kobe Bryant.
It’s inevitable. One day Kobe will retire, and another great player will come along with the tag that he is the next Kobe Bryant.
But a rare group of the top players seem to be beyond comparison. I don’t hear people saying, Here comes the next Magic Johnson. He’s one of a kind, a rare athlete with physical gifts, intelligence, diligence, and a love for the game that can’t be matched. There was no 6’9″ point guard before him pulling down one triple-double after another, and it’s unlikely there will be another one any time soon.
What does this basketball analogy have to do with C. S. Lewis? Simply this: Wouldn’t it be better to be yourself, in all the uniqueness God has gifted you with, than to be the next version of someone else?
I understand, whether in basketball or in writing, the comparison is a marketing ploy. But too often the athlete being compared to the great who went before is a disappointment. The fans expect something he doesn’t deliver. But when he does excel, the comparisons fade. No one is saying Kobe is the next MJ anymore, though I occasionally hear the question, Which is the better?
Here’s where I’m going with this. I do not want to set up my readers (should I one day have any ) to expect something I won’t deliver. I can promise you, I am not, nor do I aspire to be, the next C. S. Lewis. I want to be the best Rebecca LuElla Miller God has gifted me to be. That could mean I’ll spend my writing life as a “journeyman” blogger. I’m happy with that. I’ll work to fill that role to the best of my ability.
But wouldn’t it be a shame if I promoted my blog as the next Mere Christianity? As if!
Chances are, readers would approach each of my posts with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s hard enough hooking and holding an audience as it is, but to have to meet those high expectations would be next to impossible. I can see readers leaving in droves (assuming that droves even showed up ) after the opening paragraph.
What kind of a stunt is this, one might ask. She doesn’t write anything like C. S. Lewis.
The funny thing is, if I did write like him, I’d certainly be accused of being derivative.
So here’s my plea: authors, be yourself and be happy when someone recognizes a piece you’ve written as yours. Reviewers, endorsers, back cover copywriters, knock off the comparisons because you’re doing more harm than good. Let writers be who God made them to be.
There was and will be for all time one and only one C. S. Lewis.
Originally posted at A Christian Worldview of Fiction as “Fantasy Friday: The Next C.S. Lewis,” Jan. 14, 2011.