Lessing’s work within the genre is noted as making prolific advances in the fields of ‘soft’ or social science fiction. The author of 55 books spanning a range of genres, Lessing is noted as a feminist icon as well as an at times controversial social commentator. Her contribution to literature was celebrated and commended in the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature (2007).
Her work in the science fiction genre was considered by Lessing herself as the platform through which she could most easily make shrewd social commentaries on the society of her time and that which she foresaw for the future.
Lessing is best known within the genre for her Canopus in Argos series, which she called ‘inner space fiction’, which was influenced by her discovery of Sufism – the inner mystical dimension of Islam. The novels are set in an advanced interstellar society whose main interest is to accelerate the evolution of worlds beyond their own. In presenting this future hybrid society, Lessing provides a commentary on the human condition employing the device of far off settings to comment on ideas of greed, power and ideas of the soul in a way which was relevant to the decades in which the novels were written. In fact Shikasta and all the subsequent novels in the series are thought to be perhaps even more relevant to the society of today, particularly with regard to the decline of the West, humanity’s treatment of the world and the existence of poverty.
Lessing unlike some of her fellow literary compatriots, was always keen for her readers and critics to recognise her science fiction offerings and spoke at the World Science Fiction Convention as its Writer Guest of Honour, where she was celebrated and continues to be, for the sensational social commentaries and possible futures she presented in her science fiction