Moorcock's essay on conservativism in fantasy

Bierschneeman

Journeyed there and back again
#41
@Theophania
Von Bek is cool and takes a different approach. This year I plan on finally reading Cornelius. ( it was described to me as the eternal champion was hardboiled and a spy)
 

Bierschneeman

Journeyed there and back again
#42
@Tanniel
On Watership down
Think of it as a British young readers version of Grapes of Wrath. The Warren is a quaint rural farming community where they all take care of each other and themselves. They then get tractor'd off in the name of progress so larger farms can produce for larger populations further away.

They are both political commentaries on the current (then) situations going on. In one they move off looking for a better situation, finding it is actually worse. In the other they find another idyllic setting to be a rural community.
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#43
They are both political commentaries on the current (then) situations going on. In one they move off looking for a better situation, finding it is actually worse. In the other they find another idyllic setting to be a rural community.
That's one valid interpretation, but I also think it diminishes the content of the book if we say that's all it is (i.e. some kind of idealisation of rural living or the past). I never found reading the book to be a "comforting lie" as Moorcock claims. Maybe because I was living in a different time and society, so I didn't hone in on the political commentary as much. Personally, I was fascinated the most by the mythopoetic aspects of the book, and also its ability to make a society of rabbits seem so real. I think what I most protest against is how this essay seems to disregard any qualities that Watership Down has due to a difference in political observations.
 

Bierschneeman

Journeyed there and back again
#44
That's one valid interpretation, but I also think it diminishes the content of the book if we say that's all it is (i.e. some kind of idealisation of rural living or the past). I never found reading the book to be a "comforting lie" as Moorcock claims. Maybe because I was living in a different time and society, so I didn't hone in on the political commentary as much. Personally, I was fascinated the most by the mythopoetic aspects of the book, and also its ability to make a society of rabbits seem so real. I think what I most protest against is how this essay seems to disregard any qualities that Watership Down has due to a difference in political observations.
Hmm. I did find the book a comforting lie. In Watership down don't they end up existing in the same blissful state they did before, just somewhere else. This sets up the idea that you can return to the way things were, you can't. The homesteaders in grapes end up in California, some try to go back and learn a new trade. Others accepted the shifty reality around them and populate the trailer parks around Bakersfield to this day.

But that could still be opinion..

Yes the books he tears a new one are all great...generally. and have wonderful aspects beyond the criticisms. Would it help to tell you he may have an alternative reason beyond railing against cutesy adult fairytale with political references on only one side?

He was advertising. If all the fantasy that was selling fits only one small sub category and you don't want to write that. Rail until you convince the publishers to expand the options to more expansive sub categories.
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#45
I read the article finally and gave it a big shrug. He had an interesting point, and I had never looked at any of those books from a rural/ urban divide (which is turning out how politics it going these days, so fairly prescient). But yeah, while it's useful to add a new way to look at literature, it should just be one facet of interpretation. Sort of like Marx saying all wars are reduced down to economics. It was a new way to look at history, which added to our collective means of examining things. But once it becomes almost religious in its interpretations, in that there is one, and only one, way to examine history, then it should be met with a shrug.
 

Anti_Quated

Journeyed there and back again
#46
For my part, Tolkien's academic credentials are what give his monolithic corpus of work a wide latitude of 'unfuckable-with' I'd not readily accede to dressing most other authors with, particularly in the Fantasy genre. I've no beef with commercial fiction or fantasy, but Tolkien's earnest historical inquiries and linguistic background give his work a greater pedigree in my eyes than most others, specifically because I've read much of the same literature and share an affinity for that noble, northern spirit that permeates his efforts. And his mythic paeans for the humility and bountiful simplicity of bucolic idealism I find infectious, even if it is increasingly fanciful romanticism.
 

Bierschneeman

Journeyed there and back again
#47
Just had a thought, the essay is on fantasy strictly. If he extended it to scifi he'd have a lot more authors to critique. Scifi authors typically make there political views very clear in their books. Ie Larry niven, Heinlein, ayn Rand, ORWELL, Wolfe, and dostoyevsky all come to mind immediately as very very conservative writers.

I think writing about politics is one of the cornerstone s for a lot of science fiction.
 

David Sims

Told lies with Locke
#48
If I wrote science fiction, I might load up my character with some political opinions. For example, a very, very smart girl protagonist has gotten accepted by a very exclusive (to high-IQ students) school, and she has a difference of opinion with one of her teachers. But she hesitates to make her point clearly in the classroom, fearing that it might reflect adversely in her grades.

Written by me:
As I'd expected, algebra was boring, easy, and a sure "four" in my GPA basket, provided that I could stay awake long enough to take the midterm and the final exam. English composition was more iffy, since the judgment of the teacher had more play in assigning grades. I'd have to learn the teacher to some extent, in order to ace that class. But I'd done the same with Mrs. Fergus at Morningside, and I'd no doubt that I could do it with Mr. Ham at Brookstone.

It was history that presented difficulties. All those doings of the political figures of the American Revolution, the ideas of the philosophers behind the politicians, the adventures of the military leaders in front of the politicians, names, dates, quotes. Bleah. I wondered whether it would be wise for me to disagree with some of the ideas of the Founding Fathers during class, or in an essay for class.

Yes, there are notions, popular with the revolutionary luminaries, that I would dispute. One of them was put forth by Thomas Jefferson, an otherwise sensible fellow who became fond of the silly idea that the common man represented a reservoir of wisdom that would nudge the country back into its true course, if it were to stray from it. Which is nonsense. Common folk are no such resource, and their votes constitute no such restoring force. You don't get wisdom by summing mediocrities, and most people throughout all the ages have been mediocrities.

Democracy is a stupid idea for the simple reason that the wisest people are always outvoted.

Imagine that you took apart two old-fashioned pocket watches and scattered their parts across a pair of tables. To one of the tables, you invited a hundred people, randomly picked off the street, and told them to vote democratically on how to put the pieces back together again. To the other table, you invited a watch-maker. At which table would a working watch most likely be reassembled first?

However, there's a come-back argument. For a system of government other than democracy, who chooses the leader? That is, who ensures that a statesman is invited to assemble policy at the national table, and not some blowhard politician whose only talent is talking magnificently about himself?

No, not the common people. They aren't wise and are no proper judges of wisdom in others. If you leave the choice of leadership to them, they'll pick blowhard politicians almost every time. That would be true even if blowhard politicians and wise statesmen occurred among the candidates for high office in equal numbers. Of course, the real situation is even worse, since for every wise statesman who comes along, there are about a thousand blowhard politicians.

I'd say that war would determine which countries were the best ruled, with victory going to the more wisely led countries most of the time. People would sooner or later learn their lesson regarding the pursuit of power by those wannabe leaders who are ambitious but unworthy. Or, rather, the people who survived would learn that lesson.

From a divine point of view, it isn't all that important how many countries don't learn it in time, and fall as a consequence. From a cosmic perspective, it isn't important how many people are enslaved or exterminated. What matters is that natural selection would tend to preserve those countries that did learn rapidly enough, and the arrangements that those countries had made for the marriage of wisdom and power would be preserved along with them.

I could speculate about what those arrangements would be, but I would only be guessing. But that's why liberals are foolish to sneer at tradition. Traditional mores and culture are usually well-culled adaptations for the people among whom they evolved. What even the greatest minds would be hard put to contrive through planning, nature brings forth by the processes of natural selection. Including war.

For anyone interested in betting with the odds on his own survival and that of his country, I'd give this advice: if you want to be on the side that wins in the long run, you must first recognize that what decides struggles is power and the skill with which it is put to use.

On the other hand, I doubted that Mr. Ham was another Socrates, and so it probably wouldn't be wise for me to assert my opinions against those of Thomas Jefferson in Mr. Ham's history class.
I don't see anything wrong with science fiction experimenting with politics. I do think that it can be done either well or poorly, though.
 
#49
I'd be interested in hearing what else might be said for or against his criticism.
Interesting topic! I'd have to disagree with many of Moorcock's assertions, especially in regards to Tolkien. Tolkien was fascinated with mythologies and linguistics, and his works were heavily influenced by languages and cultures from the Middle East to Northern Europe but more than anything by Nordic mythologies. I'd say 80 - 90% of the content in the books can be traced back in some way to Nordic myths and beliefs. So you can't really judge the books in a modern context, because they in so many ways reflect the beliefs of an ancient culture. He never wrote a word with the modern world in mind (or at least he said so). His head was swimming with heroes like Sigurd Sigmundson and Bryndhildr the Valkyrie (probably one of his inspirations for Eowyn).