I was going to start out this article by saying that early science fiction was shaped by colonialism, but that’s probably understating it. Many of the tropes of science fiction and—going even further back—adventure novels are centrally located in colonialism. It’s not a huge surprise given that many of the authors were from colonizing culture or, as science fiction spread, in countries that were doing their best to get in on the colonization game. Out of the Silent Planet is no exception to this and, in fact, the book is largely shaped around a critique of H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon.
Lewis doesn’t disguise this at all. He lays all the cards out on the table that this is a novel about imperialism, colonialism, and seeing others as subhuman. We get some indications of this early on. Weston and Devine, the main antagonists are practically colonialism incarnated. Weston’s name comes from Old English, meaning “settlement.” Devine says he doesn’t care a bit about science or first contact (later we will learn he’s all about the abundant gold), but he does pay lip service to “the white man’s burden” and the “blessings of civilization” (encouraged by Kipling and critiqued by Twain).